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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Centre aims to be peak of perfection for climbers

THE Adventure Peaks climbing wall and mountaineering centre recently opened its doors. KARL STEEL takes a look at a store which is interesting on so many levels.

 

“I WENT in to buy a settee, and ended up buying the building,” says Dave Pritt, founder and director of Adventure Peaks, in Ambleside.

The former Keswick School teacher formed the mountaineering expedition company 10 years ago and it has gone on to become one of the most successful outfits of its type in the UK.

Back in 2007 Dave was part of a two-man team that broke the world record for climbing the Seven Summits – the highest peak in each of the seven continents – in just 156 days.

On his mission to create one of the most recognisable names in mountaineering, he stumbled across the perfect venue for branching out into retail while shopping for furniture.

“I was in the Young’s furniture shop in Ambleside for the closing down sale, and while I was sat on a settee I wondered what would happen to the building,” he says.

“It is a huge building and I thought it would be the perfect place to open a shop and a climbing wall.

“We want to make sure that people have the right equipment for going on expeditions and that it is ready to buy off the shelf.

“Our aim is to be the most technical and extensive mountaineering shop in the UK, but I think we are already there.”

The huge five-storey building near the centre of Ambleside, which opened to the public last month, contains a store with two floors of outdoor equipment, a climbing wall, a café, and offices for the expedition team on the top floor.

The retail side of the business supplements the expedition side, by providing all the equipment that you would need for a trek up Mount Everest or a night at the South Pole.

Always key to a venue for the store was that it would have to be able to accommodate a climbing wall.

Massive structural changes were undertaken so that the 35ft slab could be housed on the upper floors, with a bouldering room alongside.

Wall manager Andy Charlton says: “In the short time we’ve been open there’s been a lot of interest from both visitors and locals.

“There has always been a huge need for a climbing wall in Ambleside, because of the amount of people who come here to participate in outdoor activities.

“The nearest walls to here are Keswick and Kendal, so it’s handy for local people to come here in the evening.

“One of the biggest selling points is that we’re open from 9am to 10pm, which is handy for everyone.”

Andy, an experienced outdoor instructor, leads a team of full-time staff who are dedicated to making the climbing experience as realistic and challenging as possible, while also catering for anyone new to the sport.

“The wall is actually a resin mould taken from a real Bulgarian crag,” he says.

“It’s extremely lifelike and looks like a limestone crag, so it’s as close as you can get to the real thing.

“We change the routes once a month, because it’s important to keep it fresh and varied.

“The hardest routes are 7B, which is pretty difficult, although we’ve got featured lines that are significantly harder.

“When we set out the lines we make sure they are full of enjoyable moves, because we want people to keep coming back.”

But the pièce de résistance is the French Alps-style Café Altitude, with stunning views over the rooftops of Ambleside and on to the Fairfield Horseshoe and Loughrigg fells.

Situated four storeys up, you can also watch the climbers tackle the wall while enjoying a rather different Lake District menu.

Pierre Labat, owner and manager of Café Altitude, says: “I’m from the Pyrenees and I used to work in the Alps, so I’m used to views like this.

“The reaction so far has been fantastic. There are two sides to the café – the views on both sides are interesting, and it is special because of the opening hours.

“During the day we have the things you would expect, with paninis, baguettes and coffees. In the evening we have a Raclette menu – something I’ve never been able to have before.

“A Raclette is Swiss cheese melted over potato wedges with meats and chutneys. We also have Tartiflette and Cassoulet duck, so there is a definite French Alps feel.

“I’ve always wanted to have a café in the Lake District where I could do this and now I think I’ve got the perfect setting.”

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