How to rejuvenate an old climbing wall

Posted by Rob Adie on 22/07/2010
Old walls can still be put to great use!

BMC Climbing Wall Officer Rob Adie takes a look at .

There are a lot of old style climbing walls out there on the ends of sports halls in leisure centres and schools just like the one in the picture on the right. A lot of these walls are not used anymore, however since indoor climbing is becoming much more popular, people are starting to want to use them again. Even though these walls are old fashioned and limited in their route setting options they can still be very valuable for introducing new climbers to the sport and for use as training venues.

One of the questions I get asked regularly by people who have the use of or manage one of these old style walls is how they can bring the wall back into use after it has not been used for a long time – i.e. what safety checks need to be made and what changes need to be made to make the wall safe to use. I get this question via e-mail or phone probably about 3 or 4 times a week.

So to answer this question, the first thing I would suggest is that if your building has a structural engineer assigned to it, contact them first, they will most likely have plans of the building and will know how the building was constructed and what would need testing. Secondly, I would suggest contacting the company that manufactured the wall if there is such a thing – a lot of these walls were constructed by a few keen climbers cementing bits of stone into the brickwork and pulling bricks out etc.- so many walls will not have a specific manufacturer to trace the construction back to. If there is I would suggest contacting them to do any necessary testing as they will have all the correct construction plans.

If this is not an option, then I would suggest you contact one if not all of the six larger climbing wall manufacturers in the UK, who are all members of the Climbing Wall Manufacturers Association (CWMA) – the contact details for all six can be found on their website. Send them an e-mail detailing all the information about the wall you have (include a digital photograph if you can), and tell them you need to give the wall a safety inspection and they will send you a quote for the work required.

You may also want to think about updating the wall as well. This can be done reasonably cheaply through the addition of some brightly coloured bolt on holds attached directly to the brick work, some fibreglass macro features and some articulated matting to add to the safety of the wall and prevent unauthorised access. (See the before and after pictures from an Entre-Prises climbing wall at Fishermore School, below) The CWMA manufacturers will be able to give you a quote for this sort of thing as well.

Fishermore School before - Photo Entre-PrisesFishermore School after - Photo Entre-Prises

When they come to test the wall, they will test all the load bearing anchors on the wall and replace them if necessary, they will check all the structural points on the wall and if the wall does have a framework to it, all this as well as the front face and bolt on holds will be checked as well. The wall will then be safe to start using again (so long as it has passed all the checks). It is then advisable to set-up some sort of maintenance programme so that you can get your wall checked on an annual basis, so you can keep using the wall well into the future.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the BMC. Also if you want to open your wall to the public then make sure you get it in the BMC Climbing Wall Directory – e-mail the details of your wall – how big, cost etc – here.



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