“I’m feeling a bit nervous.”
I follow the little voice down. Imogen’s eyes are fixed up, on the climbing walls that tower all around her. At four-years-old, she looks absolutely tiny as she stands in the middle of the Rock Up Sheffield arena. She’s been on a high since we got here, giddy with excitement as staff strapped her into her harness, and played the safety video, but now – for the first time – nerves have kicked in.
It’s Sunday morning and we’re at Meadowhall to visit climbing operator Rock Up’s fifth UK site, which opened its doors just before Christmas. It features 17 exhilarating climbing walls, each towering over eight metres, with multiple routes to their peaks. Suitable from ages four and upwards, Rock Up requires no experience or equipment, and is suitable for families of all ages.
By the time arena leader Greg Haynes has clipped her into the first wall, determination has taken over her little face, and she lifts one sequinned boot, and begins to climb. After a few tentative attempts, falling back from just a few feet high to test the rope keeping her from falling to earth with a bump, she gains confidence and begins to climb steadily higher.
The arena features walls of all types – the ‘big cheese’ with big circular coloured holes, the ladder climb, the stairway to heaven, even one that looks like you’re climbing giant Jenga pieces. Each one is colourful and inviting, and would (I know, from personal experience) appeal to everyone from the youngest in your family (in this case, Imogen) to the oldest (sorry Daddy).
What’s more, it’s not just climbing on offer – the new 2,000 sqm site, located outside M&S, also boasts a café serving hot drinks and fresh food daily, as well a fantastic soft play area to ensure the little ones who are not quite big enough to climb also leave as satisfied customers.
As more Brits than ever before are looking for new and alternative leisure activities, Rock Up provides the perfect opportunity for people, young and old, to step – or jump - out of their comfort zone.
Over the course of about 50 minutes, Imogen has a go at climbing most of the walls in the arena, including two tentative steps up the enormous Stairway to Heaven – which honestly just looks like more fun than anything else I can imagine. She makes it all the way to the top of the ladder, earning her a Princess Rocks sticker from Greg, and a polaroid of her at the ‘peak’ which she proudly shows to everyone she sees for the rest of the day. And her favourite thing? Probably the squealing with delight everytime she pushes away from the wall, 'flying’ back down to earth in her harness.