Monday, 25 June 2012

A visit to ROKT Climbing Gym

My phone jerked into life, the screen flashing, the chassis vibrating and a short, sharp jingle emanating from within. I glanced down and saw that a text message had arrived through the ether. Within was a link to a website. I followed it and was hit with an all singing, all dancing virtual tour of a climbing centre called ROKT, in Brighouse (me neither... I'd never heard of the place).

The tour was great, showing off all the facilities this interesting little gym had to offer. The most unusual were large 3D hexagon-type volumes, all connected somehow and reaching across the room like the encroaching arms of an unusual beast. Vibrant walls full of holds of all shapes and sizes, angles jutting out from the ground and descending from the ceiling, and various rooms crammed with a wide variety of climbing. It looked bizarre. It looked like it was worth checking out.

And so when the wet weekend finally arrived, we made the decision to make the excursion. We took the hour-long road trip to Brighouse to discover for ourselves what ROKT had to offer. Following a quick registration process, there was a guided tour, starting at the bottom and making our way to the top. The facility is located inside an old factory and the climbing space is arranged across three floors, with several flights of stairs connecting the rooms. The tour is essential for a first trip, because you will get lost - unless, of course, you follow Hansel and Gretel's lead and leave chalk crumbs. Or was that bread crumbs? They're climbers in my version so deal with it.

Once we reached "The Penthouse" - the uppermost room - we found the hexagonal blocks that had so tantalisingly peaked our interest. We decided to start here and see what happened. After a quick warm up on a traverse, an easier problem, a slightly harder problem and eventually a relatively difficult little climb, we finally got stuck into climbing on the blocks themselves. It was easy enough finding the starting holds, with small tags jammed underneath to ensure they stood out from their brethren, but it became something of a challenge to decipher where they went from there. Holds quickly led to blind corners, where you lunged into the abyss and hoped your fingers would connect with something positive. Footwork went out the window because you couldn't see past your shins, but the steep burly nature of the blocks made it fun enough.

We quickly exhausted the novelty of the blocks, however, and made our way back downstairs, to the entrance, where the large "Competition Wall" was situated, home to the more difficult of the centre's boulder problems. The wall was steep, varying from mild overhang to horizontal. Holds were large and positive and far apart, making for very gymnastic climbing - with even the easier problems calling for lunges, swings and dynamic movement. We started at the left and made our way right. A local handed out the occasional smidgen of beta while an employee watched on and jumped in from time to time with a squark and squeal of excited service. Children poured in behind us, through the centre's doors and onwards to birthday parties (there appeared to be several while we were there - very popular for celebrations, it seems).

We continued for as long as possible, enjoying the very different style of climbing to what we were accustomed. The Climbing Works, my home away from home, tends towards the technical, while ROKT tends towards the burly. The nature of the climbing took its toll and, once the tank was running dry, it was time to find some lunch. After a quick run into the centre of Brighouse to find noodles and ice cream we returned to ROKT and made the decision to try some of the roped climbing.

Several "silos" had been converted into thin, tall climbing cells, all dotted along in a line and ascended into via steep ladders. We chose silo number 4, being the only one that wasn't already occupied. We were joined by two others shortly afterwards, discovering that you wouldn't want more than four people per silo or it would start to become very cramped, with the distinct possibility that you could knock someone off an adjoining wall if you fell, while belayers jostle for position below. We enjoyed several of the top roped climbs, paying more attention to the dull ache in our arms from the earlier bouldering exertion than the routes themselves. The sharp pain of lactic buildup in the forearms becoming evermore acute the higher you ascend. The sweet relief and blood flow when eventually you reach the summit and relax back onto the rope and into your harness. The routes were certainly enjoyable, though, and next time I'd like to try them before bouldering - as the aerobic nature of sustained climbing supposedly sits more comfortably before the anaerobic power-fest of boulder problems.

After a short while, it was all we could do to stand up, so it was time to call it a day. Defeated after several hours. A good climbing session, I would say. And at a thoroughly enjoyable centre. There was a lot more we didn't experience for ourselves, such as the training room and lead climbing room. The latter, unfortunately, had been victim to a flood the day before we arrived and so the staff had removed the damaged floor matting, exposing the cold, unforgiving concrete beneath.

All in all, I would recommend a visit. Have a go and make up your own mind, though. Each to there own, indeed. I for one enjoyed it. And I would like to return some day to sample more of ROKT's climbing facilities. 

If you've been already or are thinking of going, let me know: comments are very welcome below.