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Climbing / School / History Lesson

History Lesson

The School Room which is inside an old school building based in Heeley in Britain’s climbing capital Sheffield, was talked about by the majority of the Peak Mafia prior to being built, as they where becoming fed up of travelling out to the peak districts limestone to train at the once popular and always famous hardcore training grounds Stoney Middleton, Raven Tor, Cressbrook and Rubicon, where good conditions could not be always be found, and for a select few the problems were all too easy.

There had been attempts made of training facilities in damp attics and even campus boards built in the garden in and around Sheffield, none of which where as extensive and impressive as what was to become the School Room.

The dream for all the motivated climbers was to have several wooden boards all set at different angles, covered in holds, some big but most small, and always dry, was to become a reality in 1993 when the school room which consisted of a 50 degree board, 30 degree board, 15 degree board and campus board was first built by Gavin Ellis.

It soon attracted attention from some seriously strong and talented individuals such as, Ben Moon, Stuart Cameron, Jerry Moffatt and Malcolm Smith, and it wasn’t long before the school was home to some of the hardest problem in the UK, albeit on wood. These intense training sessions were only interrupted by short trips around the UK and abroad to make repeats and first ascents of some of the hardest routes and problems around.

Throughout its 12-year history, an extensive amount of boulder problems have been recorded in the priceless school room guidebook. All of the problems are to be found on one of the four boards currently situated in the School Room.

The problems range from easy warm ups of around the font 6a mark to outrageously hard font 8b’s, and contain classics at all grades. In the early years problems such as Stuey 5 bellies, Feel the Pinch and Yorkshire VS where recorded as some of the hardest problems in the school and are all graded at around about font 8a/8a+. These problems where mainly established by Ben Moon and Jerry Moffatt, who at the time where dominating the top level both in and out of the school room.

However is wasn’t until the young Scottish powerhouse Malcolm Smith started using the school room that things were taken to a new level and with Pinky Perky and Milk it that new level was 8b and hard 8b at that. Incidentally it is worth noting that both these problems were climbed by Malcolm wearing a weight belt which is an outstanding effort.

Malcolm was above everyone else in terms of school power and his problems remained unrepeated for several years, until young Birmingham based climber Rich Simpson paid a few visits to the school room whilst visiting Sheffield to see his other half. He repeated most of the hardest problems including Pinky Perky, an outrageously dynamic 4-move problem and in the Scottish tradition shortly made ascents with weight belts.

In terms of facilities not a lot has changed since it was first built in 1993. Climbers have come and gone and some are still going strong, others have become injured or got married and had kids, which is as good as being injured. The same classic problems remain on the same historic boards, which have gained huge reputations for having some of the hardest single moves in Britain, and remain rarely repeated by all but the best.

That was until January 2005 when the old school Ben Moon teamed up with the new school Rich Simpson, to extend and improve an already world class training facility, several days where spent talking about and planning what was to become the Moon School Room board. As two cutting edge climbers it was essential that they built a perfect board with perfect holds, to help push their climbing and world standards one step further, after all, that was what the original boards in the school room had done for over a decade. The outcome of this project was to become the new Moon Board.