making a sweet rock wall for your garage

For those who don’t know, I’m a huge fan of rock climbing.  I’ve been climbing since I was about 10, and have climbed all over the world.  I really enjoy it as a way to focus and relieve stress.  Probably the thing that’s most appealing to me is that there are no excuses on the rock: you can either climb it or you can’t.

Now, none of this means that I’m a good rock climber.  I’ve climbed some fun stuff, but nothing particularly earth-shattering for grade.  I’m by no means an expert, in that probably the most difficult I can climb is 5.10.  For those who are unfamiliar with rock climbing, vertical climbing difficulty is measuring on an interval scale.  It’s rather subjective, but generally, experienced climbers can consistently rate how difficult a climb is.  It’s hard for one to understand how it scales, but if you want to know more you can check out the wikipedia entry.

Despite my lack of extreme talent in climbing, I am good at teaching and know the safety of rock climbing well.  Since it has been such a passion for me, I want to help my kids enjoy this hobby as well.  They’re all quite excited about it whenever we go out on the rocks, and are actually pretty decent climbers.  They have a problem with the heights, but their mechanics are pretty good.  My daughter can almost certainly outclimb me, and my oldest son has very good technical ability.

To further encourage their interest, I decided it would be fun to build an indoor climbing wall.  I’m not going to step-by-step it here with all of the technical details, but I’ll provide some basic guidance, in case others want to try it.  If you’re looking for more advice, please let me know and I’ll be happy to help.


First thing you need is a clear space.  It’s hard to get an idea of scale in this picture, but it is about 10 feet between the saw horses on the wall and the corner.  Floor to ceiling is 12 feet.  If you don’t have a finished garage, this is a much easier project, as you can anchor your framing directly onto the wall studs and ceiling joists.


Here’s the wall framed out.  I anchored a 2×8 to the wall and ceiling, and used joist hangers to support the 2×6 frame.  Took a considerable amount of work, but the completed project is rock solid.  I tried to push this off the wall and couldn’t.  That’s good, because it hangs 3/4 inch sheets of plywood off of it, which aren’t light.  Also it’s going to be holding people, so I wanted to make sure it couldn’t come down.


I am not using a rope and harness system, so my wife and I made this crash pad.  We used 5 foot width fabric and made a 5′ x 10′ x 1′ pillow case.  We then bought foam scraps online.  Below is the photo of what the foam comes shipped like.  On the right is a package that hasn’t been opened.  The pile is what happens after you open the package.


After the pillow was done, I drilled, anchored, and hung the plywood.  This is a painful process, as you end up drilling a lot of holes and spacing them is tedious.  Once is done, though, it’s a simple process of bolting your holds on, and you’re ready to climb.  Here’s the first complete assent.


The kids love it that, once you complete a new route, you get to give it a name.  The first route on the wall was “Hard Fall.”  I rated it at 5.7.


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