First time climb as Vicky Andrews visits Climbing Hangar at The Matchworks

Shauna Coxsey is Britain's most successful ever competitive climber. The 28-year-old from Runcorn has won the world championships and been awarded an MBE for her services to climbing. Shauna (pictured above) is also the first sport climber to represent Team GB at the Olympics, as the discipline makes its debut in Tokyo.

With a soft sprung floor, the only thing you might damage is your ego

Coxsey is one of a few international athletes who are bringing climbing to the masses as the sport grows in popularity. Liverpool’s second Climbing Hangar opened at The Matchworks in March 2020 and the 11,200 sq foot bouldering centre has seen the sport hit new heights. 

Several of the site's original climbs were set by Shauna - a Hangar ambassador - and brand new routes are created every week to ensure that there's always something new to try, regardless of your climbing ability or experience. 

2020 08 20 Climbinghangar Anna
Vicky's instructor at Matchworks, Anna

Even for absolute beginners like me, it’s easy to get started; all you need equipment wise is a pair of climbing shoes and some liquid chalk, both of which can be hired or bought.

Anna, my instructor, started climbing at university. In addition to being an expert boulderer she’s also one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever met in my life and shimmies up the wall effortlessly while I look up at the coloured blobs. Each climb is colour coded depending on its difficulty and a real plus is that beginners use the same spaces as the experts, so you can come and climb with family, friends or on your own.

2020 08 20 Climbinghangar Cafe
Liverpool’s second Climbing Hangar at The Matchworks on Speke Road

I pull up my big girl pants and crack on with a grey route (easiest, of course), reaching the top with not too much difficulty. My main fear was that I’d get stuck and have to let go, but the walls are only 4.2 metres high and with a soft sprung floor the only thing you might damage is your ego. Completing my first climb under Anna’s supervision is a great buzz and gives me the confidence to try some more routes on my own. 

Climbing works multiple muscle groups and your back, abdominal muscles and legs all get exercised as well as your fingers, shoulders and arms. Beginners can build up muscles fairly quickly so that after a couple of sessions you can challenge yourself to harder routes. For more experienced climbers there are training areas - hangboards, finger boards and climbing holds - to improve your strength and stamina.

2020 08 20 Climbinghangar John
Climbing works multiple muscle groups in your back, abdominal muscles and legs

Dom has been climbing for 18 months and comes to the Climbing Hangar three or four times a week.

“It’s different from any other sport and makes you use your whole body in different ways. If you climb regularly, you could get really good within six months," he says.

"But you’d never complete it and there’s always going to be something that will challenge you. It’s a really good community here. A lot of people know each other but there’s always new faces as well and people are willing to help you out and give you a bit of advice.”

John is an instructor who got into climbing while travelling in South East Asia. 

“One of the best things about climbing is that anyone can have a go; it’s a real social environment,” he says.

“Everyone who comes down for their first time gets an induction. It’s not about showing off; we have fun climbs for all levels and bouldering is really accessible to everyone.”

2020 08 20 Climbinghangar Shauna Coxsey
Several of the site’s original climbs were set by Olympic athlete Shauna Coxsey

The Climbing Hangar is budget friendly too; PAYG sessions cost just £9.50 for a two or three hour session or you can get a monthly membership that saves you money but doesn’t tie you into a never-ending contract like the gym. 

As well as being a workout for the whole body, I found that my Friday night climbing session was a really good way to leave the stress behind. Completing the routes requires a bit of concentration and coordination and it’s a bit like solving a 3D puzzle. 

Climbers around the world talk about the sport as a way to unwind, build confidence and self-esteem, alleviating the symptoms of some mental health problems. In Austria and Germany in particular, climbing as therapy is well-established, with educational courses on the topic, books and even hospitals boasting climbing facilities. 

2020 08 20 Climbinghangar Tch Plymouth © Rob Battersby 89
Climbing is a budget friendly activity for all Rob Battersby

As well as the benefits to physical and mental health, bouldering is a really fun and social sport. I definitely felt much better after than if I’d spent the evening sitting on the couch or in the pub. 

Shauna Coxsey says the Tokyo Olympics will be her last event as a professional competition climber. Maybe next time, it could be you?

To find out more visit The Climbing Hangar Matchworks or follow The Climbing Hangar on Instagram or Facebook.

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