Indoor climbing walls

7:18 p.m. on February 7, 2009 (EST)
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14 forum posts

I have a question about route setting on indoor walls. I have done very little indoor climbing because when I lived in the east I had the Gunks and now that I'm in the southwest I can climb practically 365 days a year. We now have a new community center with a fairly decent indoor climbing wall. It's been wonderful having it because now I can go after work and don't have to worry about daylight. The problem is that the kids that work with the wall don't have a lot of climbing experience and the routes that they've set up are crazy to say the least - they're all teenagers and have little outdoor experience. Can anyone recommend a good website or book for route design for indoor walls? Two sections of the wall have natural features, cracks and holes and good surface for smearing. The other sections are kind of slick plastic. I would like to get more involved with route design if they'll let me and I don't want to offend anyone. Maybe if I can show them some ideas.........

Thanks for the beta :)

1:49 a.m. on February 8, 2009 (EST)
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440 forum posts

Wish I had some suggestions for you, but I don't. Sorry. I'm hoping some of the other folks will have some good input. I'm gonna watch with interest, just 'cause I've always wondered what sorts of "rules" apply.

9:19 a.m. on February 8, 2009 (EST)
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29 forum posts

DesertRobin, go ahead and "offend someone" but do it nicely. It's not the routes that are crazy... it's the person who allowed teenagers with little climbing experience to operate it. Someone could get seriously hurt, and this is a good point to use when approaching the person in charge of the center.

Not sure from your post what steps you've already taken, however, before doing anything ask a lot of questions. Talk with the teenagers, be nice, complement them on their skills, ask who determines the route setup, see if they are receptive to making the route more "challenging", offer to help "design"an even better wall that everyone will "admire and want to experience"... which may lead to greater opportunities and pay raises.

Tell mgmt what a great job the teens are doing and offer suggestions to fix a small "safety" issue that you noticed (i.e. poor route design)... since you wouldn't want such a great place to be closed due to a lawsuit. Offer your skills and those of other experienced climbers to help resolve these minor safety issues.

If none of this works, there are further steps that can be taken. However, please be sure that others share your concern with route design and that it is not just a personal thing. Have you asked other experienced climbers what they thought of the route? I wish the routes had been better designed on the walls that I climbed, however, my experience with indoor walls was not as extensive as the person that set them up. There was a reason for their madness, and others were quite happy with the design. I received some personal instruction on the route, improved my skills and made some great friends. The place is about two hours from me, next time I go, I'll ask about a website or book. Hope this helps a little, Good Luck!

2:03 p.m. on February 8, 2009 (EST)
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29 forum posts

My 19 year old son read my above post and insisted that I tell the whole story...

My son and his friends have climbed indoors for years. The first time I went, I watched him and his buddies scramble right up the most advanced wall. I watched other "kids" scramble up the same wall, so of course I felt I could do the same since I'm older, wiser, more experienced (based on YDS), etc. etc... I made a complete fool of myself, and it had nothing to do with the setup. Climbing a plastic wall is not the same as climbing a sheer rock wall. It took some personal instruction on technique, and a few pointers from the "kids", before I was able to climb up successfully (after about three tries, and a lot of laughing from down below).

6:18 p.m. on February 8, 2009 (EST)
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440 forum posts

laughingbear, I wish everyone took the approach to things that you advocate here. My compliments, sir.

10:48 a.m. on February 9, 2009 (EST)
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409 forum posts

I climb in the gym a fair amount, especially during the winter after work. Rotue setting is an art, and, some folks are super good at it, and, some just don't get it. Its pretty interesting to see from gym to gym how its done. Can really make or break a gym, especially long term users.

The folks that set in my gym all seem to use some type of guide that it looks like they've developed. My bet is all long time gyms have a how-to type guide for their route setters. You might give a well known gym a call and ask them. I know a few actually teach classes in it.

I've listed a few books below.

Its kinda interesting, though, what service a gym is trying to provide. Some (maybe most?) make a significant portion of their money off the birthday party (and the like) crowd. So, they have to set for that. Others, have long time paying members who train reasonably hard and they set for that. Others have a couple of hard climbers who set to impress (and that's no fun).

Give me steep jug hauls, and, lay off the crimps...


-Brian in SLC

How to Climb: Building Your Own Indoor Climbing Wall (How To Climb Series) (Paperback)by Ramsay Thomas

Home Climbing Gyms: How to Build and Use (Paperback)by Randy Leavitt

Learning to Climb Indoors (How To Climb Series) (Paperback)by Eric J. Horst

Gym Climbing: Maximizing Your Indoor Experience (Mountaineers Outdoor Expert) (Paperback)by Matt Burbach

The Self-Coached Climber: The Guide to Movement Training Performance (Paperback)by Dan M. Hague Douglas Hunter

8:53 p.m. on February 18, 2009 (EST)
110 reviewer rep
762 forum posts


Here's one I found...

The Art of Coursesetting - Louie Anderson (not the comic!)

$14.95 at

7:00 a.m. on March 25, 2009 (EDT)
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2 forum posts

Whenever we travel to Las Vegas, if it’s during the winter months, we go climbing at Red Rock Canyon (with a professional instructor). My boys basically run up the mountain faces and I succeed – albeit with a struggle - most of the time. I have thought of practicing in an indoor climbing centre (we live in London, UK there are no climbing opportunities here!) but is it true that the experience is too different to be of any help?


12:36 p.m. on March 25, 2009 (EDT)
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409 forum posts

I have thought of practicing in an indoor climbing centre (we live in London, UK there are no climbing opportunities here!) but is it true that the experience is too different to be of any help?

Not at all. Especially for the climbing at Red Rocks.

In fact (just back after a week in Red Rocks), Red Rocks climbing may simulate climbing in a gym better than most any place in the country. Or is it the other way around? Ha ha.

You build strength, endurance, and you engram certain types of movement. Really translates well to outdoor climbing.

Most folks I know who climb well outside have a climbing gym membership.


-Brian in SLC

June 18, 2018
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