The year 2020 will be a watershed for climbing as the sport makes its debut at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Closer to home, climbing is making advances of its own as a sport for everyone.
Not only are Scotland’s best climbers preparing to compete for the privilege of representing their country on the ultimate stage, as part of Team GB, but participation rates are also up.
Climbing's growth in popularity was underlined this week with the opening of the Perth Climbing Centre, a state-of-the-art facility that includes the biggest training wall in the UK.
The launch of the new centre brought together an athlete who is progressing towards the ultimate goal of Tokyo 2020, a para-climber who has recovered from horrific injuries to stay involved in sport, and a group of children who were trying the sport for the first time.
Centre of excellence
The Perth College Climbing Centre is the first in Scotland to meet rigorous new Mountaineering Scotland criteria to be designated as a ‘Level 1 Climbing Hub’.
It is suitable for new and experienced climbers, as well as performance climbing athletes, ensuring a sustainable progression route for all levels of ability.
The first climbs were carried out by athletes Jamie Andrew, William Bosi and Polly Murray and primary school children from Goodlyburn Primary School and a number of Perth College UHI Outdoor Adventure students.
The walls will be open to the public from January 23, 2017, and the climbers demonstrated at the launch how the Climbing Centre is fully inclusive and suitable for all abilities and standard of climbers.
William Bosi is a 19-year-old from the Edinburgh area who is regarded as one of Team GB's first potential Olympic climbers.
Jamie Andrew is a para-climber who survived being caught in a storm on Mont Blanc in 1999 which claimed the life of his friend, Jamie Fisher. After five days on the mountain, Jamie Andrew had suffered extensive frostbite damage and lost his hands and lower legs.
Polly Murray is an explorer who was the first Scottish woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Inspiring the community
Margaret Munckton, Perth College UHI Principal, said: “We are delighted to formally open the Perth College Climbing Centre today. It provides a demonstration of our aspirations for continued growth and development and is contributing to our core aims of enhancing our student experience and preparing them for employment.
“We wish to increase participation in sport within our region. The centre is fully inclusive and caters for all abilities and standard of climbers.
"We hope to inspire the next generation of climbers who simply enjoy the sport or possibly develop into the next Olympians of the future.
“We are delighted to have received such a significant contribution from sportscotland’s Sport Facilities Fund for the development of our Perth College Climbing Centre, greatly enhancing the student experience here at Perth.”
Grass roots to glory
Kevin Howett, Sport Development Officer, Mountaineering Scotland added: “The new wall is part of a Mountaineering Scotland facilities strategy to develop Scottish climbing by offering the best facilities to grow grass-roots interest in our sport and the most up-to-date training facilities that will take Scottish climbers to the Olympics.
"Opening to the public in January 2017, we are delighted to be working in partnership with Perth College UHI in generating increased interest and involvement in our sport.”
Stewart Harris, Chief Executive of sportscotland, commented: “At sportscotland, we are committed to ensuring sporting facilities such as the Perth College Climbing Centre are very much part of the fabric within the local community.
“We are always looking to help strengthen projects that enhance and extend the opportunities available to both community users of all ages and abilities and athletes, so are delighted to support Perth College UHI in their official launch of this new inclusive sporting centre that we have invested in.
"We look forward to working closely with the team at the new Academy of Sport and Wellbeing to develop our relationship further.”
The centre was designed and manufactured by local company, Dream Climbing Walls, who installed over 90 different climbing routes of varying grades inspired by iconic Scottish rock climbing venues.
The Academy of Sport and Wellbeing, which houses the Centre, opened in September 2016 and provides hair, beauty and wellbeing, sport and academic facilities for students, staff and wider community groups.
A nationwide surge
The facility in Perth is just one example of Scotland’s fast-growing passion for indoor climbing.
The last few years have seen new climbing facilities open in communities across Scotland, with an increasing number of schools now also developing climbing activities.
It is proving a popular activity for young Scots in particular, with notable rises in participants at youth climbing competitions and a growth in youth-focused climbing clubs.
Significantly, it bucks the trend in many sports by attracting more young girls than boys in most competitive age categories.
In 2015 sportscotland funding enabled Mountaineering Scotland to launch the innovative ClimbScotland initiative, designed to make climbing ever more inclusive and get young people involved by offering support to them, parents, teachers, clubs, climbing facilities and community organisations.
With two regional development officers, they have developed a range of partnerships, given over 1000 people a taste of indoor and outdoor climbing, and promoted pathways to lifelong participation and progression.
Find out more
Want to know more about the sport of climbing? Visit the ClimbScotland website.
Main image: A young climber gets accustomed to the wall under adult supervision; para-athlete Jamie Andrew tries out the new wall at Perth Climbing Centre; Grant Myles, chairman of Perth UHI, and Stewart Harris, CEO of sportscotland, officially open the facility; a young female climber shows her prowess on the wall. Pictures by Sandy Carr and Jeff Holmes