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climbing wall with real rocks
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Feb 13, 2013
I've got lots of extra lumber and a large barn. Would like to make some sort of climbing area but want to use real rocks. Anyone ever done this? I'm thinking that I'd have to have a certain type of rock and a counter sunk hole in it. I'd also like to make a few crack routes with longer, skinny flat rocks. Am I just being silly or is it possible? Any experts? JustinS
Joined Feb 12, 2012
0 points
Feb 13, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: 11th hour of the Sundial
hammer drill and the right size bit and you'll be good to go. I've used jug sized rocks in the past of different rock types without issue. for the crack idea you'll need more than one bolt pre rock and that could be tricky to line up with a predrilled pattern. scott cooney
From La Casa Taco
Joined Feb 1, 2011
86 points
Feb 13, 2013
be wary of rock fall ... seriously ... bearbreeder
Joined Mar 1, 2009
3,068 points
Feb 13, 2013
I've done it plenty (200+ drilled rocks). The hardness of the stone REALLY matters. In bluestone (type of grainy shale) you don't even need any hammer action, just a good carbide masonry bit in a 3/8" drill. I like sedimentary rock because it often cleaves to leave a flat side. Granite can be a real challenge esp. if there's quartz crystals in it. I've also had real trouble with some limestone. Uneven sides can be made level with some epoxy puttly. Be aware that if the barn is unheated, the holds will be very cold in the winter. Gunkiemike
Joined Jul 29, 2009
2,617 points
Feb 13, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: avatar
that will be really cool! Post pictures please IamDman
Joined Jan 12, 2013
15 points
Feb 13, 2013
Anyone here remember the old Petrogrips made from real rock? Haven't seen them offered for sale for years now but I love them - we have quite a few of them at our climbing wall. Chris Rice
Joined Jan 11, 2013
45 points
Feb 13, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: Middle
Ever considered just going outside? Ray Pinpillage
From West Egg
Joined Jul 23, 2010
180 points
Feb 13, 2013
You could probably use pieces of granite or other rock without flat sides by using a masonry cutoff wheel. This would make a flat side and you could easily make something that could be bolted down flat to a climbing wall. Zach Myers
From Durango, CO
Joined Oct 1, 2012
56 points
Feb 13, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: Me in the Buddha Cave at crumblewood a while ago.
Chris Rice wrote:
Anyone here remember the old Petrogrips made from real rock? Haven't seen them offered for sale for years now but I love them - we have quite a few of them at our climbing wall.

I believe these are the same thing:
Andy Librande
From Denver, CO
Joined Nov 7, 2005
1,949 points
Feb 15, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: Super crack
The LCP climbing gym in Fayetteville, AR has a bunch of natural holds they are pretty sweet. Ross Hokett
From Little Rock, AR
Joined Jun 19, 2011
210 points
Feb 15, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: Me on Supercrack
You could buy the cultured stone or real veneer stones they sell at your local masonry supply, that way you wouldn't have to flatten out the backs. You could probably just bond them to your wall with a thinset mortar to keep from having to drill holes in them, course then you'd have to beat them off with a hammer & chisel to reset. MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Joined Dec 20, 2011
280 points
Feb 15, 2013
You could also make holds out of wood. I don't think I've ever gotten pumped faster than when climbing on wood holds. Just cut the shape you want, sand it smooth and you're good to go. Sorry for the thread drift, just wanted to throw another idea in the mix! Bill C.
From Fort Collins, CO
Joined Jul 15, 2008
104 points
Feb 15, 2013
Real rocks are a nice feature. Out of necessity they'll be med-large to large holds. Expect some to shatter. Sometimes best to use 3 bits to avoid shattering: 1/4, 5/16 then 3/8". I couldn't be bothered with counter-sinking. Too much time and greater chance of shatter. Apply layers of protective tape over hex-head when concerned about those sharp edges.

Start with rocks that have one reasonably flat (or flatter) side while avoiding those with cracks and get busy w/ roto-hammer drill. The bits will blow-out the back of the grips and make an irregular surface that will help keep holds from spinning. Skip the wet tile or masonry saw for reasons too numerous to mention...unless you own a saw capable of 6" cutting depth. After initial install of all holds, re-tighten all after a few months as ply-wood dries/compresses.

Wood holds are slippery and get more slippery. OK for 'wrappers' but slopers, no thanks. Oak holds are good for axe picks but not my tender flesh.
Joined Mar 1, 2007
4 points
Feb 15, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: Warming up
I drilled out a dozen limestone holds a few years ago; they broke easily and didn't last long.

Giving up on that idea, I made a hundred or so out of fiberglass resin. Sculpt a foam prototype and make a mold; you can pour multiple holds in a relatively short span of time.

I've been told by a hold-shaper I know that fiberglass resin holds break easily, but I've yet to break anything aside from smaller foot jibs. Most have seen heavy use for three years now.
J. Stark
From Iowa
Joined Oct 1, 2010
692 points
Feb 16, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: BETA: For me, crux move was sticking the move to t...
Like Ross mentioned, Richard at LCP (La Casa Pollo) in Fayetteville, AR used a lot of natural sandstone rocks as holds (mainly on his outdoor walls). If I remember right, most of the ones he used were about 6-8" diameter and he attached them as screw-ons rather than bolt-on holds. 3-5 screws per hold? Makes sense to me that this method would be less prone to breaking the holds and would be a good idea when dealing with softer stones (as opposed to something like granite) Drew Nevius
From Oklahoma
Joined Jun 27, 2012
884 points
Feb 16, 2013
Check eBay, there are natural holds listed there often.

I'm thinking of making my own as well, but I also have a large supply of rock scraps at work plus rotary hammers and 14" demo saws...
Dan Felix
Joined Aug 24, 2012
46 points
Feb 16, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: Goofin' on the Grand after soloing the Upper Exum ...
I've seen a few walls where people glued real rocks to a concrete wall and it was super bomber. It's also permanent and you can't change the holds out but could be a good way to put in small holds for feet and crimps. Michael Schneiter
From Glenwood Springs, CO
Joined Apr 3, 2002
8,674 points
Feb 16, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: Lost in the Sun pitch 2
I work with stone and the best way to go is find some larger size stones, and cut a flat face on the back and drill a hole (preferbly countersunk) into it. Lots of the stone will break when drilling so get some extras. If you're in the MA area Ill cut some stone for you at my shop! Travis Dustin
From Hollis, NH
Joined Jan 8, 2012
1,716 points
Feb 16, 2013
Travis Dustin wrote:
I work with stone and the best way to go is find some larger size stones, and cut a flat face on the back and drill a hole (preferbly countersunk) into it. Lots of the stone will break when drilling so get some extras. If you're in the MA area Ill cut some stone for you at my shop!

I figured I would drill, then cut when possible. Would save a blown out back of the stone, if nothing else. We tend to have scraps of salvaged granite curbing laying around, so it would be the perfect size.
Dan Felix
Joined Aug 24, 2012
46 points
Feb 27, 2016
Hey everyone still interested in real rock holds,

the gym mentioned above, LCP actually produces these natural holds and sells them from the gym, They have also reworked many of the indoor roped walls to be 100% real rock! You can still find them in the bouldering room as well, their really everywhere!
Sam Harrison
Joined Feb 27, 2016
0 points
Feb 27, 2016
If you have problems with breakage using a hammer-drill, consider using a diamond hole bit similar to this ( )
And if you are cutting stone with a grinder, I would suggest getting a diamond blade for that as well. You will want to do a wet cut to keep the heat down; this will make the bit last a lot longer.
Joined Jun 29, 2004
426 points
Feb 27, 2016
I built a 20' wall for my son in our barn some 20 years ago, and just recently dismantled it and re-used some of the plywood panels in my son's home basement for a small scale woody. The holds he will use are the original manufactured resin holds from the original wall.

However, on the barn wall I used some discarded cultured stone pieces from job sites (I'm a building contractor). These are made from concrete with a relatively flat back side & a contoured/colored face. These are normally mortared to a stucco scratch coat on a house. They work really well, just drill with a small diameter masonry bit, then use square drive or Torx head coated deck screws to install on your wall. You can use them close to one another to simulate finger crack climbing between stones or simply install in any orientation that suits your style. Each stone will have many shapes from which to choose. We even used really tiny discarded chips (installed with 2 drywall screws to avoid rotation) for small crimpers!

I didn't really worry about countersinking the screw heads, since your hands are typically gripping the edges rather than the flat surfaces of the stones anyway.

The new woody has a 12' wide x 8' high vertical section, and an 8' wide x 8' high overhanging wall. My son is hoping his little kids will have fun on the wall while he's working out! There's even a shelf for storage behind the overhanging wall made by placing a 2'x8' sheet of plywood on the wall bracing.

Rock Climbing Photo: basement woody
basement woody
Patrick Corry
From PA
Joined Nov 9, 2015
75 points
Feb 27, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lich...
Years ago I had a friend who had a great bouldering gym in a barn/garage with about 14 feet of height. He had a great selection of commercial holds (for the time), but also made a lot himself. Some of our favorite holds were natural stone ones. I fondly remember the "Butter", a big smooth sloper, and the Pregnant Belly, a big cobble like a half a basketball. Some of the stone hold he drilled out, others he mounted onto scraps of high quality fiber board with epoxy. Sometimes it was best to router out or carve an indent to set the stone in. To attach the boards he would use two bolts with big washers, one through a hole and the other through a slot so he could align them with the T nuts. For jibs you can glue a bunch of smaller rocks onto a panel. Often these were more permanent and lower on the wall so just screws could be used for attaching to the wall.

In commercial gyms people are naturally going to use every hold in the easiest way, so a lot of bolt on rocks naturally become pinches. In a home gym you get the advantage that you can define the part of the hold you are going to use, say just the top, no thumb underneath, so you get the most out of the unique features of the natural holds.

As beerbreeder alludes to, you do want to consider where you place the larger stone holds as they are less predictable in their breakage than commercial holds and are usually much denser.
M Sprague
From New England
Joined Nov 9, 2006
6,300 points
Mar 1, 2016
I'm not sure about the crack idea, but standalone holds are a cool idea. We had a full set at my old gym for setting 'real' rock problems. Choose quality stone and definitely insure that the backside is flat and perpendicular to the bolt. We cracked a plywood sheet because the one of our rock holds was too round and flexed the board. A drill press would make things easier. ClimbHunter
From Nevada City, CA
Joined Nov 22, 2013
16 points
Mar 1, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Mt Shasta summit
Real rock holds on Ebay Chase D
Joined Apr 27, 2015
214 points
Mar 2, 2016
The gym that I climb at has some holds that are basically small-medium sized rocks (think like fist-sized or maybe like softball sized) with bolt holes drilled in them. Not sure what exactly type of rock they are, but they're awesome to climb on. They feel really natural since they're almost always much colder to the touch than the resin holds.

I've never made any holds, but I would imagine it would be relatively simple to use a masonry bit or hammer drill to drill the bolt holes. Just gotta be careful not to shatter or crack the rock, I guess.
Quinn Baker
Joined Mar 2, 2016
0 points

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