Sheffield’s Legendary Climbing Training Facility


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This article originally appeared in the print magazine Climbing in 2018.

It started in the early 1990s in Sheffield, England, in the “School Room”, a 30-by-30-foot classroom at Anns Grove School, where Sheffield City Council had rented rooms to artists. In Sheffield, the climbing center of rainy England, climbers had either held “board meetings” where they climbed each other’s small, rudimentary garage and basement walls, or climbed at Sheffield’s lonely climbing gym, The Foundry. They needed another option.

In 1993, artist/climber Alan Williams suggested British legend Ben Moon to rent the space. “Right away,” Moon recalls, “between 10 and 20 people were hooked.” Led by Gavin Ellis, the climbers set up three walls: a 50-degree board; a 30 degree board; and the Cressbrook Board, a 10 degree undercut overhang. For holds, the climbers supplemented resin holds with wooden “sections” (leftovers) and railing pieces from “skips” (dumpsters). They screwed everything together by hand and added a campus board, free weights and a boom box.

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Ben Moon Schoolroom Climbing Training Sheffield England
Ben Moon in the old schoolroom.Ben Moon Collection

British luminaries like Moon, Jerry Moffatt, Malcolm Smith and Stuart Cameron made bigger and bigger moves from the smallest holds, producing some of Britain’s (and the world’s) toughest problems. Smith, who had honed his strength on his own board in Scotland, established himself Perky Pinky and milking, Font 8b (V13) test pieces, repeating the former with a 10-pound weight belt. (This continues Perky Pinky are flat and only 20 or 25 millimeters wide – on the 50 degree board.)

“What made the school special was the strong holds and the number of good climbers who trained there,” recalls Smith. “It became a real climbing place, and if you did something there, you’ve put yourself up against some of the best climbers (e.g. Ben and Jerry).”

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With the schoolroom advantage, the outdoor climbers have scored 5.14 and V in the double digits, with Moon establishing himself sea ​​of ​​calm (5.14c) at Pen Trywn in 1993 and then dabbled in a project in Kilnsey for the next three years – what would become Steve McClure northern lights (5.14d) in 2000. “An 8b in the school room would be 8b+ elsewhere,” says Moon, adding that the climbers aimed to have “big” grades on the boards—e.g., easy, hard, and intermediate 8a. Climbers tracked the troubles with a guidebook, which is still being updated to this day.

A final innovation from the classroom was the MoonBoard, which was first installed in the old facility when Ellis Moon proposed developing a standardized training wall. In 2005, Moon and Rich Simpson developed the MoonBoard. Soon there were about 10 MoonBoards around the world, each using different grips in which to spin. Users could add online to a PDF-driven manual, creating an ever-growing library of problems.

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Schoolroom Sheffield England Campus Board Climbing Training
The original campus board.Ben Moon Collection

The ‘old’ classroom was closed in 2006 when the council boarded up the building. And so the boards went to storage and the original MoonBoard was scrapped. In 2014, Moon repurposed storage space he had used for his company, MoonClimbing. Here he reassembled the boards, connected them to frames and built a new adjustable angle MoonBoard. In 2016, Moon launched a MoonBoard app and revamped website, and the MoonBoard has taken off with three different iterations and untold thousands of active users.

“The problems just keep getting harder,” Moon jokes about the school room boards. “But I surprised myself.” With a redpoint of rain shadow (5.14d) at Malham Cove at age 48 and a recent classroom 8a tick Stuey 5 belliesMoon, 50, has demonstrated what a training touchstone the facility remains.

Ben Moon School Room Sheffield England Climbing Training
Ben Moon, 2017, in the new classroom.Boone speed

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