Stan and I rebuilt an indoor climbing wall!
At our 2nd Southwick Scout Group HQ we had an indoor climbing wall at one end of the hut built by our then venture unit some thirty years ago. Being the only one in our district we often held climbing sessions for other groups in our district.
Early in 2019 I thought that it was about time we upgraded the wall to something more interesting and challenging. The old wall was a flat vertical face and I thought we could build overhangs, outcrops and a chimney climb. Another leader, Stan, and I designed what we thought we needed to make the wall exciting, challenging and nice to look at.
Having convinced the other leaders in the group and the executive committee that it would work and that we could build it, and after consulting the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts as to the plan which they enthusiastically approved we started work in June 2019.
We started by removing all the hand holds and belay points from the old wall and then drew a chalk plan onto the wall as to where we wanted to place the framework. The chimney climb would be created by leaving a meter-wide gap within the framework up to the apex of the wall, some fifteen feet in height.
When building the framework we also built a platform that can be climbed through with the possibility of abseiling from or for the use of a caving ladder so as to add that extra element of interest and excitement.
At the top of the wall we bolted a double layer of "four by two" timbers to the structure of the building so as to get a really strong point for attaching the belay points later on.
When the framework was finished we covered the whole wall in 18mm thick plywood sheets (kindly donated by one of the Scout parents) and this was covered with an eight inch square grid of holes. In each there is a 10mm T-Nut into which the hand holds can be bolted and then moved around the wall as required.
We then added a few "Volumes." These are angular outcrops that hand holds can be attached to so as to make the wall even more interesting.
When this was finished we filled in all the gaps and screw heads and then gave the wall two coats of primer and undercoat.
The original plan was to paint the wall to look like a rock face but wishing to have the "wow" factor Stan had the idea of painting it to look like a Snakes and Ladders game board. A great idea at the time but we both moaned about it later when we were painting it on! We painted a grid of one meter squares in five different colours with two coats of paint on each square. We managed to get a good deal on two for one tins at the local DIY shop.
I found several designs for the snakes online and we picked one that looked friendly and wouldn't scare the kids and give them nightmares!
For the snake heads we made one template and just turned it left or right each time. We drew round it then painted it on; the snake bodies were then done freehand.
For the ladders we simply held a ladder against the wall and drew around it before painting it on and then we stencilled consecutive numbers on each square.
The whole lot was then given three coats of diamond hard floor varnish to protect the finish from hands and feet.
Job done! Though I say so myself it looks great and definitely has the wow factor when walking into the main hall of HQ.
We then bolted double belay points to the wall at the top of the seven climbs we now had. There's no way they're coming off! They are checked regularly along with all the hand holds.
At the top of each climb is a bike bell or a horn that the climbers can ring when getting to the top. It gives them a target to aim for and it's great to hear the bell ring or horn blow when the top is achieved as everyone cheers or claps the victorious climber.
The hand holds we already had were checked and cleaned (about seventy in all) before attaching to the wall; we also purchased about a hundred and sixty more from various sources. All these are bolted to the wall with countersunk Allen key stainless steel socket screws and can be quickly and easily moved about on the wall.
To finish off we purchased crash mats to cover the floor at the bottom of the wall when climbing is in session. It was finished in February 2020 at a cost of just over £1,500 which is not bad considering we have seen a climbing wall that cost £6,000 and we know which one we would rather have!
You will notice from the photos that there are two doors in the wall, one to our Scouters' room and the other to our equipment room; these are locked during climbing sessions and then become part of the wall.
We arranged a grand opening of the wall which was a great day. Our District Commissioner and the West Sussex County climbing adviser kindly cut the ribbon, followed by our Beavers, Cubs and Scouts finally getting their first chance to try their skills on the wall - even one of the mums had a go! We got a full page in the local paper.
Then as we all know the dreaded Covid made its appearance on the world's stage which closed us down for the duration. This was extremely frustrating but we have now had our first District Beaver climbing session with Cubs and Scouts to follow, and our group also now have regular sessions on the wall.
It's just brilliant for Stan and me to help the climbing instructors at these sessions and see the fun and enjoyment the youngsters get from using our wall.
Make a ladder
Making ladders is always a popular activity. While constructing something practical the young people are practising their knot-making skills, maybe without even realising. We are going to look at four types of ladder.
1. Knot ladder. This needs no more than a long length of rope into which an overhand knot is tied every thirty centimetres or so. More or less depending on the height of the person who will be using it. An overhand knot is tied by forming a loop and passing the working end through it before pulling tight. This will make both climbing and descending much easier as it gives you something to prevent both your hands and feet from slipping down the rope.
2. Manharness ladder. Again this uses no more than a length of rope but you will need more rope to cover the same distance as this ladder is formed of knotted loops. Make a loop with the working end on top and to the left. With the working end position it under the loop just formed. Whilst you hold the working end in place take the right hand side of the loop, pass it under the working end then over the left hand side of the loop. Hold onto both ends of the rope in one hand and the new loop in the other and pull whereupon you will form a knotted loop. Until you have pulled the knot tight the size of the loop is adjustable. This is a manharness hitch. You can now use the loops as footholds and handholds.
3. Rope ladder. With two lengths of rope or a very long rope doubled, as you make each pair of manharness hitches opposite each other on the two lengths of rope, pass a thick stick or branch through both to make a rung, making sure that the wood protrudes at either end, and pull to tighten.
4. Static ladder. This uses two long lengths of wood to form the sides of the ladder in addition to the rungs. The rungs are attached to the uprights using square lashings. The advantage of this ladder is that it is more stable than the others and it can be used from the ground but it may twist if the lashings aren't tight.
Make a Scaffold Board Chair
A great mortise and tenon project for your young people to have a go at. Simple and straightforward! It takes a bit of time though so it will keep them busy for a couple of hours plus any fine tuning / finishing.
You will need: A scaffolding board (1800mm x 225mm x 38mm) per chair, saw, hammer and chisel, tape measure. Additionally you may want to use a circular saw, wood drill and a jigsaw.
1. Cut the board in half shortways across the middle with a saw.
2A. Measure two lengths 37.5mm x 650mm and cut with a saw to form the tenon tongue.
2B. Cut out the mortise hole. This can be done either by using a hammer and chisel with or without a drill to assist (although this does take some time), or you can drill four holes in the corners so that you can insert a jigsaw and cut the hole that way.
3. Slot the tenon through the mortise as far as it will go. If it's a bit tight encourage it with a few gentle whacks with a rubber-headed hammer.
Sit Down! For a less upright position cut a slice off the back of B.
There are plenty of extra things that you can do to this chair. You may want to round off the edges, burnish names or patterns into the wood, paint it, sand it, oil it or just leave it as it is.
For the drawing to go with these instructions see Issue 3.
How to light a match in the wind
A small box of matches may contain around forty matches so you may wonder what all the fuss is about. If one goes out before you've lit your tinder or whatever else you're trying to light then just try with another, then another, then another, then....oooooh! Before you know it you're down to your last match and a hot meal is looking like a distant dream. Think of each match as a stick of gold and make each one count. It is possible to buy wind resistant matches but if you don't have any to hand there is a good solution that doesn't involve lighting three or four together at the same time. This may give a good flame for a few seconds but will often then go out as the flame is not sufficiently intense to keep the mass of match stick stems alight. The solution is to turn your matchstick into a fuzz match.
You will need a penknife / small sharp knife. Hold the match by the non-head end vertically down with the head resting on a solid surface. With your other hand slice downwards into the matchstick on the four corners, starting just above the head. Work around and halfway up the stick until you have what looks like a mini palm tree leaf. Now when you strike the match the flame will quickly burn the shavings and give a much brighter flame.
Top tips for lighting matches
1. Strike the match away from your body. (For some reason this is something that females instinctively do more than males.) This is because small molten balls of phosphorus sometimes fly from the head.
2. Once lit, point the lit end down so that the flame can climb up the stick as fire burns up. It will burn too quickly if vertical (although you will get a great flame for a short while) and could easily burn you while holding the head up will usually lead to the flame going out so holding the match down at a forty-five degree angle is a good compromise.
3. If it's a windy day and you, unbelievably, don't have a sharp knife to hand then wait for the wind to die down. It tends to move in cycles and so even on quite blustery days there will often be breaks when you can light your match and keep it alight just long enough to light your tinder.
4. With a light wind shield the lit match with the cupped palm of your hand against the wind direction like a mini windbreak.
...put a lit match in a box of unused matches. It will produce a load of smoke, go out quickly and waste the whole box. Good fun though.
Did you know?
Over 1,400 years ago the Chinese were using a type of match that comprised small twigs of pine that were impregnated with sulphur. It wasn't until 1805 that the first self-lighting match was invented. However they didn't take off as they had to be dipped into sulphuric acid to ignite. Friction safety matches were not mass-produced until the 1850s.
Now that you have used just one match to light your fire etc. you may be wondering what to do with the remaining thirty-nine...
Move two matches in each equation in the above photo to make the sums correct
Answer: 8 + 5 = 13 and 8 - 5 = 3
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