The Altitude Gym is a rock climbing gym over in Hull for serious rock climbers. Athletes in training can get out the chalk and the fancy sock-shoes and climb a variety of walls that are intensely challenging. Not too kid friendly.
But! They have a totally awesome, one-of-a-kind, kick-ass back room: the Clip and Climb.
A mecca for little climbers everywhere. WHOO WHEE!
It's several funky, offbeat, fun climbing walls and structures meant for amateurs and kids. You climb just in comfy clothes and regular running shoes.
You climb, and you climb, and you climb.
There's easier walls and more challenging walls. Walls with lights, walls with doorknobs, walls that are made of velcro that you climb with velcro gloves.
There's glow-in-the-dark walls, lego-themed walls, and timed walls for racing purposes. There's also a series of pillars you can climb and those ones near the top are HIGH, OMG. Also wobbly. O. M. G.
The Clip and Climb is meant for families and it's especially great for a single parent with several kids in tow. That's because the kids are able to clip themselves in, and once they are checked by a staff member, they're free to climb. They don't need anyone to hold the rope ("belay" is what the cool kids call it) at the bottom.
Why is that? Each wall in the Clip and Climb room has a giant retractable pulley thing at the top that holds the rope you are clipped to. As you climb, the rope coils up and stays taut, giving you a bit of support.
When you hit the top, you just let go, and the pulley thing provides counter weight, lowering you slowly to the ground. You tether the climbing rope to the ground, unclip your harness, and you're free to run off to the next wall and climb away.
Now, some caveats: my kids were quite tentative at first, and even though they were allowed to climb on their own, they felt much more comfortable with a parent at hand. The Clip and Climb is not cheap, and Sir Monkeypants and I did not do a whole lot of climbing on our own, so if you are coming in with a lot of kids, it's probably worth it not to climb yourself, and just act in a supervisory/supportive role. On the other hand, it did encourage our kids a lot to see us climbing ourselves, so that was worth it for inspiration purposes.
Another warning: the pulley system will definitely catch you when you let go...but, there's a couple of feet of free fall before it kicks in. You really have to find the heart to trust the system and it can be a little scary the first time. The free fall thing actually did not seem to bother my kids at all, they were soon climbing then swinging away from the wall in a carefree manner. I personally, however, found it a bit alarming and every time I hit the top of a wall, I had to spend a minute or two talking myself into letting go. I am a HUGE WUSS. It was good for me, though.
Last tip: there are two structures in the Clip and Climb that cost extra. One is a giant slide - they pull you up on a hand hold to the top, then you let go and literally fall straight down before sliding out the curved end. It's SUPER FUN - all three of our kids LOVED it - but a tad expensive at an extra $4 per slide. Then there's the Leap of Faith - a tower with a crane where you can climb up to a platform, then leap out into space and try to catch the swing on the end of the crane. Again, it costs an extra $4 to try this stunt and it's a real test of your mettle - we saw a few smaller kids back out.
Now, let's talk details. First, you need to reserve a spot for the Clip and Climb; your reservation covers 15 minutes of safety instruction and then an hour of climbing. You can usually call one or two days in advance and have your choice of time slots; I should mention that the Clip and Climb is only open on weekday evenings from 5 to 9, and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Your one hour of climbing isn't cheap; the cost is $13.95 per person (regardless of age), and don't forget the giant slide and Leap of Faith are extra. All in all, we spent close to $100 for our family-of-five Clip and Climb experience, so it's not the kind of thing we'll do every week; still, it was a unique experience, we loved the fact that our kids got to do something new and something physical. Since it's indoors, it's a great place to take antsy kids on a rainy or snowy day to blow off some steam, and it's great if you've got a wide range of ages, since older kids and teens can have the run of the place on their own while you're helping any youngsters.
Children under 5 require a one-to-one parent supervisor; however, I'm not sure I'd go much younger than five for this activity. Precocious four-year-olds who really love to climb and have a lot of energy would have a good time; younger than that will likely find the walls too tough and maybe too scary.
Our own five-year-old is a tentative little girl, and she required quite a bit of coaxing just to go three or four feet up in the air on a handful of walls. She's still quite anxious to go back, though. OF COURSE.
Overall, we all give the Clip and Climb a Summer of Awesome Must Do.
Lynn is mom to three tombliboos and blogs over at Turtlehead.