Wikipedia says that “Mile End is a district in East London, England, 3.6 miles east-northeast of Charing Cross.” For me – yet another cityscape spreading in front of my eyes as I come out of the tube. My destination – the famous Mile End climbing center, the only thing I was associating with this geographical concept in East London.
Intending to write my first climbing wall review for the “London’s finest” project I jumped straight into the gym located on a beautiful riverside and surrounded by a calmingly green landscape. I approached the venue, immediately instagrammed my presence and entered replete with curiosity. Once inside – straight to the reception, smiling suspiciously and asking tons of questions. That’s what I mean when I call myself “an alien climber” – locals are looking at me as if I were the first V-1 flying bomb that hit Mile End in 1944 during WWII – something foreign, unknown and totally unexpected. In the best scenario I could be a nerdy and bothersome beginner or some sort of mystery customer.
Usually I don’t do research before those missions of mine because I don’t want any deliberate impressions to ruin my firsthand experience. I had heard about this place before, I knew it must be super cool and expected it to look modern in a new school kind of way, shiny and spacious. Actually, the facility is compact without being claustrophobic, implying a smart and efficient design that utilizes the space in the best possible way.
My mind must be packed with vintage pictures from my early climbing years because the first thing that struck me was the so called “Peggy Day Traverse” in front of the reception desk. I entered this old school traversing facility sculpted out of stones and concrete blocks and BANG! – I was back to the 90’s (only that I wasn’t wearing electric tights and Mithos shoes). Those kinds of ingenious DIY climbing installments are almost extinct in today’s world of flashy colors, curved plywood and GRP’s and I miss the atmosphere they bring to the gym.
Another cool feature of Mile End are the comp walls, the Bloc and the slab in the “Secret Garden” (supercold in the winter, though). I hoped for a chance to try some hard stuff left from the Blockfest on the 9th of January but most of the problems were reset just a week after the event. However, my time wasn’t wasted and I climbed fresh routes by Ned Feehally & Sam Whittaker – absolutely a delightful experience. In a word, routesetting at Mile End is top notch! The easy and warm up climbs (V0 – V2) are adjective and amusing and the variety of hard blocs can keep you in the gym for hours.
Before I wrap up my positive thoughts about this place, I should definitely mention the impressive collection of holds that disclose the solid presence of Mile End. As a routesetter and gymaholic I am aware of the importance of such opulence. Even for a single visit, I did manage to notice some of the best toys on the market: Flatholds, Artline, Beastmaker, Core and Axis, just to name a few. Circuits were perfectly organized around the center, allowing good density of lines without being mixed up and confusing. One can enjoy working the display problems, rainbow for fun or train for endurance.
Once fed up with climbing you can cool down on one of the easy highballs offered in Mile End’s “Main Room”, take a shower, get coffee and a snack or visit the Rock ON shop in the yard and dig through the huge collection of books and discount magazines, buy a FLIPP Crashpad or anything else you need for climbing. Just don’t smoke in the yard – it’s forbidden!
More info: www.mileendwall.org.uk