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Building a Home Wall: A 3-Part Guide

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Home walls are the original climbing gyms, and while they’ve certainly lost market share over the last few decades, they remain a worthwhile investment for climbers who don’t live close to gyms or don’t like the gyms they live close to.

Here, Rich Crowder, a Photographic Editor for Patagonia, walks you through his process of building a home wall. He talks about cost, materials, intended use, holds, lighting, setting tactics, and additional amenities (such as a beer fridge). These articles are not meant to be a comprehensive how-to guide. You can consult YouTube for that. Instead, they’re a “rain-soaked Oregon climber’s” thoughtful articulation of what he learned during the construction process. And they serve as an outline of things you should think about before you get started on a wall of your own.

Part I. Planning and Construction

“The thought of building a woody has floated through most climbers’ minds,” writes Rich Crowder, before adding that, while “a home wall is a lot of work, money, and maintenance,” it’s also “TOTALLY worth it.”

In part 1 of his three part series, he gives a rundown of “the hows and whys for taking the plunge into the world of the woody.” He also talks about everything from space requirements and cost to T-nut spacing and how your choice of design should reflect your intended use for the wall.

Part II. Choosing Holds

Here, in Part II, Crowder dives into one of the most underappreciated hurdles facing of new home-wallers: holds.

“There is a deluge of choice in the climbing hold market,” he writes. “It can overwhelm anyone. The number of hold shaping companies has seemingly doubled over the past decade. Your preferences are likely influenced by your local gym. Lately, enormous holds and features are trendy. The reality is that you don’t need a Planet Granite-sized budget to set your modest woody. So where do you start?”

Buying holds is both expensive and tricky. Most of the time you’re buying them online without testing them in person. Crowder walks you through his wide-ranging criteria for hold-buying, talks about why he went with the sets some of the sets that he did, and gives a thoughtful reviews on each of those sets.

Part III. Route Setting

For many home-wallers, this might be the first time you’ve actually set your own boulders, and while this is exciting, it’s also burdensome. All of a sudden you’ve got to learn to entertain yourself.

As Crowder writes, “The majority of climbers can agree that a tall, freestanding block with a solitary line and unique feature can set the table for a five-star classic. Unfortunately, home walls rarely have any of that. Comparing a home wall problem even to a commercial gym problem can be disappointing. Here are a few tips to keep the problems fresh and engaging in a crammed and contrived venue.”