Climbing wall

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A climbing wall is an artificially constructed wall with grips for hands and feet, usually used for indoor climbing, but sometimes located outdoors. Some are brick or wooden constructions, but on most modern walls, the material most often used is a thick multiplex board with holes drilled into it. Recently, manufactured steel and aluminum have also been used. The wall may have places to attach belay ropes, but may also be used to practice lead climbing or bouldering.


Each hole contains a specially formed t-nut to allow modular climbing holds to be screwed onto the wall. With manufactured steel or aluminum walls, an engineered industrial fastener is used to secure climbing holds. The face of the multiplex board climbing surface is covered with textured products including concrete and paint or polyurethane loaded with sand. In addition to the textured surface and hand holds, the wall may contain surface structures such as indentions (incuts) and protrusions (bulges), or take the form of an overhang, underhang or crack.

Some grips are formed to mimic the conditions of outdoor rock, including some that are oversized and can have other grips bolted onto them.


The earliest artificial climbing walls were typically small concrete faces with protrusions made of medium-sized rocks for hand holds. Schurman Rock in Seattle, WA is believed by some to be the first artificial climbing structure in the United States, constructed in 1939. [1]

The first artificial climbing wall in the world seems to be the wall built by King of Belgium Leopold III in 1937 near his palace. This was documented by Marl Sebille in his book Bel'Wall. [2]

The modern artificial climbing wall began in the UK. The first wall was created in 1964 by Don Robinson, a lecturer in Physical Education at the University of Leeds, by inserting pieces of rock into a corridor wall. [3] The first commercial wall in the UK, The Foundry Climbing Centre, was built in Sheffield in 1991, traditionally England's centre for climbing due to its proximity to the Peak District. [4] The first indoor climbing gym in the United States was established by Vertical World in Seattle in 1987. [5] Terre Neuve in the heart of Brussels (Belgium) was opened in 1987 as well. It is not clear which gym was opened first. [6] [7]

Wall types

Different types of sport climbing problems: (1) Dihedral, (2) Slab, (3) Wall, (4) Overhang, (5) Edge, (6) Roof and (7) Traverse climbing Sportklettern.svg
Different types of sport climbing problems: (1) Dihedral, (2) Slab, (3) Wall, (4) Overhang, (5) Edge, (6) Roof and (7) Traverse climbing

The simplest type of wall is of plywood construction, known colloquially in the climbing community as a 'woody', with a combination of either bolt-on holds or screw-on holds. Bolt-on holds are fixed to a wall with iron bolts that are inserted through the hold, which will have specific bolt points, and then fixed into pre-allocated screw-threaded holes in the wall. Screw-on holds are, by contrast, usually much smaller, owing to the nature of their fixing. These holds are connected to the wall by screws, which may be fastened anywhere on the wall's surface.

Some other types of walls include slabs of granite, concrete sprayed onto a wire mesh, pre-made fiberglass panels, large trees, manufactured steel and aluminum panels, textured fiberglass walls and inflatables. A newer innovation is the rotating climbing wall: a mechanical, mobile wall that rotates like a treadmill to match you climbing up.

Indoor climbing

Indoor climbing is an increasingly popular form of rock climbing performed on artificial structures that attempt to mimic the experience of outdoor rock. The first indoor climbing gym in North America, Vertical World in Seattle, was established in 1987. [5] The first indoor climbing hall in the world was inaugurated in Bolzano, Italy in 1974 by Erich Abram. [8]

The proliferation of indoor climbing gyms has increased the accessibility, and thus the popularity, of the sport of climbing. Since environmental conditions (ranging from the structural integrity of the climbing surfaces to equipment wear, to proper use of equipment) can be more controlled in such a setting, indoor climbing is perhaps a safer and more friendly introduction to the sport.

The first indoor walls tended to be made primarily of brick, which limited the steepness of the wall and variety of the hand holds. [9] More recently, indoor climbing terrain is constructed of plywood over a metal frame, with bolted-on plastic hand and footholds, and sometimes spray-coated with texture to simulate a rock face.

Most[ quantify ] climbing competitions are held in climbing gyms, making them a part of indoor climbing.[ citation needed ]

Compared to outdoor climbing

Indoor and outdoor climbing can differ in techniques, style and equipment. Climbing artificial walls, especially indoors, is much safer because anchor points and holds are able to be more firmly fixed, and environmental conditions can be controlled. During indoor climbing, holds are easily visible in contrast with natural walls where finding a good hold or foothold may be a challenge. Climbers on artificial walls are somewhat restricted to the holds prepared by the route setter, whereas on natural walls they can use every slope or crack in the surface of the wall. Some typical rock formations can be difficult to emulate on climbing walls. [10]


The most common construction method involves bolting resin hand and foot holds onto wooden boards. The boards can be of varying height & steepness (from completely horizontal 'roofs' to near-vertical 'slabs') with a mixture of holds attached. These can vary from very small 'crimps', and 'pinches', and slanted-surfaced 'slopers', to 'jugs', which are often large and easy to hold. This variety, coupled with the ability for the climbs to be changed by moving the holds to new positions on the wall, has resulted in indoor climbing becoming a very popular sport.


Proper climbing equipment must be used during indoor climbing. [11] Most climbing gyms lend harnesses, ropes and belay devices. Some also lend climbing shoes and chalk bags. Some climbing gyms require use of chalk balls (as opposed to loose chalk) to reduce chalk dust in the air and chalk spills when a chalk bag is tipped over or stepped on. Reducing chalk in the air helps to avoid clogging ventilation systems and reduces the dust that accumulates on less-than-vertical surfaces.

Routes and grading

Boulder Dash Boulder Dash by Robert Agthe.jpg
Boulder Dash

Holds come in different colours, those of the same colour often being used to denote a route, allowing routes of different difficulty levels to be overlaid on one another. Coloured tape placed under climbing holds is another way that is often used to mark different climbing routes. In attempting a given route, a climber is only allowed to use grips of the designated colour as handholds, but is usually allowed to use both handholds and footholds of the designated colour and surface structures and textures of the "rockface" as footholds.

The grade (difficulty) of the route is usually a consensus decision between the setter of the route and the first few people who climb the route. Many indoor climbing walls have people who are assigned to set these different climbing routes. These people are called route setters or course setters. As indoor climbing walls are often used to check the development of climbers' ability, climbs are color-coded.

Each gym has a "designated" path to climb, known as the "route". Each route is distinguished either by an indicated piece of tape or a monochromatic system of climbing holds. If the route is taped, each hold on the designated route will have the same color tape, indicating which holds to grab or step on. Some newer gyms have converted to the monochromatic system: instead of using colored tape as route indicators, this system uses colored climbing holds. Each monochromatic route is set using holds of a corresponding color; thus, climbers follow the holds of a single color throughout the route.

Route-setting is the design of routes through placing climbing holds in a strategic, technical, and fun way that sets how the route will flow. There are many different techniques involved with setting, and up to 5 levels of certifications are awarded to those qualified. Route setting can be defined as the back bone of indoor climbing; without a great set of routes, a gym cannot easily hope to keep a good hoard of climbers.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bouldering</span> Form of rock climbing

Bouldering is a form of free climbing that is performed on small rock formations or artificial rock walls without the use of ropes or harnesses. While bouldering can be done without any equipment, most climbers use climbing shoes to help secure footholds, chalk to keep their hands dry and to provide a firmer grip, and bouldering mats to prevent injuries from falls. Unlike free solo climbing, which is also performed without ropes, bouldering problems are usually less than six metres (20 ft) tall. Traverses, which are a form of boulder problem, require the climber to climb horizontally from one end to another. Artificial climbing walls allow boulderers to climb indoors in areas without natural boulders. In addition, bouldering competitions take place in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Climbing protection are mechanical man-made devices employed to reduce the risk and effect of a fall to climbers while on rock or ice. It includes such items as nylon webbing and metal nuts, cams, bolts, and pitons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional climbing</span> Type of rock climbing

Traditional climbing is a type of free climbing in rock climbing where the lead climber places the protection equipment while ascending the climbing route; when the lead climber has completed the route, the second climber then removes the protection equipment as they climb the route. Traditional climbing differs from sport climbing where the protection equipment is already pre-drilled into the rock in the form of bolts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of climbing terms</span> For rock climbing and mountaineering

Glossary of climbing terms relates to rock climbing, mountaineering, and to ice climbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock-climbing equipment</span> List of manmade gear

Rock-climbing equipment requires a range of specialized sports equipment, for training, for aid climbing, and for free climbing. Developments in rock-climbing equipment played an important role in the history of rock climbing, enabling climbers to ascend more difficult climbing routes safely, and materially improving the strength, conditioning, and ability of climbers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free climbing</span> Climbing without using aid climbing

Free climbing is a form of rock climbing in which the climber can only use climbing equipment for climbing protection, but not as an aid to help in their progression in ascending the route. Free climbing therefore cannot use any of the tools that are used in aid climbing to help overcome the obstacles encountered while ascending a route. The development of free climbing was an important moment in the history of rock climbing, including the concept and definition of what determined a first free ascent of a route by a climber.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dry-tooling</span> Form of rock climbing

Dry-tooling is a form of rock climbing in which ice axes are used to climb rock that is not covered in snow or ice. It has its origins in mixed climbing, ice climbing, and more recently sport climbing. Dry tooling is controversial among many climbers. Some favour it as a new and exciting kind of climbing, while others dislike it for its nontraditional methods and the permanent damage it can cause to certain, generally softer, rock formations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solo climbing</span> Style of climbing performed alone

Solo climbing, or soloing, is a style of climbing in which the climber climbs alone, without the assistance of a belayer. By its very nature, it presents a higher degree of risk to the climber, and in some cases, is considered extremely high risk. Note that the use of the term "solo climbing" is generally separate from the action of bouldering, which is itself a form of solo climbing, but with less serious consequences in the case of a fall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aid climbing</span> Style of climbing

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sport climbing</span> Type of rock climbing

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lead climbing</span> Technique of rock climbing

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Top rope climbing</span> Type of rock climbing

Top rope climbing is a type of rock climbing where the climber is securely attached to a rope that runs through a fixed anchor at the top of the climbing route, and back down to the belayer at the base of the climb. Should the climber fall they will just hang from the rope at the point of the fall. They can then either resume their climb or have the belayer lower them down in a controlled manner to the base of the climb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock climbing</span> Type of sport

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, across, or down natural rock formations. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Knowledge of proper climbing techniques and the use of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes.

In rock climbing, an anchor can be any device or method for attaching a climber, a rope, or a load above or onto a climbing surface—typically rock, ice, steep dirt, or a building—either permanently or temporarily. The intention of an anchor is case-specific but is usually for fall protection, primarily fall arrest and fall restraint. Climbing anchors are also used for hoisting, holding static loads, or redirecting a rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Climbing competition</span> Competitive rock climbing

Competition climbing is a type of rock climbing held indoors on purpose-built artificial climbing walls, although earlier versions were held on external natural rock surfaces. The three standalone competition climbing disciplines are: lead climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing. A fourth discipline of "combined" is based on combinations of results in the three main disciplines. Competition climbing is sometimes called "sport climbing", which is the type of lead climbing performed in competition climbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rope solo climbing</span> Type of solo climbing with protection

Rope-solo climbing or rope-soloing is a form of solo climbing, but unlike with free solo climbing, which is also performed alone and with no climbing protection whatsoever, the rope-solo climber uses a complex self-belay device and rope system to protect themselves in the event of a fall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Route setter</span> Designer of artificial rock climbing wall routes or problems

A route setter is a person who designs artificial rock climbing wall routes, or problems. Also known as "setters", these professionals combine technical craft with an artistic representation of real rock climbing moves. They do this with modular resin, polyurethane, polyester, fiberglass, or wood holds or "grips" that mimic real rock features. These routes are used by a rock climber to get to the top of a climbing wall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Climbing hold</span> Shaped grip attached to a climbing wall

A climbing hold is a shaped grip that is usually attached to a climbing wall so climbers can grab or step on it. On most walls, climbing holds are arranged in paths, called routes, by specially trained route setters. Climbing holds come in a large array of sizes and shapes to provide different levels of challenge to a climber. Climbing holds are either bolted to a wall via hex-head bolts and existing t-nuts or they are screwed on with several small screws. In extreme cases, concrete anchors may be used.

The term liquid chalk, or sharkchalk, refers to several different kinds of chalk:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Climbing gym</span> Indoor sports venue

A climbing gym is a gym dedicated to indoor climbing. Climbing gyms have climbing walls that can be used for leading, top roping, and bouldering. They sometimes offer training equipment to improve technique, strength, and endurance.


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  11. "Equipment". Retrieved 2013-02-03.