There's no doubt about it, climbing is a blast. It's a great balance of physical and mental workout with a healthy dose of adrenaline thrown in, but if you live in a big city like London you might think you're too far from the nearest mountain or cliff to get into climbing. There are in fact loads of great UK climbing spots within easy reach of the capital but closer still are London's great collection of indoor climbing walls.
London boasts some of the best indoor climbing walls anywhere in the UK, covering all major styles of climbing from sport and bouldering to speed and even ice climbing! It's worth noting however that the some London climbing centres are better than others for particular disciplines however and this is a generalised list - if you're after the best bouldering walls in London for example have a look here. With thousands of sheltered routes available, these climbing walls have everything you could need for a great day's climb.
You can grab new climbing gear from onsite shops, hit some outdoor features when the weather gets hot and chill in a climbing wall café when your arms have finally had enough. These great indoor climbing centres will let you do that and more.
1) The Castle
Nearest Tube: Manor House
Phone: 020 8211 7000
The Castle is one of the UK's biggest climbing meccas. Built in an old Victorian pumping station this centre has 5 floors of climbing fun.
You'll find all the roped climbing and bouldering routes you could ask for here. There's also a training rooms and a gym setup for conditioning that includes free weights, dip bars and rowing machines.
Outside you can take a trip to the Boulder Field, complete with loads of free standing boulder problems for those long summer evenings, before kicking back with some delicious grub cooked with fresh, healthy ingredients from The Castle's permaculture garden.
2) The Reach
Nearest Tube: North Greenwich or Woolwich Dockyard train station
Phone: 020 8855 9598
Located south of the river, a couple of miles from Greenwich, it's a bit of a trek to get to The Reach but it's worth the journey.
With around 650m² of bouldering and 750m² of roped climbing there's plenty to keep you busy here, thanks to a dedicated team of route setters with almost 60 years of setting experience between them. You'll also find free standing boulder problems and top rope climbs up to 11m high giving you a good mix of different challenges.
The best bit about all this is that because it takes a little effort to get here, the wall is rarely packed like some of London's more central climbing walls. This means that you won't have to queue for routes, for a tasty slab of homemade cake at the café or for new climbing gear at the shop and you'll probably find a space in the free car park too.
3) Vertical Chill
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden
Phone: 0207 395 1010
Price: £50 (£25 with own equipment and experience)
If you thought you'd have to trek to Scotland for your ice climbing fix, think again.
Covent Garden might not seem like the best spot for ice climbing but set inside the Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports store near the piazza you can find an 8m high ice wall complete with all the tools and gear you need for your first icy ascent.
Vertical Chill, gives you the chance to ice climb right in the centre of London and you'd better wrap up warm because with temperatures as low as -7°C shorts and a chalk bag aren't going to cut it. Thankfully, the Vertical Chill crew will provide you with all the climbing gear you need from clothing and harnesses to ice axes and crampons. You don't need to have any experience but if you have your own gear and know what you are doing you can make a big saving on the entry price.
4) White Spider
Nearest Tube: Tolworth train station
Phone: 0208 397 0390
Out in Surbiton, White Spider is another wall that takes a little effort to get to, but your efforts will definitely be rewarded.
There's more than 350 roped routes here with a roughly 50/50 split between top roping and lead climbing. You'll also be tackling up to 13m high routes which are at the taller end of what you'll find around London. Closer to ground level there are 4 big bouldering areas filled with more than 250 regularly reset problems.
Features to look out for include the infamous White Spider stalactites, a sizeable boulder cave with roof climbing and even auto belays for anyone fancying some rope climbing who forgot to bring a mate.
5) Clip n Climb
Nearest Tube: Fulham Broadway
Phone: 0207 736 2271
This is the wildcard entry. Clip n Climb lacks the serious credentials of most of the other names on this list, but it goes right to the heart of climbing, providing some unique and truly fun challenges.
At Clip n Climb no two walls are the same. You won't find serious bouldering or sport routes here but you'll probably be laughing too hard to notice as you scramble up transparent walls, climbing holds made from door handles and even walls that rotate!
Decked out with auto belay systems at each station route you're sure to be rubbing shoulders with some much tinier climbers when you visit, but if you're looking for a hilarious set of really different routes then give this a shot.