Copleston Climbing Wall
by Keith Lodge
Climbing Wall Supervisor (2002)
The Finished Wall
On Thursday 29th and Friday 30th August 2002 many club members came to have a preview climb at the newly built climbing wall at Copleston Centre. Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience, and many have been coming regularly to the Wall since it was opened to the public on Wednesday 11th September 2002. Although the wall is quite small compared to Stowmarket, we are already talking about extending up to twice its existing size, starting next Summer. However I do believe it will have some advantages over Stowmarket for many club members. The most obvious being that for many it will be very local, and indeed for some I spoke to during the preview evenings, within walking distance! The Centre Management and myself are very keen for the club members to be highly involved with the Wall in many ways, one of which is being given a free hand to set routes upon the wall, as and when required, which many of the more active climbers within the club have already been doing.
I am very keen not only as the wall supervisor, but as a long standing member of the club, that club members should have a good input to the running and functionality at Copleston. I am always open to your ideas, and suggestions, indeed I look forward to them with great interest, and, for those of you who have met the Centre Manager Dave Little, you will know that he is also very interested in the club’s presence and involvement with the Wall.
Start of Construction
The steelwork is erected
One main concern during the preview evenings was the lack of any form of matting below the Wall. I include here sections from the “BMC Climbing Wall Manual” regarding this. I have a personal copy of this Manual, should you wish to read further, please ask me when you see me at the Wall.
“There are no existing standards that apply specifically to safety flooring/matting which are appropriate for climbing on artificial structures. …
For climbing which is intended to be protected with the use of ropes, whether this is by leading or top-roping, proficient ropework and belaying will safeguard climbers in the event of a fall, without the need for a cushioned landing. Experienced climbers are well aware of the importance of the rope system and reinforcing this importance by having a firm floor surface will help climbers both at the wall and when they apply similar practices out on the crag.
Traditionally climbing walls had no special surface beneath them, and so climbers not using ropes would climb to a height at which they were comfortable before climbing down. Often climbers bouldering would operate in pairs and one would watch and field the other in the event of a fall, a technique known as spotting. Down-climbing and spotting a partner are good practice, in very common use and to be encouraged at climbing walls. Experience has shown that climbers adapt their behaviour to take into account the landing, accepting the level of responsibility and risk that they would if pursuing a similar activity outdoors.
If thick mats are provided climbers may put much less emphasis on looking after each other and may be tempted to jump off rather than climb down. Young climbers in particular have at times been encouraged to jump deliberately from high on the wall, and this cannot be accepted as good practice.
Thick matting beneath a wall does not in itself make a wall safer.
If matting or safety flooring is provided ensure it is permanently fixed, has a regular consistency and a continuous profile.”
It is due to the nature of the multi-use of the Sports Centre which makes the last statement above impossible to meet. Thus it has been decided to not supply loose safety matting, and to place the emphasis on the wall user to climb appropriately as would be done in the natural environment where safety matting is not provided!
Panels being fitted
Panels being fitted
There is also a new element to the Wall at Copleston in that there are no anchor points provided, either in the floor, or at the base of the wall for attaching to lighter belayers. The Wall manufacturers now no longer provide these with new wall constructions due to the number of incidences of accidents involving the use of these types of anchor points. The preference is for the Wall management to supply “belay bags” for the use of lighter belayers. These are purpose built bags containing 3stone in weight. They can be attached to the belayer’s harness with a daisy chain, or tape sling. The belayer can now stand in an appropriately safe place of their choosing and not be restricted to having to be close to the supplied fixed type anchor points.
The opening times are as follows:-
- Wednesday 6:00pm – 11:00pm
- Thursday 8:00pm — 11:00pm
- Friday 6:00pm – 11:00pm
- Saturday 1:00pm — 5:00pm
- Sunday 1:00pm — 5:00pm
- Admission Charges (for 2002) will be £3.20 per session, or £12:00 per month by standing order.
Climbing Courses will be available for those who require them, as follows:-
- Taster Session: A 2 hour introductory session, designed for those who wish to try climbing to see if they would enjoy it.
- Beginners Course: A course of four 2 hour sessions, This is a comprehensive introduction to wall climbing, for those with little or no experience. Over the period of the course you will acquire the necessary skills to enable you to climb at the wall safely and unsupervised.
- Improvers Course: Six 3 hours modules. Improve your skills and knowledge with a 3-hour improver module. Choose from one or more of a number of advanced subjects.
Further details of course content and prices can be obtained from the Sports Centre.
Load Testing the Bolt Hangers with 8.2 kN for 10 seconds
Climbing Wall Supervisor