Lets take on the ice wall at Kong Adventure, Keswick.
We’ve been up Catbells, had a fantastic time on the Ullswater Steamers, and the Pencil Museum has made for a fun afternoon. What next, we wonder, as the rain comes down on day four of our Lakeland holiday.
Easy – Kong Adventure in Keswick is an Aladdin’s cave of activity. From the hard play area for the younger members of the family to the climbing walls and the artificial caving system, there’s masses here to occupy everyone, which is how I end up being ‘volunteered’ for the ice wall.
This is serious stuff, as evidenced by the fact that the first thing I do is run through a disclaimer with my instructor, Heather. All those sharp edges, metal-tipped tools and pack ice can combine to leave you with some nasty injuries if you aren’t careful, so she has my full attention.
Up to the equipment room and I’m kitted out with all the warm weather clothing you need to spend 90 minutes clambering around on an ice wall in a bone-chilling -6C. Good quality trousers, thick down jacket and thermal gloves are all provided, as well as harness, helmet and boots, which means all you need to bring with you is a pair of thick socks.
Kitted up, we head down to the ice room and the real nitty-gritty of the experience. At 9 metres tall this is the biggest indoor ice wall in
England, containing 11 tonnes of hand-packed ice. Issuing me with crampons for my boots,
Heather runs through a detailed safety briefing and in we go – to be hit by the cold. As I shiver, Heather goes straight to work, positioning ice picks in prominent positions on the wall and running through a demonstration of the technique needed to get my freezing body from the floor to the summit.
After hooking up the rope to the harness (the belay if you want the technical term) I’m let loose on the wall. With instruction and encouragement from Heather I gingerly begin my ascent, gradually getting used to trusting the crampons which essentially take all your weight. Let’s just say that being 6 metres up with your body weight on a 2 inch piece of metal can concentrate the mind!
After a muscle-aching 10 minutes I reach the top, Heather’s cry of “you have to tak e the pleasure with the pain” ringing in my ears as I sit back exhausted in the harness. After abseiling down I get a brief rest before trying a different section and I end up managing three ascents in all before my arms and legs give up completely. It’s a tough way to spend an hour and a half.
“We get people who pick it up quickly and people who take that bit more time, but most people enjoy it,” says Heather, “and when you get to the top it’s just awesome.”
With visitors ranging from stag and hen dos to birthday parties and regular ice-climbers practising for winter ascents, this is a popular spot. Just remember your socks – and your sense
Hard play area – Two hours for £4.50/
£2 age two and under
Climbing wall – £8.50 adult/
Ice wall – 90 minutes for £35
per person (minimum age 12)