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Manchester Climbers Find Their Holy Grail

Published on March 18th 2005.

With no climbing centre in Manchester, it’s taken the renovation of a 19th century church to stop the steady stream of climbers crossing the Pennines every weekend to visit the climbing mecca of Yorkshire instead.

Unfortunately, Chris Bonington, famed explorer, mountaineer and currently a lecturer, couldn’t make the opening the newly renovated St Benedict's Church due to illness, but the Lord Mayor of Manchester Tom O’Callaghan and internationally acclaimed climber John Dunne were on hand to open the climbing centre in Ardwick.

Those who turned up for the grand opening (and there was plenty of them) had the opportunity to test out the new climbing walls, with instructors giving expert advice.

Unfortunately our usually steadfast reporters were forced to pull out of the test climb due to injury - me sporting a crippling neck injury brought on by years of hard work, and top climber Rob Hill suffering from cracked ribs after falling off his chair in Kro 2. There was plenty on show though for Rob to cast his spidie-sense climbing eye over though as hordes scaled the walls to background music and the slightly bizarre choice ofSimply Red - not very apt when your at the top of the wall considering it contained the lines ‘I Wanna Fall From The Stars’....

Rob, a climber with over ten years experience, was suitably impressed: “It looks to be among the best walls I’ve been to, certainly the best in the area. It’s also probably the nicest setting of all the climbing walls I’ve been to. All the equipment is brand new so that’s bound to be a plus point when it comes to safety. The only problem this place might have is overcrowding, and that’s only because it’s going to be so popular!

“The facilities are good, I don’t know of many other walls that have showers. The café and shop upstairs looked like a decent place to take a break mid-session.”

The team of 25 climbing instructors has been recruited by John Dunne himself to work on the construction of the project and hopefully a continuing high level of expertise, instruction and advice. Lessons and a full range of equipment are all on hand for top level experienced climbers down to beginners who struggle to climb the stairs. The team of instructors will oversee a 20m lead wall, top roping, large bouldering area and 75 rope lines.

St Benedicts Church, a grade II listed building, has been under intense renovation since November 2004 after two years of planning to bring Manchester it’s first dedicated climbing centre. Recent months have seen local climbers crossing over to the Pennines to scale the ice wall in Yorkshire.

The building has been transformed from a nineteenth century church to a state of the art leisure facility. Importantly though, and with spectacular results, the building has retained its Italianate structure and features such as the stain glass windows and ornate tile floors. Much of the renovation is down to a £70,000 grant from English Heritage, allowing emergency repair work to be made to the building.

The surrounding area seemed fairly daunting, but there is a secure car park and if the centre is pretty easy to find, you can’t miss a bloody great church after all.

Tim Gough

Manchester Climbing Centre
St.Benedict's Church
Bennett Street
M12 5ND


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