The Stonghold Climbing Centre has a cool name and describes itself as London’s largest indoor bouldering space. But is it any good?
London’s newest climbing wall is hidden away down a quiet street a few minutes walk from Tottenham Hale station. The Stronghold Climbing Centre is housed in an old warehouse that had previously been home to a charity recycling and reusing domestic furniture and appliances. These workshops have been replaced with a big, open and light climbing space and a range of good facilities.
The Stronghold says that it’s London’s largest indoor bouldering space and that’s easy to believe when you walk from the reception through to the climbing area. The first thing that strikes you is a huge arch and climbing walls with a beautiful variety of shapes that stretch out in-front of you before disappearing around a corner. It’s stunning. There is so much bouldering here that I genuinely had trouble working out what to do first (and second and third).
The climbing area is in a large u-shape. Two-thirds of this is made up of painted walls with holds and two freestanding boulders. These are set with circuits colour-coded by level of difficulty according to the Hueco (or V) grading system. The remaining third has a traversing wall, a large training area with campus and fingerboards and what The Stronghold describes as London’s largest circuit board.
The problems at The Stronghold are interesting and great fun. There’s variety in both the lines of the problems and the shapes of the wall that they go up. There’s just the right amount of physical and mental challenge in solving the problems. Plus, The Stronghold has a good mix of challenging, pumpy problems on which to push yourself and gentle problems to warm-up on. I also really like that the Stronghold promises on its website that two areas will be reset every week – meaning that there should always be new problems to climb every time I go.
The Stronghold somehow manages to be probably the most aesthetically attractive climbing wall I’ve been to. I think it’s the extensive use of greys and white, with patches of green and black, and the little blobs of colour from the holds. It also helps that the skylights provide a lot of natural light. It’s a clean and bright look (it also helps that it’s actually clean; because it’s new).
My one criticism is that the climbing area is a bit too hot. The roof looks like it’s insulated and this will probably be great in winter. However, I’ve been there on warm summer days so far and got pretty sweaty when climbing in shorts and a T-shirt. There’s a large ventilation system in the roof to help with background ventilation and the doors are left open, but this doesn’t do quite enough to prevent heat building up. It would be more comfortable (and require me to use less chalk) if the air could be moved around a bit more. The nice, friendly guy I’ve been talking to at reception has told me that they are looking into this and might get some fans.
As a parent, I really like that The Stronghold has a dedicated bouldering area for children. This area sits out of the way on a mezzanine overlooking the climbing area. There are several small climbing walls with problems designed for children (they even have fun holds in the shape of animals, faces and even aliens). This area has rubber matting and a long bench for parents to have a rest on.
The kids area gives my 3-year-old son a place where he can run around and play without being in the way of other climbers (and in danger of being landed on). Plus, it gives him and other kids a place to meet and play together. This is more relaxing for my wife and I, and definitely more fun for him.
I’ve also seen plenty of children using the main climbing area, with the smaller of the two boulders being particularly popular and fun.
The Stronghold is also conveniently next door to Down Lane Park, so we can take my son to the playground if he needs more space to run around or wants to go up a climbing frame rather than a climbing wall.
I like the philospophy of The Stronghold –
“At Stronghold, we want to enhance the climbing community that we are part of, and the local community too. We believe climbing centres are more than just places to hone climbing skills – which is why you’ll find numerous areas to hang out and socialise.
We want to promote climbing as part of a healthy lifestyle. This is why you’ll also find a climbing-centric gym, a yoga studio, fully equipped changing and shower facilities, event spaces and a well-stocked café.”
The single, mixed gender locker room is nice. It comes with a few, small, individual shower rooms and individual changing rooms, as well as separate male and female toilets. This set-up has worked fine when I’ve been there, but I wonder whether there will be enough changing rooms when it’s very busy and there are likely to be more people who want to use them.
The climbing-centric gym is in its own room and serves as a warm-up area. It’s an ok space, but for some people there might be an issue with the kids climbing area being directly above it. When there are children running around in the mezzanine (alright, my child when I’ve been there), the stomping noise travels easily through to the gym below. Discussing this with my acoustic engineer wife; there’s not much that can be done easily or cheaply about such impact noise and this is perhaps why it is as it is.
Next to reception is a small café that sells tea, coffee, pastries, cakes and locally brewed beer. There’s also a small shop with climbing essentials like chalk, chalk bags, tape, protein bars and a limited selection of clothes and shoes. Shoes and chalk can be rented from here.
In addition, The Stronghold offers corporate events, climbing lessons, yoga lessons and (soon) exercise classes.
The Stronghold Climbing Centre is a brilliant bouldering venue. It has great climbing, in an attractive, bright space and an excellent kids bouldering area.
Stronghold Climbing Centre
18 Ashley Road
020 8350 2453
The Stronghold is a few minutes walk from Tottenham Hale Station (on the Victoria Line and National Rail). There’s also a bus station at Tottenham Hale Station and so it’s readily accessible by bus. There is a limited amount of parking.