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Help with bouldering wall design!!

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Kevin Fox · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 83

The school I work at has a large cold war era bomb shelter buried in the middle of campus. This year it became the outdoor program storage area and I am hoping to get a bouldering wall built down there as well. I have looked extensively and understand the construction aspects of the wall. We also have a carpenter on staff here at school who will be able to do a lot of the work.

What I am looking for here is design ideas for the space. I want it to be varied and fun for people from beginners to seasoned climbers. I have a few ideas but would love to hear what people think. What are some characteristics you have seen in bouldering walls that you loved? What are some pitfalls to avoid? What do you wish you had done to your home wall now that it is done. The space that will be used first is 36' wide and about 9'6" tall HOWEVER as you can see from the pictures below the room is an approximate semi circle. There is a consistent curve in the wall from the floor to the ceiling. The walls are steel that is reinforced by concrete (we think).

Any ideas or suggestions you have are appreciated. Also, does anyone know of a free drafting program I can put on a mac to work on designs?


Bomb Shelter 1

Bomb Shelter 2
Johnny Kipp · · St Albert Alberta · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 100

Looks like you have a nice area to do a cave setup. Just sheet the entire place with plywood and go for it. I wonder how you would attach it to the metal though. I guess you could drill and hilti cross members in between the humps to give yourself something to attach the plywood to. Its a cool space.

dylanfllr dylandylandylananddylan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 0

SketchUP is a good free drafting program.

Are you able to hang the climbing wall from the concrete structure? Or would the structure need to be free standing? Hopefully some anchor bolts in the concrete would be sufficient.

Simpler wall designs tend to allow more flexibility in route setting, with removable volumes allowing for changing angles/adding complexity.

It looks like it could get dark and dingy in there once the wall is installed. Would be a good idea to think about how to light it. Some gyms are using volumes with lights at the bottom/back side which works pretty well.

Looks fun!

Jeremy Polk · · Sandy, UT · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 5

I agree that simpler is better. I first built my home wall more comlex and ended up re-doing it. It is much better now that it is just an even plane all the way across. Well, it's an even plane up to the ceiling and then the ceiling is sheathed so it's a cave style wall.

SThal · · Logan, UT · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 140

Definitely as flat and even as possible is better for climbing. Not as fun to build maybe.

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 270

Just curious, what's the access like. A tight hallway or stairwell may make it hard to get lumber in there.

36' wide is a lot of space to work with if you're trying to have a few different angles for different abilities. I would say you need a minimum of 8' for each angle, but 12' is better and would be a nice even dimension giving you 3 distinct angles.

Edit: sketch up is a good free program, but probably faster and easier to just draw it out on paper.

Kevin Fox · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 83

The plan is to fasten it to the wall. I envision bolting 2x6's to the corrugated steel and letting the wall hang off there in whatever shape it finds.

Not all the lights were on in the pictures when i took them. Their are also a few bulbs that need to be replaced so I don't think the amount of light will be a limiting factor.

For access you walk down a long hallway. We took a bunch of 4 x8 sheets of plywood down there when we built the shelves so that will fit.

Thanks for the ideas, keep them coming!

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 125

Run at least part of the wall with vertical sheets for the beginners. Doing sit starts in an overhanging cave can be intimidating. You can use the back side of that section of the wall for storage.

climbing coastie · · Wasilla, AK · Joined Feb 2011 · Points: 90

I'd be hesitant to attach it just to the metal. It looks like the inside of a quansit (sp?) hut. The metal they use for those aren't really that thick and you could pull bolts/screws through it.

If there's concrete behind it put a few expansion bolts in it and you should be good.

Doug Meneke · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 10

You could build a free-standing structure inside there, too. No need to attach to any walls. You could pre-build triangle shapes, similar to a geo-dome...lots of options. The right side can be overhang/caves, the opposite side off-vertical. If for personal use, I would put 3-4 feet of foam pieces all over the floor (like a gymnastics pit) and forget the ropes.

Kevin Fox · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 83

Thanks for the ideas.

Bump for people who didn't see this the first time around!

llanSan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 130

upload pics.

also in the woody forum:…

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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