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. (March 2015)
An indoor rock climbing wall in the UK
showing moulded features and coloured route markers
A climbing wall is an artificially constructed wall with grips for hands and feet, usually used for indoor climbing, but sometimes located outdoors. Some are brick or wooden constructions, but on most modern walls, the material most often used is a thick multiplex board with holes drilled into it. Recently, manufactured steel and aluminum have also been used. The wall may have places to attach belay ropes, but may also be used to practise lead climbing or bouldering.
Each hole contains a specially formed t-nut to allow modular climbing holds to be screwed onto the wall. With manufactured steel or aluminum walls, an engineered industrial fastener is used to secure climbing holds. The face of the multiplex board climbing surface is covered with textured products including concrete and paint or polyurethane loaded with sand. In addition to the textured surface and hand holds, the wall may contain surface structures such as indentions (incuts) and protrusions (bulges), or take the form of an overhang, underhang or crack.
Some grips are formed to mimic the conditions of outdoor rock, including some that are oversized and can have other grips bolted onto them.
The earliest artificial climbing walls were typically small concrete faces with protrusions made of medium-sized rocks for hand holds. Schurman Rock in Seattle, WA is believed to be the first artificial climbing structure in the United States, constructed in 1939.
The modern artificial climbing wall began in the UK. The first wall was created in 1964 by Don Robinson, a lecturer in Physical Education at the University of Leeds, by inserting pieces of rock into a corridor wall. He went on to found DR International Climbing Walls in 1975, of which he is still Chairman and Executive Director. The first commercial wall was built in Sheffield, traditionally England's centre for climbing due to its proximity to the Peak District. The first indoor climbing gym in the U.S. was established by Vertical World in Seattle, WA in 1987.