The Reach is a new (as of January 2010) climbing wall in the Southeast London area (Woolwich). Located in an industrial estate, the premises offers a huge amount of space, which has begun to be filled with exciting new climbing walls and artificial boulders. I visited with a climbing partner on the opening weekend (free climbing = yay!) and although the place is clearly not complete yet, there are plenty of walls completed to keep you occupied for a long session.
The climbing is already quite varied, with slabs and overhangs at various angles, and some volumes added to the walls. There are lead areas and top ropes, and one of the slabs is at a very nice angle (I would have loved to have a go at a ridiculous speed climb up it), has been painted with a mural, and was being used for children to climb. At the same time, the lead area boasts some very steep and difficult routes, so I don't think that anyone could have nothing within their grade to go at. At the time of my visit, there were no featured walls (i.e. moulded to approximate the shape of rock and quite common at newish climbing walls), but there are plans for some. A campus board area is also apparently on the way. Hopefully some more efficient heating is also on the way, as it was very cold inside on the opening day. I mention this as you might want to take a large jacket with you, not to put people off going - if you're a climber in the UK, then you won't mind the cold! I do think this will improve, and if it helps, the changing rooms were nice and warm.
Possibly the most important feature of a climbing wall is the cafe (climbers being extremely partial to hot drinks and cake) and so a makeshift cafe offering very reasonably priced snacks and drinks had been set up for opening, and I think the cafe as a whole will be complete very soon. The cafe is located on a mezzanine level, on which the main bouldering area also rests.
While we were there, we heard one of the staff discussing a huge boulder which was unfinished at one end of the building, which is going to be on a pivot so that the whole boulder can be tilted, creating new problems, which seems like a really cool idea.
Although I live on the other side of London, I will make another visit to The Reach, and so might update this review as new areas are completed. I would definitely recommend this wall for people who live a bit closer than me, or work in the area. The staff were really interested to see what people thought of the new wall, and seem like they are really trying to tailor the wall to climbers' wishes. If you've not climbed before, you need to ring them before you go, to arrange for a course to acquaint yourself with the required skills, but existing climbers can register any time they are open, at the reception.
Great wall. It's a bit harder to get to this one from central London, but the routes are great and worth it Slabs, overhangs, top-rope and very good leading. Bolts are a bit further away from each other so it has a more natural feel. Showers, lockers, also if you don't fancy the upstairs café there is a small Ethiopian canteen some 50 yards away with decent curry and very cheap prices (closed on Sunday).
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