There was once a time in the fair city of Manchester when one could pop a casual rooftop on a school night, and stand a very good chance of spying a few of your mates dotted across the tower blocks, roof gardens and restricted roof areas of the city, doing much the same as you were. Mostly taking pictures and enjoying the view (with the occasional pirate radio antenna installation or TV throwing competition), and having a jolly good time of it. Nowadays though, with most of the low hanging upper-space in this city ticked off and assigned to the ‘done’ list and the heros of yesteryear moved on to pastures new the scene itself is pretty quiet, and its pretty rare a photo from a new vantage point in the city rears its head above the parapet. The few remaining bits and pieces have a pretty skewed risk to reward, and for the most part you’ve got to do some actual crime or face up to something more dangerous than a stern telling off from a man on the nightshift.
The Civil Justice Centre, at a respectable 80m, is the 7th tallest thing in Manchester. It’s actually a rather nice blob of architecture, and for the last decade or so has been the main centre for dishing out punishment to North Western neer-do-wells, its ‘Filing Cabinet’ ends standing proud over the Irwell reminding Salford to behave itself.
The old tricks of waltzing past the concierge and popping a roof hatch were never going to work here. It’s (supposed to be) a highly secured building, with metal detectors, cameras and all the rest of it, so you’d more than likely be waking up to a parking ticket and a bowl of Her Majesties cornflakes if you tried to play silly buggers with the front door staff.
Time for advanced tactics then.. Fetch the trad gear!
It took us a few run-ups to do this one, not in terms of technique or trying different approaches, just in nerve. We drove into Manchester at least three times, and just hung out on a bench and talked about how daft we were before we plucked up the guts to just bomb it past all the cameras and start. If any building was going to be on the ball in terms of its security, you’d have thought it would have been the biggest civil legal centre in the north.
If you’ve ever seen the thing you’ll know the route, straight up those big square panels to the roof. It’s a solid V3 boulder problem (or a flaky scramble if you’ve got a tall mate) for the start, then you’re into a nice but sustained VD 4a to the roof with a curve ball thrown in for fun on the 8th or 9th floor in the form of a 2m gap between the panels, that looks a damn sight smaller from the ground than it does when you’re sat underneath it swinging off a sling off one of the beams working out the best way to tackle it.
Panel after panel after panel, the biggest hinderance to our upward progression was all the faff with the slings and quickdraws. I’m sure the Russian-apeing youth of today wouldn’t think twice about just flying up the thing in a pair of trackies after double-maths on a random Tuesday, but I’ve got more sense these days and quite like to have something there to catch me if I’m not paying attention.
The final section sees a lovely little run out, straight up the final panel and then either a tightrope style beam balance or a monkey straight across a fat I-beam that holds the last panel on.
The morning view was throughly excellent. I love Manchester from above, the way it fits together like a perfectly orchestrated symphony of new and old. Even the unsympathetic cheapo apartment towers look ok when viewed in perspective next to the slightly more intelligent new builds and classic Victorian brickwork, all boxed in with each other, nothing outlandishly tall bar the couple of tower blocks on the outskirts of the city centre.
The photographs are a little lacklustre I’m afraid, but it was mission enough carting up the fisheye. If you think I’m lugging up the 14-24 you’ve got another thing coming!
We’d faffed around for far too long and it was almost time for the morning shift to clock on. After a nice swift multi-pitch ab down to the first floor, we gathered our things, had a one-two-three! and zipped down in front of the CCTV camera that obviously hadn’t been watching us on the way up and scarpered quick-sharp before any one could work out what the hell had happened.
Top job. Time for a butty.
(I’ve submitted this route to UKC as ‘Rough Justice VD 4a’ but they told me to do-one. Having said that, they didn’t even take morses ‘Blackpool Tower Direct’ so you know full well they have absolutely no sense of fun, whatsoever.)