Sheffield’s claim to be the climbing capital of England was raised a notch this week with the official opening of a centre for children and young people, described as the first of its kind in the country.
The Mini Works is an extension to The Climbing Works, which was launched six-and-a-half years ago in Little London Road to specialise in bouldering, climbing without the need for ropes or harnesses.
Students from Tapton School, who already visit The Climbing Works as part of their PE curriculum, joined top climbers at the opening ceremony on Tuesday.
The extension is designed to appeal to climbers from the youngest of ages. “The kids love it,” said managing director Sam Whittaker. “We’ve already had two-and-a-half to three-year-olds running laps on the boulders!”
The development is seen as enhancing Sheffield’s reputation as a home for climbers attracted by the proximity of the Peak District and the indoor climbing centres.
Competition will be stepped up later this year when the national chain, Awesome Walls, opens in a former factory in Grimesthorpe. Meanwhile plans have been announced to convert the former Abbeydale Picture House into a climbing centre.
“There is more competition, but that can be healthy,” said Sam, who set up The Climbing Works with Graeme Alderson and Percy Bishton. “It spurs existing business into creating better centres.”
Investment was “always a bit of a risk, but the market that we are going for is children and young people, not hard core climbers, and we feel pretty confident.
“This is something different. It’s the first of its kind, and it puts Sheffield on the map
“It’s relatively cheap, it’s mentally and physically a challenge and it’s fun and energising. People have always seen climbing as an extreme sport, but it is accessible to everybody through centres like ours.”
The 2013 Sheffield Schools Bouldering Competition will be held at Little London Road on July 4, featuring pupils from eight primaries and eight secondaries. “Kids who aren’t really into team sports can excel in climbing,” said Sam.
The Mini Works launch was attended by veteran climber Ron Fawcett, senior bouldering team member Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and junior bouldering team member Gracie Martin.
Now Sam has his sights set on a month’s climbing in France in the summer with his wife, Lucinda, also a professional climber, and three-month-old son, Arnold.