Indoor climbing

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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 the U.S. and Canada was established in Seattle in 1987 under the name of Vertical Club, Inc. It is now known as Vertical World, Inc., which has three gyms in the Puget Sound Area - Seattle, Redmond and Everett.

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. Many rock gyms are settings for birthday parties and youth teams.

The first indoor walls tended to be made primarily of brick leaving little scope for interesting routes, as the steepness of the wall and variety of the hand holds were somewhat limited.[1] More recently, indoor climbing terrain is constructed of plywood over a metal frame, spray-coated with texture to simulate a rock face.

Indoor climbing has also seen an increase in popularity in areas with rainy climates where climbing outdoors is sometimes difficult. Besides offering an alternative during inclement weather, many working adults find that they can get to the gym after work and still climb even though it is too dark outside. In order to improve in any sport, consistent practice is crucial. With the advent of indoor climbing, weather, seasonal difficulties, and busy schedules are less of an obstacle to consistent improvement, and enjoyment of the sport.

Most climbing competitions are held in climbing gyms, making them a part of indoor climbing.

Compared to outdoor climbing[edit]

There are a few differences in techniques, style and equipment between sport climbing outdoors and indoors. Climbing artificial climbing walls, especially indoors is much safer because of controlled environmental conditions. 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.[2]

Climbing wall construction[edit]

Main article: Climbing wall

The most common construction method involves screwing resin hand holds on to wooden boards. The boards can be of varying height & steepness (from completely horizontal 'roofs' to not even vertical 'slabs') and have a large variety of holds (such as very small 'crimps,' slanted-surfaced 'slopers,' and 'jugs,' which are often large and easy to hold) attached. This variety, coupled with the ability for the climbs to be changed by attaching the holds onto the wall differently, has resulted in indoor climbing becoming a very successful sport.


Proper climbing equipment must be used during indoor climbing.[3] 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.

Route setting[edit]

Boulder Dash

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.

World records[edit]

The North Texas Outdoor Pursuit Center, in Downtown Carrollton, Texas, is home to the world's tallest indoor rock climbing wall. This route is 112 feet high and is inside of an old grain silo.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Scottish Climbing Wall History". Retrieved 2013-02-03. 
  2. ^ "What is Indoor Climbing?". 2011-06-02. Retrieved 2013-02-03. 
  3. ^ "Equipment". Retrieved 2013-02-03. 


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