“The best place in the world. It has everything you need… I practically live here.” – Louis Parkinson
While walking around the streets or at the shopping mall for example (please, do not judge this idea too hard), you may find yourself in front of a glass wall and behind it – like in a big aquarium – strong people battle gravity. You witness a different climbing fauna and immediately are impressed – a thousand reasons make you crave trying some of the things these people do.
The picture is similar with Vauxwall Climbing Centre at the heart of London. While curiously observing the busy South Lambeth Road – only two minutes from VauxHall Station, you’ll come upon the sheeny windows and orange-blue colors of VauxWall. You will notice the occupied hosts working their stuff at the reception desk and behind them – all kinds of species: smaller and bigger fish, powerful whales showing off their fitness and slick boulder sharks swimming gracefully through their sporty entertainment in the climbing aquarium.
When I started climbing in the end of the 90’s the sport was quite hardcore and underground. It was housed in dark and humid industrial places, basements and tumbledown school gyms. With its growing popularity, indoor climbing won’t have the same face anymore and Vauxwall is just another vivid example. The center is clean and cozy with its smart interior design, and the gushing natural light during the day is only in its favor. The gym isn’t big but it has everything a serious climber might need. It is noticeable that most of the wall lacks aggressive texture on the panels; this will save your shoes and skin during hard training sessions. The good amount of freshly set blocs will delight those who don’t know how to create their own challenges and the grips are just enough to allow good endurance roaming. Along with this, one can take advantage of the parallel bars, dumbbells, a good selection of fingerboards, campus and rings – separate in a small training zone in front of the service room. Enjoy the amazing opportunity to stretch or build some strength under the calming sounds of holds being cleaned in the washing machine.
VauxHall is a popular residential area for MPs due to its proximity to the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall. As one might expect, VauxWall is a habitat for one of the strongest London VICs (Very Important Climbers) – Louis Parkinson. You can book a session with him and part with some of your savings in the best possible way, solving many of the problems you would encounter in your future as a rising boulder maniac. Even though he is a big fish, the guy is approachable, outgoing and witty. You can get a good idea of his skills by watching some of his training videos that went viral lately. I cannot resist mentioning Parkinson’s remake of Kenny Loggins’s “Footloose” video clip – a stylish combination of hard climbing tricks and larky goofiness. Most of this rad production is shot at Vauxwall – visiting the set is another reason to go there… just beware of the kraken of injury while trying to repeat some of Louis’s stunts.
A feature I enjoyed at Vauxwall is the clear route tagging system – missing at some of the other London gyms. The signs on the highest starting hold inform you if there is a sit or stand start and there is a rail to step on for many of the problems that don’t have specific footholds. Information about the problem authors is easily accessible and especially on the competition wall, one can try hard moves from England’s top routesetters. Among the other climbs I challenged myself with a steep V8 from Leah Crane and embraced the defeat delighted by the quality of her work.
The experience from the afternoon spent inside this climbing aquarium was absolutely refreshing. Vauxwall Climbing Centre turns out to be so snug it does not let you go. It lurks you into long chats with the friendly staff and forces you to wish another cappuccino before you head to the tube.
More info: www.vauxwallclimbing.co.uk/