The Art of the Home Climbing Wall: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Dangerous
by Christopher Schafenacker
The defining event of 2020 has, beyond any doubt, been the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has given us little to be thankful for. There’s hardly a positive word to write about the subject and yet in one deeply niche world, it has been a source of innovation and, dare we say it, beauty. That world is the world of the home climbing wall. They say necessity is the mother of invention and climbers have proven this to be true. Out of a desperate need to stay strong despite climbing essentially being cancelled this year, climbers got seriously inventive. The present article celebrates their achievements and showcases the good, the bad, and the downright dangerous fruits of their labors.
[Disclaimer: Jokes aside, we do not think there is anything to celebrate about Covid-19 and do not wish to be insensitive to those who have suffered unthinkable tragedy as a result of this pandemic. Our heartfelt condolences go out to all who have lost loved ones or otherwise been impacted, and we hope the holiday season brings some reprieve from a hard year. We also ought to acknowledge that not all the walls featured below were built in response to the pandemic and yet some of them were simply too inventive to not include in this article. If your wall or photograph is featured, and you wish that it weren’t, contact us, and we will happily remove it.]
1. Let’s start with the good. Like the really, really good. Early on in the pandemic Sasha Digiulian unveiled her home climbing wall gym, which includes a campus, Kilter, and Tension board and at the time she said she would soon be installing a treadwall, hangboard section and Moon Climbing holds. Umm, can you say quaran-dream? Because we’re pretty sure that’s the proper term for being trapped in a space with that many toys.
2. As it turns out, it’s not only the pros that have dream setups, as this stunner of a garage demonstrates. Let’s just say that if this person was our neighbour, we’d definitely be making real friendly.
3. Ok, but not thaaaat friendly. Like, is that a shag cave or a pain cave or both? Because the floral-pattern comforter atop the padding really has us scratching our heads… Does this climber sleep down there? Why so many hanging balls? And what are the yellows bars for (beyond hanging your chalkbag)? So many questions, so few answers…
4. If that last one was weird, this one is downright dangerous. Notice the pink jug atop the right-side floating panel? Is that there to check if god is real? Because we’re pretty sure only divine intervention would keep you safe if you dynoed for that thing. Also, please explain to us how you access the large spike hanging from the top left corner. Is that the “5.13” move signalled by the white spray paint just above the padding or is it another trap for those looking to test their faith?
5. Uhhh? We’re not sure if this is a home climbing wall or a child’s trick to dissuade adults from accessing their tree fort but the crashpad and the fact that we found this on Mountain Project’s forums suggest the former. Where are the handholds, though? And what is the rope for? And also, is this really just fastened by that red sling running across the midpoint? Again, so many questions…
6. Yes. Just yes. While clearly not a quarantine wall, this beauty needed to be in here. Who needs Red Rocks when you can literally build a giant red rock out of Play-Doh and train on it to your heart’s delight? If four-time World Cup champion Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou says it’s her choice for training, then it’s ours, too. Now, excuse us while we go make eighteen tons of Play-Doh.
7. Ok, back to serious land. Is this how the pros train to climb in sub-zero temps? Not only is this wall an aesthetic showpiece, but this home climbing workout is gnarly in the extreme. If the author weren’t, himself, Canadian, we’d say this must be how Canadians rock climb, but it isn’t…it’s just how this badass rock climbs.
8. There’s gnarly like the snow palace above and then there’s gnarly like if you pull onto that thing you best know you’re taking your life into your own hands. Getting six thousand splinters under your finger nails is probably the best-case scenario for any session on this rig, and so we’re heartened to notice there is barely any chalk on the holds. Let’s hope it stays that way…
9. Another shot from the archives: Jerry Moffat, himself, the founder of modern training and godfather of the home climbing wall. Everything about this shot justifies its inclusion. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that crimp he’s bearing down on, the Cinderella slippers, and the fact that he’s perched ropeless a good five feet above the roof of the barn in the lower right of the frame. Legend.
10. We don’t mean to brag, but given a choice of the walls pictured, we’d choose our own (unless that Play-Doh sculpture is still in production). Not only does the 40º Rocket Wall XL offer all the training versatility of any home setup, it’s freestanding, so you don’t have to session in the snow (but can bring it indoors come winter) and it can be easily disassembled and packed flat so that it can move when you do.
As Covid-19 grinds on and the new year has us all thinking about the spring season, there’s no time like now to get setup for serious home workouts. Give yourself the gift of sending and save yourself the danger of building your own rig. After all, as some of the examples shown demonstrate, building a home climbing wall can definitely go wrong and the last thing any of us need right now is another tragedy.
Featured Climbing Training Gear
*NEW* The Rocketeer Wall: our free-standing adjustable solution for those who can’t mount a hangboard anywhere in their home or apartment—or who are limited on space. The Rocketeer gives climbers the additional option to set specific climbing holds. Recreate the crux holds of your proj and get ready to send, bruh.
The Rocket Wall: Available in 6’ and 8’ widths, it’s been tough for us to keep up with the demand for this innovative home climbing wall solution. Slightly overhanging, the Rocket Wall is big enough to set routes on, or to build a systems board.
The Rock-Stah: Our handcrafted version of a traditional hangboard, with curving crimp rails to help alleviate unnecessary strain on your pulleys. Because ain’t no one got time for a finger injury…
Christopher Schafenacker started climbing in Western MA before moving to Granada, Spain, where he now writes, climbs, and runs education-centered training camps for competitive youth climbing teams.