abseiling in london - What you need to know
As an abseiler, you might have noticed that London has a distinct lack of mountains in it. You might think his means it will be tricky to find a spot to abseil from, but actually there are a surprising number of options for the budding abseiler in and around our nation's capital. Here are a few of the best spots for abseiling in London.
A good climbing wall is an obvious choice for abseilers. With bolted anchors at the top of routes, staff on hand to give advice and padded flooring, climbing walls provide a safe and accessible way if you're looking for abseiling in London.
The added bonus of climbing walls is that because they're indoors you can abseil whatever the weather, rather than shivering in the rain on top of some lonely crag.
London is packed full of indoor climbing facilities which makes abseiling in London much more convenient, but it's important to make sure you pick a climbing wall not a bouldering centre. Most walls offer both types of climbing but it's important to check it's not bouldering because this form of climbing doesn't use ropes and the walls are normally much shorter.
Climbing walls will normally ask you to perform a quick assessment before you start using ropes on their walls. This short test usually assesses your ability to tie in your harness properly and belay safely, demonstrating awareness of your surroundings.
It's a good idea to have some abseiling knowledge and/or experience before you head to a climbing wall but most walls will be able to give you a beginner's abseiling course, introducing you to using ropes safely.
If you're trying to find a climbing wall near you then check out the London Climbing Guide's handy map which gives you a detailed description of walls all over London including admission price, opening hours and the type of climbing available.
Check out Mile End Climbing Wall which has a super friendly community and sports 16000sqft of walls that you can take a virtual tour of on their website, while south of the river The Reach in Woolwich has some pretty impressive walls ranging to around 11m high.
The top climbing wall for abseiling though has to be The Castle. Set in an old Victorian water pumping station this space has a tonne of indoor walls and its own abseil tower. Reaching a height of 30m the Castle's tower is used for all sorts of abseiling from regular to Aussie style abseiling and even rap jumping.
Buildings and Events
When abseiling in London, the city lacks mountains, but what it does have is loads of buildings. The nice thing about these buildings is that they also make great locations for abseiling and every year there are plenty of opportunities to abseil London's skyline.
From the Shard abseil in 2012 to this year's Three Peaks Challenge which took in the Walkie Talkie, the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin, charities are often behind big abseiling events in the city. Getting involved with a charity doubles that feel good factor you get from abseiling because you know that while you're having fun you're also doing something to make other people's lives better.
Most charity abseil events require an initial booking fee, often around the £50 mark, and then request a minimum amount of sponsorship. This figure can often seem quite high but abseiling down an iconic landmark can really inspire people to dig deep and give to a good cause. If you want to stay up to date with forthcoming charity abseil events Timeoutdoors.com have a dedicated page you can check out which gives details of each abseil including sign up fees.
Abseil events are often weather dependent so expect to see a crop of them from mid summer through to early September. To get you started, homeless charity St Mungo's Broadway is giving you the chance to abseil down the front of the imposing Senate House, Bloomsbury on June 11-12, 2016.
Charities aren't the only reason for iconic abseils, there are also events also that take place each year just for the fun of it. The Arcelormittal Orbit tower in London's Olympic park has been running abseils since 2014, letting you abseil 80m down the red steel tower, though you need to check the Arcelotmittal Orbit website for availability.
If you fancy abseiling outdoors then you might need to look a bit outside the M25. There are various boulders within the city such as Shoreditch Park, Maybley Green and Fairlop Boulders but these are mainly aimed at climbing without ropes and lack the height for a good abseil.
There are some amazing abseiling spots around the UK depending on how far you're willing to travel but you don't need to hit the Peak District or Ben Nevis to get your abseiling fix.
If you live in London and still want to abseil you can find spots 1.5 to 2 hours away which, let's face it, is almost as long as the daily commute.
Sadly the popular climbing spots around Tunbridge Wells are off limits to abseilers as ropes do irreparable damage to the area's soft sandstone but there are other options available.
If you're looking for something unusual to abseil off, take a trip to the village of Barnston in Essex, just over an hour out of London. Here you can find the Bishop's Stortford-Braintree Branch Line, a disused railway line complete with a series of old railway bridges that are popular with local climbers and could make for some interesting abseils.
If bridges don't do it for you then there's also Saltdean, just East of Brighton. Within an hour and a half from central London you can be abseiling the chalk cliffs of the south coast. This is not a BMC maintained site so all protection should be double checked and extra care taken on the crumbly chalk surface, but if you pay attention and abseil safely you'll be treated to some stunning views over the Channel.
A great place to start planning your abseil adventures is at the UK Climbing Logbook. This handy site covers the UK and beyond, with detailed crag reports which tell you about the different number of routes available at each spot, as well as the kind of protection, type of rock and maximum height you will be looking at.