Crampons and clippers: an afternoon off in the West End

There’s nothing nicer that taking a Friday afternoon off work. Mike gets an outrageous amount of annual leave so took the whole week off to basically lounge around in his pants, but I only had a half day left to take. I don’t get much holiday so I’m not one for sitting around on my days off, so it was a great opportunity to finally use the ice climbing vouchers my mother had bought us for Christmas.

After lunch we pottered down to Vertical Chill in Ellis Brigham Covent Garden to have a bash at making like Jon Snow and scaling The Wall, even if this one was only 8m high and hidden in the basement of a posh Milletts. 

Vertical Chill Ellis Brigham Covent GardenAs it turns out, ice climbing is bloody hard work. I’ve done bouldering a few times before (The Arch in Bermondsey is awesome and really good value if you fancy giving it a go) but this was a whole different ball wall game. There are no hand-holds; you have to make your own with crampons and pickaxes, and then shunt the rest of your body up, one step at a time.

Vertical Chill Ellis Brigham Covent Garden And you’re going to fall. A lot, because ice is slippy as fuck. You are in a harness, so you won’t die when you slip and descending isn’t too difficult. (Last time at The Arch, I got to the top, had a little fanny attack about getting down and then slid to the crashmat like an oiled whelk, nearly taking off half my left tit in the process. Thank goodness for padded sports bras, eh?)

The climbing area is very little – you can only really fit in two people at a time so it isn’t any good for stag dos or birthday parties, but it does mean you get a lot of one-on-one tuition and plenty of time on the ice.

Vertical Chill Ellis Brigham Covent GardenI’m sure Mike won’t mind me saying he was absolutely shit, because he is much better than me at lots of other things, like Trivial Pursuit and stacking the dishwasher. That said, I wasn’t exactly going up and down like a whore’s drawers. Our instructor told us that Fridays tend to be much slippier because not many people had been on the ice yet, so if you’re a newbie, try a Sunday. (If you’re a rugged mountain man, the most slippery-slidey time is a Tuesday morning, after Monday maintenance.)

Vertical Chill Ellis Brigham Covent GardenAn hour’s session costs £50pp with an instructor and all your kit, but if you go via Buyagift you can usually find voucher codes for up to 25% off.

Vertical Chill Ellis Brigham Covent GardenAfterwards, we headed to Murdock in Soho for Mike to have his mug primed for his dad’s big birthday bash the next day. Obviously I’m not especially beardy, so I just sat by with a complimentary whisky (!) and watched as the Friday afternoon crowd rolled in to have their beard and barnets coiffed before the weekend. 

Murdock London Luxury Package reviewMike’s face was in desperate need of a tidy up. It had all gotten a bit…pubic.

Murdock London Luxury Package reviewHe spent the next couple of hours being utterly spoilt, having his hair and beard sorted and getting a facial (!) The package also included a male manicure, which allowed me to text his mother to tell her that her first born son had fallen asleep having his nails done.

Murdock London Luxury Package reviewMike is not the sort of bloke who likes to spend hours preening himself, but when we left (I hung out with the lovely bloke in charge of the shop, sipping whisky and reading the paper), he was so chilled it was like he’d been drugged. Like some sort of sedative had been administered via his scalp.

img_1638-1280x1280“Oooh,” said Mike, who’d spent the last ten minutes in awe of his supersoft hands. “I could get quite into this.” Quite. In any case, it went down a storm at his dad’s birthday do, old family friends cooing about how smart he looked, etc.

The fancy-pants Luxury Murdock Wet Shave With Signature Facial is the more comprehensive treatment they do – great before a special occasion, like a party or a wedding – and costs £120, but beard services start from £20 and haircuts from £45. (If you’re an intrigued gentleman or a lady contemplating Christmas gifts, the full menu of services is here. They also do gift vouchers.)

We were out by about 5:00pm, a full hour before I’d normally leave work. We made the most of it by hitting up Kiln, a new no-res Thai restaurant with notoriously long queues. But more about that later…

Vertical Chill, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports, 10-12 Southampton Street, London, WC2E 7HA

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Murdock, 83 Brewer St, Soho, London, W1F 0RD

Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.