Adrenaline rush at new Blackpool climbing centre
There was, for one heart-stopping moment, a feeling of being in free-fall.
I was flying, flying like a bird, albeit like a bird made of brick and about as aerodynamic, but airborne nevertheless.
That is not the sort of feeling you generally want when you are climbing, but luckily it was supposed to happen – I was on the country’s highest vertical drop slide of its kind.
The 8.5m high horror is at Clip ‘n Climb, Blackpool’s latest visitor attraction – a fun indoor climbing centre for ages four to 104.
It is the brainchild of ice skaters Dan Whiston and Karen Barber along with partners Anne and Ben Wade to bring some adrenaline-fuelled fun to the resort.
With a host of unusual, 29 foot high climbing challenges as well as the slide, the Whitehills attraction can cater for 30 climbers at once with a balcony cafe for parents and those of a faint heart to watch the fun in comfort. Among the challenges are Face2Face climbing on a clear wall, a SpeedClimb to race your friends and the balance-testing Stairway to Heaven, a teetering walk up a series of high poles ending in a step into air to get back down.
The staff help you into your sit-harness and, after a short safety video, help you clip your carabiners to the automatic belay systems on each of the climbing routes.
Some are easier than others. Climbing an overhanging series of plastic blocks using only undercut hand-holds tends to focus the mind slightly – I am not sure the sound system playing Underworld’s Born Slippy was entirely helpful.
The Stairway to Heaven is a tricky test of balance and one that means you are fully aware of the drop increasing beneath your feet as you look down to target your nest foothold.
Stepping off into thin air at the end just does not feel natural, to be honest I had to close my eyes, but the belay-system brings you down to earth gently on all the climbs.
Dan Whiston said the project had taken months of planning and half a million pound investment and employs around 30.
He said: “When I first saw one of these centres I thought we had to bring it to Blackpool.
“It is great fun and you can make it just as challenging as you want. It’s for all ages.
“We had an open weekend and a gentleman aged 78 did the Stairway to Heaven. He made it all the way to the top and everybody in the place was cheering him on.
“It is great exercise a good workout, it uses your core muscles as well as your arms and legs, and you don’t even notice you are doing exercise.
“I wanted something to get the kids off the video games for a while and get a little bit fitter.
“The highest slide of its kind in the UK gives it that thrilling selling point, it’s a real adrenaline rush.
“We are planning to have some climb-a-cise sessions and also perfect for team building exercises and confidence building because you can cheer each other on.”
Among those testing it out in its opening week was Radio Wave presenter Hayley Kay.
Hayley took her courage in both hands and tackled the Face2Face climb with Dan, followed by an attempt on the huge slide.
She said: “I loved the slide even though I didn’t get to the top and the climbs are a real challenge.
“I enjoy challenging myself and this was a challenge but also a lot of fun.”