How High are Climbing Walls on Average?

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Climbing walls always seem to advertise their tallest wall, but if you’re just getting into climbing, the tallest wall may seem intimidating. Is the tallest wall really the best wall? What makes a good climbing wall? How tall can a climbing wall even be? We’re going to answer these questions and more in this article on the height of climbing walls. If you’ve ever wondered what makes climbing walls different from regular walls with holds stuck on them, this is the place for you!

How Important is the Height of Climbing Walls?How Important is the Height of Climbing Walls?

Although the height of a climbing wall is considered to be super important by some, it is not the only defining factor in what makes a good climbing wall. One of the most important things to think about when judging how good or how bad a climbing wall is is how many different styles of routes the wall can offer. Some gyms specialize in a certain style over others, but most gyms have a variety of options.

Although height can give you space to work out some pretty interesting moves, a tall yet skinny wall isn’t great. Width is another thing to think about with climbing walls. There needs to be enough room for a variety of routes. Climbing walls generally are at least 20 feet wide but can be hundreds of feet wide, if the space allows it. This gives a huge worksurface to create the best routes and moves.

What are Climbing Walls Made Of?

What are Climbing Walls Made Of?

Climbing walls can be made from a variety of materials. Many walls have wooden bases with synthetic plaster holds bolted into them. Other walls are made from fiberglass or even a concrete-like material covering a metal wire structure underneath.

Generally, the material that a wall is made from will be a contributing factor in determining how strong the wall will be. A wall that is just used for top-rope climbing or for bouldering doesn’t need to be as strong as a wall that is used for lead climbing. These walls are cheaper to build and don’t require a large number of reinforcements of the back of the wall, making them a more affordable option and a more space-efficient option for someone looking to construct a wall with minimal money and space.

 

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In order for a wall to be able to have lead climbing on it, the wall must be strong enough to hold the force of a lead fall. This also means that the bolts put into the wall must be backed well and placed in extremely secure surfaces. Generally, these walls are more expensive and take more space, but are also more popular since they are able to offer a wide variety of activities.

If you wanted to build a home climbing wall for you to boulder on, you could use a plaster base to create holds and a wooden board or the side of your house to secure them into. Another great option is to shape holds for your wall out of wood, giving the wall a more natural appearance.

 

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There are also some more obscure climbing walls that are made of clear acrylic or even some walls that are built onto the sides of buildings, silos, or dams. Climbing walls can really be made of any material that is able to hold the force created by the pull on the holds, if you only need a wall for bouldering and top-rope climbing, or the force created by a lead fall, for a lead climbing wall. Although there are some common materials, such as wood or plaster-based materials, they can really be made out of anything.

What is the Minimum Height for Wall Climbing?

What is the Minimum Height for Wall Climbing?

The minimum height for a climbing wall depends on what is going to be happening on that wall. The height of a bouldering wall will be vastly different from the height of a top-rope or lead climbing wall, so the minimum height will be different as well.

Bouldering Walls

 

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Bouldering walls are generally at least 10 feet high since this height allows a few moves before you reach the top of the wall. Shorter bouldering walls tend to have more routes that traverse the wall and more routes with a sit-start. Sit-start routes allow you to take full advantage of every foot of space on a shorter bouldering wall.

Top-Rope Walls

A wall that is exclusively for top-rope, not lead climbing, is generally at least 20 feet high. This doesn’t mean that you won’t find the odd wall that is shorter than this, but a majority of top-rope walls will be taller than this. Top-rope climbing walls are generally between 30 and 40 feet, for the shorter walls, since this gives a good amount of space for moves before you reach the top of the climb.

Lead Climbing Walls

The shortest lead climbing walls that you are likely to find will be at least 25 or 30 feet. Lead climbing walls tend to be taller than top-rope only walls since lead falls can be more dangerous when the climber is closer to the ground and still running the risk of a ground fall. This means that a good lead climbing wall will generally be closer to 40 feet tall or taller to allow for plenty of room for moves and plenty of safe places to fall.

Overhanging Walls

Overhanging walls are their own beast. Regardless of if the overhang is on a lead climbing wall or a bouldering wall, many gyms have overhangs set in areas where they are physically restricted by the building or space they have from being able to build too high. An overhanging climb can feel long, since you climb out as well as up, so a shorter overhang can still be an amazing climbing area.

What is the Maximum Height of a Climbing Wall?

What is the Maximum Height of a Climbing Wall?

Climbing walls have average heights, but in recent years walls have continued to get taller and taller. Generally, if you go to an indoor climbing gym, the roped climbing area, regardless of if it is top-rope or lead climbing, will be between 40 and 60 feet, with the average height being around 50 feet. This height allows for a good variety of moves to be created by the holds placed on the wall and gives the climber a good, long challenge.

This average is a number that applies to indoor climbing walls, but climbing walls are starting to pop up outdoors more and more. Many old silos and dams now have climbing walls built-in or on them, allowing the walls to reach over 100 feet. Some places around the world have built massive outdoor climbing walls, unattached from any building. Routes on these outdoor climbing walls can reach over 250 feet up in a few cases, making them multi-pitch wall climbs.

 

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Here is an amazing climbing wall built in an old silo.

 

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This climbing wall is built on the outside of an old cooling tower in Germany. It’s 130 feet high!

 

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The Manchester Climbing Center is built inside an old church, giving the space some pretty cool lighting.

 

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This is the Excalibur Tower, a 120-foot freestanding outdoor climbing wall that is almost as impressive to look at as it is to climb.

This is only a small selection of the odd climbing walls that are out there around the world, and with the massive increase in the popularity of rock climbing in recent years, it’s not uncommon for new and exciting walls to be popping up in the place of an old wall. Climbing wall designers want to make the next new thing. They want the attention on their wall for its odd features or strange location or materials, so while climbing walls used to be much more uniform, they are now stretching the imagination of what a climbing wall is.

What’s the Maximum Indoor Bouldering Height?

What’s the Maximum Indoor Bouldering Height?

Indoor bouldering is often slightly safer than outdoor bouldering to work taller boulder problems, since the mat is not a small movable pad, but is instead a large mat that is built into the floor, minimizing any cracks or seams. This allows indoor bouldering walls to be quite tall sometimes, but the average indoor bouldering wall height is in the range of 15 to 20 feet. Some walls can have high-ball areas that can reach slightly over 20 feet, even up to 25 feet in some cases, but most aren’t nearly that high.

One of the contributing factors to determining the height of an indoor bouldering wall, besides the obvious climbing wall safety standards, is mitigating the liability in the case of injury for the climbing wall. Indoor climbing, like outdoor climbing, can be dangerous, so climbing walls will often try to find a balance between having a one-of-a-kind challenge or a crazy cool known feature and the liability of injuries associated with it. This is part of what mediates the height of indoor bouldering walls.

Are High Climbing Walls Better?

Are High Climbing Walls Better?

Higher doesn’t always equal better, but a higher climbing wall does allow for more space to build routes on. A higher climbing wall does require more climbing wall safety equipment and more support for the wall itself, so there are a lot of things to consider when looking at the size of a wall.

Higher climbing walls do often give the climber a greater sense of adventure and fear, since you are up higher, so if adventure is how you consider one wall good and another wall bad, then the height is a huge determining factor. But, if you have a high wall and a bad route-setter than a high wall is just more of a bad thing. It takes a lot of work to be able to design a good indoor climbing route, and the taller the route, the more that needs to be designed.

Limitations of Climbing Walls

Limitations of Climbing Walls

Many of the limitations of climbing walls are about the type of climbing wall safety equipment available for the size of space and for a particular price point. Climbing walls sustain a large amount of force, both from people continually pulling on the holds, but also from lead falls. This picture does a great job of illustrating one option for structural support that can be implemented to the backside of a climbing wall. This climbing wall support design is quite popular, where the space allows it.

 

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Another limitation of climbing walls is the price of the materials available. Most climbing walls use colorful plastic holds to create the routes. This option is cost-effective, allows for a large number of options for routes and features, and can be used to create a particular design, such as a monotone route. Climbing wall design and appearance play a huge role in many decisions.

The holds pictured here are a good example of a selection of colorful plastic holds that many climbing walls use. This picture also includes the nuts and bolts that are used to hold the holds onto the wall securely.

 

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If a climbing wall chooses to minimize the amount of colorful plastic holds on their wall, they can oftentimes create features, such as cracks, into the wall when they are building it. This allows the wall to look more natural and less artificial but doesn’t allow the staff to have as much flexibility when changing up routes on the wall. The artificial rock used on climbing walls can’t be moved the same way that holds are able to be.

Wrapping Things Up: How High are Climbing Walls on Average?

There really is no one answer to the average climbing wall height. With top-rope and lead climbing walls averaging around 40 to 60 feet and bouldering walls averaging around 15 to 20 feet, climbing walls have a huge range in heights. Remember, though, that it’s not just about the height. A good climbing wall can be short if the routes are well designed, the problems are challenging and offer a variety of movements, and the wall is safe and secure.

If you found this helpful, you’ll love our other climbing tips here.

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