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Live the high life this summer with an inclusive family activity

PUBLISHED: 12:41 25 June 2017

At a Highball Play climbing session. William, 6, Ted, 13, Alfie, 15 and Barnaby, 5, with instructor Leah Cameron.

At a Highball Play climbing session. William, 6, Ted, 13, Alfie, 15 and Barnaby, 5, with instructor Leah Cameron.


Not matter how often you tell them “only boring people get bored” there are times in every holiday or half term when us parents feel under pressure to get the children out of the house to stimulate their imaginations and let them burn off some excess energy.

But as I have four boys aged between five and 15 finding something a bit different, that’s not too babyish or hasn’t got height or age restrictions can be a challenge.

So when we were invited to try out one of the biggest climbing centres in the UK they jumped at the chance.

Highball Climbing Centre, in an industrial unit north of the city off Arms Park Road, is aiming to inspire future generations of climbers by introducing training sessions for youngsters of all ages and experience.

Climbing was recognised as an official Olympic sport last summer, and is acknowledged as one of the only sports to have ‘life-time participation’.

So with this in mind the centre has introduced new one-hour sessions called Highball Play aimed at both complete beginners and regulars aged right through from four to 16 to try a series of fun climbing challenges.

I took three of my boys - Alfie, 15, Ted, 13 and five-year-old Barnaby - who have little or no climbing experience, and Barnaby’s friend William, six, who has been climbing a few times before.

They joined a session with other young climbers of varying abilities.

But with the two experienced instructors close at hand they were all soon scaling the walls with ease.

There are plenty of different layouts which they take turns to try but there is very little waiting or watching - some climb using the auto-belay system where the ropes are attached to a pulley which supports their climb and then lowers them down gently automatically, while others learn top roping where one climber holds the rope for another (with an extra sandbag on the ground just in case!)

It wasn’t long before their muscles were starting to feel the burn.

The older ones were determined to out-do each other for speed while the younger ones were just trying to get as high as they dared. Barnaby was a little hesitant to start but his confidence quickly grew and soon he was reaching for higher and higher grips and footholds.

The instructors blended the right amount of strictness, to ensure everyone’s safety, with encouragement to build confidence and kept everyone moving so there was no opportunity for boredom to creep in.

Leah Cameron, the centre’s only female instructor, said they had sessions for certain age groups and abilities as well but introduced the Play sessions so everyone in the family and their friends could have a go together, making it much more inclusive.

After a successful first taste of climbing I’m pretty sure my boys will be angling to go back this summer. Next time they may also have a go at bouldering, climbing without the ropes.

* For more information and to book an available Highball Play session go to the website .


Registration is now open for The Little Flash, Highball Climbing Centre’s annual youth bouldering competition.

This is a fun, challenging and exciting competition and a great opportunity for young climbers to experience a large scale competition with qualification, isolation, a timed final, and judging, all in front of a big, supportive crowd.

It is a single day event, on Saturday, July 22, with three age categories and three finals, plus a team event.

The Little Flash is an open event but all entrants will be expected to have appropriate previous climbing experience.

For more information and how to register go to the website HERE .

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