It was damp. Half-heartedly John set off up DTs, a route he has frequently soloed.He looked unhappy, even shoogly. As I followed I discovered that the rock surface was slickly greasy, and the cracks wet and slimy. Climbing the route was a decidedly unpleasant experience.
I suggested we bin it and head to the recently revamped Carnegie Centre bouldering wall in Dunfermline. We had not been there since the final day of the "old" wall, which had been our Wednesday evening haunt for (too) many years.
After a brief stop for seaweed (don't ask) in Limekilns village, we threaded the rush hour traffic into Dunfermline. There was a comedy moment as we discovered that the road layout around the centre had completely changed, and we tried to pull in to park in a building site.
The Centre too has had a complete revamp.Once we'd done our double act at the front desk :
Yes, I've got my new membership card from 2002 here.
Can you fill in the form?
I've no' got my glasses etcetc
we had to ask: Where is the climbing wall?
Once we followed the receptionist's directions we found ourselves in familiar territory. Despite some superficial tarting up, it's still the cupboard at the far end of the basement squash courts.
On entry we saw the familar face of Tom the SPA type who runs inductions, looks after the place etc. He was keen to show off his new baby, and generally be as welcoming and enthusiastic as possible.
So what's it like?
The room is a lot brighter, painted in red, yellow and orange, with improved lighting. The floor surface is entirely covered in thick blue crashmatting. There has been a reduction in the overall wall area to comply with H & S regulations,so the area above and opposite the door has no climbing surfaces. There is a small open storage area opposite the door with doocots for shoes bags etc and a list of grades, a book for new problems/grades etc. The overhanging area on the wall facing the door on the right has been removed.
The basic layout remains the same. Three vertical walls, an overhanging wall at each end and an "impending" wall on the wall to the left of the entrance. With a very few exceptions, there are no features, only a few volumes here and there. The design is by Entreprise.
The problems are set out in colour-coded circuits in a manner similar to TCA in Glasgow, complete with red washers in the bolts of the starting holds. Unfortunately, that's about the end of the similarities. Both John and I found the problems generally uninteresting. Some were hard, some were easy, some in between. None were memorable. There were also, in our opinion, really wide discrepancies in the grading of routes within the same colour band. For example, in the Green (V1) band there was a problem I would have grade British 4a/b and one I'd have graded British 5c/6a.
There was a traverse round the left hand section of the room that became progressively harder in an anti-clockwise direction that we quite enjoyed, but ,to be brutally frank, that was about it.
Tom seems to be trying really hard to get the place buzzing, and instigating ideas like guest problems, set your own problems, competitions etc. And with a £4.60 entrance fee (and 10 for the price of 8 multi-tickets) it won't break the bank. But times have changed: TCA has raised the bar in standards for bouldering walls in Scotland, and Stirling/Falkirk/Clackmannan climbers are closer to The Peak. I don't think we'll see again the weekly winter migration of Central climbers to the Carnegie Wall.