Following the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, countries across the world issued lockdown orders, which impacted various activities. From sports, education, business to rock climbing, almost all activities came to an abrupt halt.
The routine culture of avid rock climbers took a significant blow as climbing gyms closed, and outdoor climbing routes remained inaccessible.
With no climbing gym and outdoor climbing routes, most climbers at the mercy of the virus had to put off rock climbing expeditions. However, this brought a new climbing option to the fore, which probably has crossed several climbers; climbing in your home.
Climbing in your home on a bouldering route may seem challenging, especially when the rigorous tasks of building a mobile rock climbing wall are taken into account.
Guide on Mobile Rock Climbing Wall
Creating an indoor mobile rock climbing wall isn’t as tricky as many climbers may have presumed. With necessary technical skills and the right tools, a standard rock climbing wall, just like those in climbing gyms, can be built.
We’ll outline the steps and procedures involved in building a mobile rock climbing wall in a detailed manner.
This first step to actualizing your dream of building your rock climbing wall involves answering critical questions regarding the climbing wall’s purpose. The purpose of the climbing wall plays a vital role in how the climbing wall turns out.
A climbing wall built for training kids for rock climbing will turn out differently from one constructed to climb overhangs or train for bouldering.
a. Where to Build
Evaluating the desired space where your climbing wall will be erected dramatically impacts how the mobile rock climbing wall will turn out.
A home built climbing wall should be erected in an area with enough space to accommodate a climber’s movements, including stretch and individual acrobatics.
A climbing wall built indoors has to have enough room for access to the back of the wall and electric outlets for maintenance. Ventilation and lightning have to be considered.
An outdoor climbing wall has to be erected in a manner that’ll mitigate the effect of rainfall. Wherever you choose to pitch your climbing wall, ensure it’s isolated and far from living space as chalk tends to stain the climbing wall and surrounding areas.
b. Wall Support
Wall support should be considered when deciding where to build your mobile rock climbing wall. Wall support is essential as it’ll bear the bulk of the climbing wall’s weight and the climbers’ value, which may vary based on climbing techniques.
The use of an existing structure as wall support is a good option. Such design, in most cases, a fixed system, has to bear the weight of the climbing wall and the climbers, which may be hundreds of pounds.
The downside of using an existing structure as a climbing wall support is that the form becomes part of the climbing wall design and maybe immovable. Building a support structure for a climbing wall is another option.
This can be more expensive and requires construction skills. The climbing wall support has broader framing and bracing to make up for the stiffness that pre-existing support has.
This would, however, make the climbing wall mobile.
2. Visualize your Design
Climbing walls come in various designs, with specific designs giving room for various movements while others significantly limit movement to a fixed pattern.
Visualizing your plan will help you conclude on the climbing wall design preferred. A vertical wall with a rectangular roof limits a climber’s movement and maybe boring after several tries.
An overhanging wall, 20° or 45° to the ground, gives enough room for various movements. Depending on how your wall design secondary wall will have to be constructed to link both walls.
An overhang climbing wall designed on two different divisions, 90° to each other, requires a triangular secondary wall to form 90° corners. Enough room should be given for climbers to fall at sny distance.
3. Draw and Verify
After deciding on the model climbing wall to be built:
- Be it an overhanging wall or vertical wall, draw your design to see how it turns out. The plan should be drawn with the model’s dimension.
- Verify these dimensions on your climbing space; if possible, mark these spots with duct tapes. The plumb line should be used for indoor walls to keep each wall’s border from the ceiling.
- Ensure room for the wall support, enough space for the anchor at the climbing wall’s summit.
Access to electrical outlets, lighting, windows, and doors should also be confirmed.
Since the walls will be built indoors for indoor climbing walls, ensure there’s enough space to assemble the walls and mount it on the wall or wall support without wedging it against the ceiling.
4. Get your Building Materials
Choose your climbing material based on quality, as this affects the stability and lifespan of your climbing wall. You may have to pick between Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and plywood.
OSB may be your preferred choice as it’s cheaper and more substantial than plywood but holds more moisture than plywood. Your choice largely depends on your budget and your climbing wall location (indoors or outdoors).
Climbing walls to be built outdoors have should be made with plywood as it’ll last longer as it doesn’t hold much moisture.
Other materials include your tools, such as studs finder, power drill, joist hangers, nails, gloves, safety glasses, wrenches, screwdriver, saws (jigsaw and miter saw), claw hammer, tape measure, and others.
5. Construct the Framework
This is an essential task in building a climbing wall as it requires attention to the smallest detail. Constructing the framework involves joining the wood’s blanks together using screws and setting it up from the anchors to the ceiling.
For step-by-step procedures for building an indoor mobile rock climbing wall framework and wood mounting, see this article’s framework section. For further details on effective anchoring, see this article.
6. Painting and Fall zone
Aside from making your climbing wall look appealing, painting your climbing wall serves as a protection from humid conditions, especially for outdoor climbing walls.
As you paint your wall, ensure you plug the t-nut with golf tees, to prevent paint from sticking to the thread. The area beneath the climbing wall, known as the fall zone, should be appropriately cleared and free from objects and equipment.
Fall zones should extend beyond the climbing wall’s edge, especially for inclined and steep climbing walls. Fall zones for outdoor or indoor climbing walls should be padded with mattresses and crash pads.
Whatever you choose, ensure it’s dense and can provide soft landing g no matter the distance of the climber’s fall.
7. Climbing Holds
The most critical element in a climbing wall, the climbing hold, is the basis for ascension on the climbing wall. The nature of the climbing hold significantly chosen depends on the purpose of the climbing wall.
Colorful and large holds are ideal for climbing walls for children. From the size to the type of climbing hold, careful consideration must be given to the climbing hold before purchase.
The number of climbing holds on each plywood sheet also has to be considered. 20 holds per sheet can be purchased, but the more holds on a sheet, the more fun climbing is.
It’s also cool to mix holds of different sizes on a climbing wall. The mode of attachment to the climbing wall should influence your choice of climbing holds.
Climbing holds attached to the climbing walls with screws are ideal for wooden and concrete walls.
While bolt-on holds for attachment to climbing walls are suitable for most indoor climbing walls, the bolt goes through the wall and is tightened by the nut behind it.
Bolt-on holds easy to reposition and replace. Screw-on holds give you the liberty of placing holds on any part of the wall and not necessarily where there’s a nut. Combining both types of holds is also an ideal choice.
Power drills should be used in driving screws or bolts in. It’s recommended that the screws or bolts are tightened with the hand.
Footholds should mostly be placed at the bottom of the climbing wall, while hugs should be strategically placed towards the tops. Creativity in setting footholds and handholds would make climbing exhilarating.
After erecting your climbing wall and fitting in the holds, it’s crucial to inspect the wall for splinters and loose screws or bolts. This would significantly reduce accidents from construction errors.
It’s also an excellent idea to sandpaper splintery areas of the wood. (Sandpapering should be done before fitting in holds).
After frequent climbing and the effects of humid weather, your climbing wall would show signs of loose and cracked holds. T-nuts sometimes get stripped or cross-threaded, which prevents tightening or loosening of bolts.
Prying a bar under the hold and pulling out the hold, and then loosening the bolt under tension would remove the stripped bolt. Sliding a hacksaw under the hold and cutting the bolt can also work if the pry bar method fails.
Use a bolt to push put the stripped t-nut, and then I sent a new bolt. Removing t-nuts can damage the section of the plywood. It’s recommended not to use such bolt holes for fitting holds if damaged.
Regular inspection of your climbing wall will significantly prevent accidents and untimely collapse of your climbing wall.
Please let us know your thoughts on our article on steps to building a mobile rock climbing wall in the comments section below.