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Types of Climbing Walls

There are a variety of different climbing structures available to choose from for C.O.P.E. Programs, examples include: Traverse walls (or bouldering walls), vertical climbing walls, climbing towers and vertical challenge towers. Climbing structures can be built both indoors and outside and  climbing surface can be wood, texture coated wood, seamless cementatious, fiberglass panels or sculpted concrete.

Traverse Walls or Horizontal Climbing Walls

Traverse Walls, sometimes referred to as bouldering or bouldering walls are climbing structures that emphasize climbing horizontally (parallel to the floor) only a few feet above the ground or floor. Belay systems (harnesses and ropes) are not used with traverse walls.

Traverse Climbing Wall
Vertical Climbing Walls

Vertical climbing walls or top rope climbing walls are a type of climbing structure that require climbers to wear a harness and be attached to a belayer. As the climber moves up the wall (climbs) the belayer takes in the rope to limit any falls to just a few inches. When the climber reaches the tope, the belayer lowers the climber down.

Indoor Climbing Wall with Two Climbers

Design Considerations

Climbing structures come in different sizes and styles and are designed for a variety of different uses. Most structures however, do have common aspects that can be modified. These aspects include: climbing holds and anchors, climbing surface material and texture, the pitch or angle of the climbing surface, belay systems, landing surface and access prevention systems.

Pitches and Angles
Having a variety and the right types of climbing routes available is an important design consideration. First step in designing a climbing wall is consideration for the users. A multi-functional climbing wall will want to have climbing routs for novices (or beginners) and for advanced climbers.  If you work with a specific populations like youth, in-tact teams, individuals with disabilities, adults, etc. you may want to increase the amount of climbing space that is more suitable for that population.  A flat wall may be all you need, but a wall with a variety of climbing angles will allow for an opportunity to meet the goals of a wider group of participants, prevent users from getting bored, and increase the options for teaching and training.
Five Basic Options for Angles and Pitches
    Climbing Wall Combination Overahng     Lean To or Slab Climbing Route     Lean Away or Overhanging Climbing Route     Diamond Overhang Climbing Route
1.     2.                        3.          4.             5.                                                  Various Climbing Wall Design Options

Climbing Wall Surface Options
Highly Textured Paint: A durable acrylic textured paint is a low cost way to provide texture to any climbing wall. Textured walls provide a more "rock like" surface for climbers allowing for feet to better grip the climbing wall.
Cementatious Surfaces (Polymer Modified Cement): cementatious surfaces are tough, durable and hard as a rock. The cementatious coatings allow for additional sculpting to be applied to the climbing surface that can be used for hand and foot placement in addition to the climbing holds. Additionally, the thickness of the cementation coatings (applied 1/4" thick) allow your climbing wall to be virtually seamless.
Fiberglass Reinforced Concrete Panels: Preformed fiberglass reinforced concrete panels come in a variety of panel style options. These panel systems are easy to install and allow for the option to re-design the climbing wall later by rotating panel positions. A steel frame needs to be installed and back filled with concrete to secure panels to the frame.
Polyurethane Surface: Polyurethane or plastic panels are lightweight, durable and have a variety of relief features molded into them. Polyurethane panels are even easy to install for a do-it-yourselfer. Simply anchor the panels directly to your subwall or framing. These panels can also be cut and routered using typical wood working saws and tools. Nicros - Easy Wall Climbing Wall Panel System
Steel Frame Reinforced Concrete: Steel frame reinforced concrete climbing walls are complex designs that incorporate a steel sub frame with concrete shot over it. The concrete is then carved and stained to look and feel like a true life like rock surface. This surface option allows for almost any natural rock formation to be re-created in both form and color.

Climbing Holds and Hardware

Climbing Holds and Hardware

Climbing holds are an intricate and necessary part of all climbing walls. For it is the climbing holds that climbers use to grip with their hands and stand on with their feet to ascend the climbing wall.  Most climbing holds are attached to the climbing surface with a t-nut or similar anchoring system. The anchors are installed in either a specific or random pattern allowing for the repositioning of the climbing holds or the addition of new climbing holds.

Climbing holds are typically made form molds using a polyurethane or polyester resin. Climbing holds come in a wide range of sizes, colors and textures. Having a variety of holds on your wall is desirable as it increases the options for different types of grips allowing for a variety of muscles to be used while climbing.. Some common climbing hold styles include: pockets, slopers, pinchers, crimpers and jugs.

Pockets: Climbing holds described as pockets have holes that are molded within the climbing hold allowing individual fingers or the whole hand to slide inside to grasp  the hold.

Slopers: Sloper holds are difficult to grip because of their sloping rounded surface. Sloper climbing holds make great foot holds and holds for training.

Pinchers: Pincher holds are typically small holds that are designed to be pinched between the thumb and a finger (or two). Pincher climbing holds are excellent holds for training as a result of the difficulty involves in mastering their use.

Crimpers: Crimper holds are small to medium holds that typically require the use of only the first set of digits on the fingers (whole finger cannot fit in or around the hold).

Jugs or Buckets: Jug or bucket climbing holds are typically larger climbing olds that allow for the whole hand (or two hands) to be used. These holds are less stressful on the hands (specifically the tendons) and should be used liberally if your climbers will typically be novices or beginners.

Purchase Climbing Holds

Build Your Own Home Climbing Wall

Plans and materials to build your own climbing wall

This custom package has everything you need to build your own home climbing wall: Instructions, anchors, surface texture and climbing holds. Whether you want to build it in your garage, basement, foyer or backyard, ESI can help. Call us today and we will design a package that is just right for the type and size of climbing wall you are looking to build.

Access Prevention Systems

Depending on your facility and environment it may be necessary to install an access prevention system. Climbing wall access prevention systems are designed to prevent unauthorized users from climbing on the walls.  Systems range from the most desired - a lockable door (or room), to tarps or mats that get locked to the bottom 8' feet of the climbing wall to curtain systems that pull along a track and lock closed.

Copyright 2006, Experiential Systems, Inc.