Wednesday 10 December 2008

Birthday party at Mile End Climbing Wall, Mile End Park, east London

A laid-back hang-out for hardcore climbers and beginners alike, Mile End Climbing Wall is a series of halls peppered with plastic holds and ledges catering for a wide range of abilities. Experienced instructors, with varying levels of patience, are available to run 90-minute birthday parties for kids aged eight and above costing as little as 10 pounds a head. After being kitted out in climbing shoes and helmets, the kids start by working their way horizontally around a small wall directly opposite the serious climbers sipping tea from plastic cups at the reception desk. Once everyone has had a go, the party heads off to another room with higher walls and big crash mats. Again, the kids climb horizontally, but the holds get trickier the further they go.

Relish the thrill
Now it gets serious. The instructors get the kids into harnesses and take them into a room where, roped-up, they try and work their way up climbing walls about 12 metres high. Two kids keep the rope taut while their friend attempts to get to the top of the wall and then abseil down. Next up, the party scales a series of ladders to get to a platform suspended high above the floor from where they will be winched down one by one. While some kids will relish the thrill, others will be racked by fear. Fortunately, at least one of the instructors is adept at coaxing both children and adults to overcome their vertigo. Finally, the party ends up in the so-called monkey room where they play games, which often involve hanging onto the walls in increasingly precarious positions. Afterwards, you can use a basic portakabin, free of charge, to serve the birthday tea. Adventurous kids will get a big kick out of this party. 8/10