2 Days in the Life of a Climbing Wall

Hello, my name’s James Spalding and I’m a student on the Outdoor Education MSc programme at Edinburgh University, and I’m currently doing my placement here for a month at East Lothian Outdoor Learning Service.

The first  2 days have been focused on using the climbing wall at Forester’s Park provided by EnjoyLeisure, which they generously donate free of charge during school hours to the East Lothian Council Outdoor Learning Service (ELCOLS) and provides children with the opportunity to take their first steps into the climbing world without having to spend a penny.

Day 1 was spent in the company of Antony Stone, who is a freelance associate of ELCOLS and we were with a great group of 4 young people from ELWorks. None of these kids had ever participated in climbing before today and it’s safe to say that they exceeded mine and Antony’s expectations with their ability to pick up these new skills quickly.


(Antony showing off his fig-8 skills)

After some gentle persuasion they were coaxed onto the bouldering aspect of the wall to get to grips with what they would end up accomplishing easily by the end of their first session. Thus demonstrating their ability to quickly acquire the fundamental skills needed for climbing.



(Josh and Vinnie bouldering)

Day 2 – I was with ELOCLS principle teacher Martyn Pegg and Ross High School, and Physics teacher Chris Loud, who were doing a very different type of activity on the wall. With Chris’s ‘Higher’ class, they were trying to determine the level of friction created in climbing ropes when they’re twisted a certain number of times (I think, I was never great physics), and they came back with some pretty interesting results. They’ll be back next week to test the friction of different belay devices by using their own experimental methods. Can’t wait to see how they do it, hopefully I can keep up.


Before today, I never would have thought you could use a climbing wall this way, and it just shows how the imagination of a few teachers to take a primarily, textbook based topic and incorporate a climbing wall into the Higher Physics Curriculum can have such a positive effect on their students. The creativity of these guys to think outside the box (and the classroom) was inspiring and great to see.

Looking forward to what’s next on the calendar!

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