The indoor climbing wall industry has exploded in the past 20 years, and new gyms are open every day. The youth competitive climbing teams are becoming an interesting alternative to traditional children’s group sports. Indoor climbing wall will become an official Olympic sport in 2020, which will only generate more demand for indoor climbing experience. Climbing gyms started as a way for outdoor climbers to train during off-seasons.
Many people believe that Don Robinson was the first to build an indoor climbing structure, but this is a myth. The first indoor climbing wall was created at The Ullswater School in Penrith, England in 1960. Their climbing wall was constructed in the school’s new gym and used bricks and stone for hand and foot holds. This structure even had a top-rope bar.
Don Robinson created his iconic wall at the Leeds University in 1964. He had witnessed experienced climbers injuring themselves due to lack of training during the off-seasons, and decided to try to make a training tool to prevent this. He used glued-on rocks and stones on an existing brick wall to simulate movements that climbers would make outside.
In 1987, the climbing gym fad reached the U.S. In Seattle, an old factory was renovated and opened as the first American climbing gym, Vertical World, and is still operating today. Technology is starting to change the indoor climbing wall world.
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