I am super excited about an upcoming trip to Norway when I’ll get to up my game from Scottish Winter Mountaineering and get out on easy water ice for the first time. I’m lucky to live not too far away from Vertical Chill Ice Wall in Manchester, so I headed over to learn the techniques needed for climbing ice and get some tips for the extra gear I might need.
Located within Ellis Brigham’s Manchester store, I’ve always thought of the Ice Wall as
something of a gimmick. A tiny tower of ice right next to the boots so that people can watch each other have a go climbing on ice.
However, with very few facilities in the UK to try ice climbing, I booked a lesson to enable me to feel more confident before my trip to Norway in February. Hire of equipment, tuition and use of the facility cost £50 for one hour.
Grading and routes
Vertical Chill is definitely a small facility. With only two top ropes set up this isn’t a facility where you’re going to have chance to play about on a variety of routes and grades. Its also booked out on an hourly basis (even if you don’t have a tutor) due to its size so there’s a limit of 3 people in there at any time.
The grades of the two routes I climbed are about Water Ice grade 3, one a straight climb up, the other with an overhang at the top. There was also some climbing holds fixed on one section for mixed climbing just to the right of the main route.
Despite normally feeling self conscious if people are watching me do something I completely forgot about windows to the tower and that shoppers were able to watch me climb.
I had booked equipment hire which not only included B3 Boots, C3 Crampons and climbing axes (with leashes), but also warm trousers, a warm insulation jacket and water proof coat. I had arrived in some outdoor gear and a warm jacket but I could have arrived in general casual gear as everything I needed was provided for me.
Dedicated changing rooms provide a quieter place to change away from the main store shopping area. There was no storage facility for any of your personal gear but I’m sure the store would put it in their equipment cupboard, as it was I had dragged my mum along so she got to be my clothes horse!
The helmet I was given had a visor to prevent injury from any falling ice as I swung the axe. Wearing glasses I found this a problem as it steamed up as I climbed so I had to keep wiping it and adjusting it.
As I don’t yet own my own climbing axes it was good to be able to ask lots of questions about the equipment I was using to be able to judge what to buy for myself in the future.
Andy, the instructor I had was fantastic and I definitely felt like I learnt a lot from the session. He started with asking what I wanted to get out of the session; useful as being in central Manchester they must get some people who go along for a one off experience who might never do it again.
As I explained I already had the ability to use crampons and was off on a climbing holiday with friends, the session was more geared to be understanding and trusting axe placement and technique for managing my body weight to avoid me getting too pumped or calf cramp.
Andy was very supportive, and good at building confidence in a non patronising way. (I’ve had male instructors before who assume women are less able to climb). It was clear he was not just qualified to teach but had a lot of experience himself climbing and also in teaching others.
Womenclimb’s Grading of Vertical Chill
When a typical coaching session at a climbing wall can cost between £35-50 for one hour plus the entry to the wall, I thought £50 for one hour tuition including equipment hire was good value for money.
The wall is quite small compared to other ice climbing facilities in the UK, but considering there are very few its great to practice technique.
|Value for Money||4/5|
Vertical Chill Address/ Location info
Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports
Manchester, M3 2QS
Tuesday to Friday: 9:00 – 18:00
Saturday: 9:00 – 18:00
Sunday: 11:00 – 17:00
Single entry: £20 per hour Tuesday – Friday and £25 Saturday and Sunday
Equipment Hire: £10 includes all clothing, boots and equipment. Tuition: £25 an hour