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New Lead Area Q&A

Why did the old walls have to be replaced?

Although the old area had a special place in many Castle climbers’ hearts it was getting very old (more than 20 years!).
We decided that as indoor climbing gets more and more popular, and trends and training methods progress we have to continue to invest heavily in our facilities to keep them as up to date as possible for you, the customers.
As part of our regular safety inspections, we also found a few issues in the area that, although not unsafe, suggested that the wall did have a limited life left. Combining this with the fact that the area had to be closed anyway for the café refurbishment, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and re-build it now to save more closures later. 
Who designed and built the new lead area?
The new climbing walls were designed by the Castle’s own Route Setting Manager Mike Langley and lead designer from Serious Climbing, Michelle Wardle. All the panels were produced by Usteto in Bulgaria using state of the art technology, then shipped to London and assembled at the Castle by their wall building team.

What are the new design features/improvements from the last walls?

The steepest line (28) used to have arêtes on both sides, which meant that many of the moves were similar and repetitive if the arêtes were used, and if eliminated, the routes had to follow a narrow line to the top. The new design escapes the restriction of arêtes or other permanent features; there are fewer corners and therefore there will be fewer repetitive bridging moves. The area is more open allowing opportunities for more creative setting for the route setters, which means more varied climbing for you! Finally, the angles change gradually through the steep bits and are less ‘step-like’ (roof into vertical) than they used to be. This offers climbers a more fluid climbing experience, more consistent difficulty throughout the route and is perfect for resistance training.

Are the new walls more or less steep?

The steepest line in the new area has exactly the same overall angle as line 28 did. Some individual short sections of the old line were more overhanging but then it also had many parts that were less overhanging.

Are the grades the same?

The new area will house a few more hard routes than it used to but worry not – you will not lose out on easy climbing. Not only will there be plenty of lead routes for all abilities in the area, we also made sure to include routes of the full range of difficulty on our overhanging section and we will be adding some easier grades in other lead areas (instead of the hardest routes currently there). In this way we will add an extra 6a, 6a+ and 6b in the existing green and yellow leading area and 6b, 6b+ and 6c in the Wells.

The grade distribution in the new lead area is still very much designed to meet the needs of our customers above all else. The graph below shows the grade distribution the current set is based on. The number of routes peaks within the grades 6a+ to 6b+ which are the most popular grades climbed at the Castle.

Why add harder routes?

The reason we are introducing a couple more very hard routes to the new lead area is to provide London based British Climbing Team members with an area where they can train for Climbing World Cups, Championships and the 2020 Olympics! An extra 7c+ and 8a were introduced for that purpose specifically. Since hearing the news that climbing will be included in the next Olympics, we felt it was our duty to support the British climbing team who often struggle to find places/routes to train on.

However, as you can see above we are not doing it at a cost to our customers and their needs.

We hope you feel inspired by the new wall to tie into the sharp end!

If you have any more questions about the new area Mike would love to get an email from you!