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Caithness News Bulletins January 2005

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Wick Scouts    

Caithness Scouting Area Climbing Wall Re-opened
A climbing wall had been installed in the Wick Scout Hall and was occasionally used until 3 or 4 years ago. Not many other scouting groups in the area knew about the facility and weren’t using it. It was decided to get the climbing wall reinstated so that the young scouts could get some experience of climbing in a safe warm environment.

Bringing the climbing wall back into use involved more work than the joint project managers (David Swanson from Castletown and Bob Kerr from Melvich) had originally imagined. However David and Bob were not put off by this and 2 months 2 days after first viewing the facility it was ready for being reopened.

On the evening of Monday 3rd January 2005 the climbing wall was officially re-opened by Pete Hill. Pete is the current chairman of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI), former president of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, has climbed extensively all over the world, and has led expeditions to the Nepalese and Indian Himalayas, including three first ascents in Kashmir. Closer to home, he has climbed the Matterhorn and Eiger north faces in winter and has done a lot of eminently more sensible things! Pete is also the co-author of “The Mountain Skills Training Handbook” and he has provided training to various members of the Assynt Mountain Rescue team in recent years.

At the official re-opening ceremony he praised David and Bob for bringing the climbing wall back into use. Pete said that “The Mountaineering Council of Scotland are keen to support the development of climbing walls. There are no other indoor facilities in Caithness or Sutherland for kids to safely experience climbing so I was honored to be asked to re-open this facility and let the kids experience the joys of climbing.”

Pete went on to say that “If any of the local youngsters are showing signs of being good climbers then this climbing wall will help them to train and who knows the next World Youth Climbing Champion could be from northern Scotland.”

Bob Kerr told those present at the opening that initially the wall is being re-opened for use by all groups involved with scouting in Caithness and East Sutherland. Bob also said that he hoped to get the facility opened up to other community groups and individuals however there were still some access agreements and insurance issues to resolve. Bob mentioned that the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team, HM Coastguard and the local army cadets have all expressed an interest in using the facility. Bob hopes to get these final issues resolved soon.

During the official re-opening, David Swanson told those present about the amount of work that had to be done to bring the facility up to modern standards. David and Bob both wished to thank the following for their support with the projecct:

  1. Various people for carrying out engineering loading calculations

  2. Norfrost for providing materials and manufacturing new anchor points

  3. Johnson Controls for providing scaffold and performing load testing of the new anchor points

  4. All of the other individuals that have helped out with various aspects of the work.

Any project like this can’t function without funding. Donations have been received from various groups to help get the wall re-instated. The following have assisted financially:

  1. UKAEA donated £200 towards the cost of new harnesses, ropes and helmets

  2. Each of the scout groups in the area donated £100 towards equipment purchase and climbing wall holds.  Due to a kind donation from the Brent Alpha Lighthouse Crew to 1st Wick 1st Caithness Scouts they were able to contribute £200.00.

Caithness Sports council have pledged funding and this will be used to expand the equipment pool hence allowing more people to experience climbing at the facility at the same time.

After these opening speeches, the 20+ eager young climbers present warmed up and then they had their first shots on the climbing wall. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves and all were keen to come back soon.