Brightly coloured plastic holds are scattered like paint on a modern art piece. I followed the developments in the newest climbing establishment in my hometown with eagerness and a keen eye. My parents live in the flattest territory I can imagine, with only one outdoor boulder documented for climbing in the entire region. Although there are several places for die-hard climbers to hone their skills, they don’t have the same technicoloured polished allure of a new wall with social media following. The new wall is one that can really get newbies into the sport, which mirrors the new glamour sport climbing is trying to radiate. Therefore, the Christmas holidays (also my first return home since the centre opened) became a chance for me to once again enthusiastically persuade my sister and mother to come climbing with me.
The cleanliness of the newly painted walls and the bright routes create most of the impact. The routes come in all different colours, telling you how difficult each one is. Although the first routes are always easier, white ladders with holds you can easily hold on to the difficulty increases as the holds get smaller, more technical and requiring more careful balance. Circuits, a popular training tool in the gyms in Turin, are completely absent, and the colour system means that routes are easy to identify even if some require a bit more practice to read. My attempts quickly showed me that I can only judge the difficulty of the routes up to a middling difficulty, but for me and my family it was clear that the first two levels were aimed at beginners. It was the third level which required climbers to exhibit far more understanding and technique, due to a dramatic shift in difficulty with smaller holds and requiring displays of balance, strength and better technique.
While I’m sure this route setting technique was partially aimed to get new people involved and giving them experiences of success early on, it was a little frustrating. The place was bursting full with new and experienced climbers alike, but I felt like these starting routes could in no way adequately prepare climbers for higher levels. Climbing a ladder does not, in most cases, prepare you for climbing a tree. Generally the element, the challenge, and your approach tend to be rather different. Similarly, the ladder-like, big hold setting of the first two levels meant that they were practically indistinguishable from each other, and only rarely practiced foot placement or body rotation techniques which are vital to make progress on more difficult problems.
Apart from bright walls, clean routes and many, many climbers, the centre also had a few facilities, including a large café with an area to relax, a small training area with hangboard and other climbing-specific training tools, changing rooms and showers. It looked like there were rolls and croissants on sale, shoes are available for rental and if you feel the need to take a break from the climbing, you can nip next door and play beach volleyball instead. At least, for now- it sounds like the success means the mat space will be extended sometime soon. While this means that my sand-loving sister will sadly be disappointed, I feel like it’s a second Christmas present–
And I can’t wait!