I went to the new Climbing Academy wall the other day. It is rather good: The size is epic and the layout, lighting and use of space are all great. The problems seemed good and nicely varied, the music when I was there was good (chilled techno and breakbeat - spot on), and the staff are friendly. I haven't tried the coffee but I have high hopes.
There is one downside though - some of the holds. Waaaay before the wall was finished, I commented on the TCA's Facebook page to please use awesome holds like Bleaustone, HRT and Axis, and not rubbish ones like Core and Holdz. I had no idea what they would put on, only that I wanted such an impressive wall to have nice feeling holds to train on. Well the wall is full of Core, Holdz, and Beacon. Core have improved a fair bit, they are not so over-designed and have some nice textures and slopers, so that's all good and I admit I was wrong to dismiss them. Beacon are fine normal holds. Holdz are as bad as ever. The general texture is abrasive and inferior to other holds, the knobbly features are pointless and less comfortable, and the grit-textured edges are really, really bad. These must be the worst holds I've pulled on:
Anyway. That's not so interesting. Some problems are spoilt by the Holdz, and it would be better if better holds were used. The rest of it is great and I will be training there a lot and be a good paying customer.
What is interesting is the Yes Men phenomenon that arises when a big exciting project appears in the climbing world and has public areas to promote their project and allow customers to comment on it. Praise is duly accepted but criticism often isn't - even when it's in the context of a lot of praise (praise which is tabloidly ignored in the reaction to the criticism). It's not just the project owners (who you expect to have reasonable answers or acceptance of criticism) but other people who seem to have elevated such projects to sacred cow status where those projects can do no wrong and have no flaws - and certainly not have anyone pointing out those flaws. There's a definite "gang" feel to some of the reactions - reactions not just to myself but to other people who have criticisms (such as student prices).
Really if the climbing was so close-knit and looking after it's own, it could do a lot more to be inclusive and welcoming of all climbers.
This reminds me exactly of when the Climbing Works opened, and once again I praised many areas of the wall whilst criticising some of the holds (the ridiculous embedded golf ball / light bulb holds) and how dirty/chalky the holds got. Once again the Yes Men dismissed the possibility that anyone could criticise anything about the wall. A while later the ridiculous holds disappeared and brushes on sticks and notices to clean holds appeared and a great wall became a bit greater because those previously-criticised-but-dismissed issues were improved...
Anyway, fingers crossed I'm off down to T'County again this weekend, and back training at TCA early next week.