Climbing. and home to an astonishing piece of sports architecture in the form of a climbing arena set in a disused quarry. It has already become the destination of choice for climbing enthusiasts from miles around. But at the same time. Ratho is run by people determined to create a leisure centre that’s open for everyone. In this controlled environment, trembling (and not especially fit) novices can try out some of the very best artificial climbing walls in the world. tutored by climbing experts. The same experts will smile as they strap you into a harness that swings you out along the Sky Ride track, a woodland-style assault course that‘s suspended a blood-curdling 120 feet above the arena floor. With weight loadings set at more than 3 tonnes per metre of the track. these guys know that no part of your body will touch solid earth again until they unstrap you. But try telling that to the people teetering on a wobbly log up there.
Will the Adventure Centre survive? We hope so. This exceptional facility. founded by climbing fanatics Duncan McCallum (marketing director), Rab Anderson (climbing advisor) and David Taylor (architect). is a new national treasure. It's on such a
The climbing arena features a competition wall (main picture) as well as training for beginners (opposite, top). For fun, there’s the Sky Ride (opposite, bottom).
vast scale that some will describe it as a piece of
architectural vanity and the specification is clearly higher than you might expect from a sports centre. But although the costs have risen beyond expectations, the ambitions of the Ratho team have grown too. If it survives, the centre will act as a gateway to a wide variety of adventure sports. As well as climbing, you‘ll soon be able to learn to scuba dive in a purpose-built diving pool, and then try out your martial arts skills at the National Judo Centre across the courtyard. In April. mountain- biking trails and canoeing in the land and pools around the centre should be open to the public.
Perhaps best of all, after all that adrenaline and exertion, there‘s the excellent Stone Room bar and restaurant with straightforward food and great views over the climbing arena. There’s even simple accommodation for people who want to stay overnight. lt's cheap to try out what’s on offer, and as news about the centre spreads, you'd be well advised to check it out before the hordes descend on Ratho. Make one resolution: go on that Sky Ride before you die. And you might save the Adventure Centre from its own untimely demise.
The Adventure Centre is at Ratho, situated close to the A8, 10 miles west of Edinburgh. Get there by car or taxi. For details, call 0131 333 6333, or check out the web site at http://ratho.ezone interactive.net.
If you’ve never set foot on a climbing wall before, there are two different packages for beginners, designed to give you confidence and with luck, the climbing bug. All tutored sessions are scheduled according to demand, so it’s essential to call up and book your course. 1 . Taster session. A two- hour experience, designed to help you get active fast. With a pupil/instructor ratio of about 6:1, you’ll get plenty of useful advice. Cost: £20.
2. Starter session. A mix of practical advice with some of the technical stuff, this course will get you up the climbing wall, and will also help you understand the basic safety requirements. Three hours for £35.
3. If you already have some experience, simply turn up with your own kit (or hire it from the excellent Tiso shop on site). Entry to the climbing arena is £7 (£5.50 kids and concessions).
As with most adventure sports, once you’re hooked, you’ll want to buy some basic kit. Loose-fitting, ﬂexible clothing of any kind is fine, but you'll need a harness and belay (a small pulley device used by your partner who’s holding your rope on the ground), plus a pair of tight- fitting ultra-grip climbing shoes. This Iot’s likely to set you back around £100.
As you progress to more advanced climbing, you’ll need your own rope, at a cost of around £120.
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18 Mar—1 Apr 2004 THE LIST 17