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What are Outdoor Climbing Walls?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Outdoor climbing walls are manmade structures with hand and footholds embedded across the surface for ease of climbing. They are built from a variety of durable manufactured materials such as concrete and fiberglass. They may be pre-assembled into panels and transported for assembly on location, or they can be molded on site to fit a specific design or architectural need. These walls range in difficulty between beginner and experienced for climbers.

The surface of outdoor climbing walls may be constructed from durable fiberglass, molded concrete, or polyresin. Each material offers different benefits and drawbacks, and is designed to fit the needs and budget of the purchaser. The level of difficulty intended by the climbing experience may also play a role in determining which type of material is used to create the wall.

Fiberglass outdoor climbing walls are often mounted to a heavy, steel frame substructure, and are designed to resemble real rock surfaces. This material is the most expensive to install, and creates a realistic rock faced architectural feature. The hand and footholds are built into the surface of the panel to appear as small indentations and clefts that seem to occur naturally. The wall can be constructed with overhangs, bridges, and pinacles to challenge advanced climbers.

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Molded concrete outdoor climbing walls simulate the feel and texture of real rock and can be designed to fit any space or structural need. Unlike fiberglass and polyresin, this material is molded to a template and is not assembled through the panel method. It is often cast onsite so that the material can harden into the finished desired shape without risking damage during transportation. The hand and footholds are shaped by hand to resemble natural rock face relief features. This type of wall may be used to train intermediate climbers in preparation for real life outdoor scenarios.

Polyresin panels are the least expensive type of material used to construct outdoor climbing walls. The panels are either flat or curved and may be assembled in a jigsaw manner on any flat outdoor surface. Hand and footholds are shaped to resemble discs and ledges, and may be multicolored to stand out in contrast against the color of the wall. These walls are also excellent for beginning climbers, because they do not feature pinnacles and overhangs, and handholds are visually easy to locate.

Outdoor climbing walls may be freestanding in the shape of a multi-sided tower, or designed around an existing structure, such as the open wall of a building. They are generally manned by a trained staff of rock climbers who advise participants on different climbing techniques. The trainer attaches himself to the participant using durable nylon rope and harnesses, so that he uses the weight of his body on the ground to stop a climber's fall in case of an accident. Rock climbing facilities often charge a flat fee for use of the wall, equipment, and time of a professional climber for a set amount of time.

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