Tuesday, 01 September 2015

Climbing wall firm is on the up

WHAT do a giant crisp, a mocked-up cave complete with cave paintings and a selection of moveable boulders inside a concert venue have in common?

The answer: they’re among the many projects designed and built by Threlkeld company King Kong Climbing Walls.

The firm, based in premises near Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum, gained national exposure last year when it created a 72ft high, 98ft wide climbing wall in the shape of a Walkers Deep Ridge crisp to mark the product’s launch.

Paul Cornforth, managing director, said: “We had a call out of the blue from the advertising company which looks after Walkers asking if we could possibly build a climbing wall that looks like this new crisp.

“We sent off a design and thought it was a bit of a pie-in-the-sky thing but it kept progressing.

“We started talks last March and got the contract in June.”

The company had just 22 days on site to erect the highest free-standing climbing wall ever built.

It has featured in a TV advertising campaign with Gary Lineker climbing the wall.

A host of other celebrities and hundreds of members of the public took to the wall over the few weeks it was in place.

Paul said: “That was a massive job for us last year and we got a lot of good PR from it.

“There’s talk about us rebuilding it in Amsterdam and Madrid later this year.”

The firm was founded by Cumbrian-born Paul in North Yorkshire in 1995 and its first big wall was commissioned by the Lakeland Climbing Centre in Kendal.

Paul moved to live in Keswick and transferred the firm to the Aspatria Business Park before moving it to Threlkeld in 2008.

Having started on his own with a couple of sub-contractors, Paul’s business has grown and now employs nine staff.

It has built climbing walls for leisure centres, schools, the military and climbing centres across the country, producing about 30 walls per year.

One of its most unusual commissions was for what is now the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre, where the owners wanted to turn a former quarry into a climbing centre and concert arena.

King Kong Climbing Walls created a combination of natural and artificial rock climbing surfaces, along with giant artificial boulders which could be used for climbing but moved out of the way for concerts.

The firm has previously exported walls to Europe and recently to Nigeria, and is looking to further its export work and diversify into the caving business.

Among its latest projects has been a cave and tunnels system, complete with cave paintings, for the mining museum.

The company is also planning a new venture, building and running its own indoor climbing centre in Keswick.

Working with site owner Lakes Partnership, it is seeking planning permission to extend the Heads Lane building which is home to the Planet Fear shop.

The new centre would feature traditional climbing walls, a bouldering wall and only the second ice climbing wall in the UK.

It would also have a climbing-themed soft play area for small children, and a cafe.

The centre would be run by the climbing wall firm, which would double its staff. It hopes to have it open early next year.

Paul said: “We have been looking for a long time to build somewhere close to hand.

“When the old climbing wall was in the centre of Keswick there was a generation of lads who went there after school and got a sense of direction and purpose.

“Now kids just sit in the park with nothing to do, and I’m sure the new development will get people climbing again.”


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