SUSU Bouldering Wall Matting

Caitlin Doyle submitted on

Friday 13th May 2016


The bouldering wall in the Students' Union has truly appauling matting that poses a massive health and safety risk. Depending on regularity of use bouldering mats should be replaced every 5-10 years, and given how many people access the SUSU bouldering wall every day I would think the replacement needs on this mat is nearer to the 5 year mark. Having been a climber for 12 years, and an avid boulderer for 7 years I feel I have enough experience to identify the major faults with this matting, which I have explained below.

There is a shockingly long list of things wrong with this matting:

(1) The foam in the mat is falling to pieces, with huge holes in places where I have lost a foot into simply by walking over it, heaven forbid what might happen to someone's ankle if they fall and land with their foot in one of these holes.

(2) The mat itself is incredibly soft, which contrary to what many people think, actually posing a greater injury risk than a newer, more firm mat, and proves that it is long overdue replacement.

(3) The original cover ripped in two places, not uncommon in bouldering mats, but in a professional climbing centre these would be cordoned off immediately and replaced as quickly as possible, as gaps in the cover pose a tripping hazard.

(4) The temporary cover doesn't actually fit the mat, leaving areas of foam uncovered which compounds the destruction of the foam underneath, and creates tripping hazards in multiple places where the temporary cover cannot actually velcro to anything. Additionally this 'temporary' cover has been on the floor since the end of February.

(5) This week I made my way down to the wall to find that someone decided to cover the permanent matting (which is falling to pieces) with a spattering of gym mats. Firstly these gym mats are incredibly solid and not appropriate for a bouldering wall in any capacity, and secondly having them on top of the soft matting risks someone landing with a foot on the soft permanent matting and a foot on the hard gym matting and potentially breaking an ankle. To quote my housemate it seems like someone's thought process was "maybe if we superficially cover it up, people will forget that it's broken". I wanted to attach two pictures of this random matting that I took earlier this week (12/05/2016) but alas there is no way to attach files to a You Make Change submission.

Furthermore the matting is, as far as I can tell anyway, never cleaned. The chalk build up poses a health risk because as people walk over it chalk gets kicked up into the air. Running a hoover over it once a week would take no more than 20 minutes and massively reduce the chalk build up.

Finally, the ventilation in the room seems to do nothing as it extracts neither chalk nor hot air and just manages to make a lot of noise. Whilst the issue of a hot and dusty room could be reduced by my aforementioned suggestion of hoovering, the lack of proper ventilation is concerning as I find it hard to believe that any other sport facility in the Union would be neglected as much as this one.

Following a bit of research I have discovered that this company supplies bouldering matting for some of the best bouldering walls in the country:

Having been a regular at more than one of these facilities, and even on the youth squad of one of them,  I can attest to their superior matting minimising injuries better than anything else.

I understand that people who have access to the wall do so under a Sport and Wellbeing Membership, and not just as a member of the Union, and I am aware that the Mountaineering Club has been  asking for a new mat for months, but the Union has a duty to the students it represents. Additionally the Union is fighting to be student led and for increased student participation, which will be difficult to achieve when simple requests that would benefit a large cohort of students are ignored and prolonged. 

I would be incredibly appreciative to know of any action that is being taken on the matting at present, and if there is none I would be thrilled if the issue made its way to the relevant committee for discussion and action.

My concern is that it will take someone falling off and getting seriously injured before SUSU decide to invest the money in new matting.


Here, you can view the complete set of official responses from the sabbatical officers regarding this submission.

Students' Union replied on

Friday 13th May 2016 4:46pm

Sport and Wellbeing have just responded and have closed the wall until further notice.  The mats were due for replacement, and they have already received one quote, but need more due to the cost to be able to proceed.  The mat has further deteriorated since this point and hence now the wall has been shut. 

The mats were put on with consultation with people who were using the wall, and they thought it was a good idea, but they may not have had as much experience as yourself.

The wall is included in their cleaning schedules, and will make sure that they are cleaned properly in the future.


  • Forwarded to Vice President Sports

    Friday 13th May 2016 3:34pm


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