Homebrew: Cheap DIY Adjustable Bouldering Wall

The Drytooling Ladder still works great (article here: https://www.thealpinestart.com/2015/04/build-a-cheap-climbing-ladder/) but I wanted something more interesting to train for rockclimbing. I had a couple evenings free after work, so now I have an adjustable bouldering wall drawbridge!

If you read through the article on how to build the cheapo climbing ladder, you already know the restrictions I’m working under from a construction perspective. I rent my place, and I can’t mount anything into the cement walls. I also can’t make a ton of holes in the exposed wood. My ceilings aren’t that high, only about 7.5 feet to work with, and because there’s a climbing ladder in the way now, I have 8 feet across of free space remaining. I also need to be able to easily take down and remove anything I put up, and I don’t want to break the bank on whatever I build.

With such a small space to work with, I decided I needed something adjustable to keep it interesting. This is where the drawbridge idea comes in. I have it set up so that I can lower the wall incrementally to increase challenge over time as I get stronger. Provided it is always kept at an overhang (which mine always will be because the ceiling is low enough that I can’t stand it fully upright) and you have some weight in the base, the bottom stays in place. With a properly sized wedge in the back the top of the wall is stopped from moving around.

Much like the ladder, this ain’t rocket science. It’s a wall, on an angle, anchored at the ceiling. There are a million variations that you can build, and no wrong answers (provided your anchors are strong). The idea here is to show you what I built to give you some ideas of what you could build and adapt to your own needs and available space.

Onwards, to the build!

 

Materials:

Two 4×8 sheets 3/4 inch plywood (smooth one side)

Nine 2×4’s + a few scraps of 2×6 and 2×4

Two heavy duty gauge steel chain (more if anchoring off more spots)

Four heavy duty steel threaded eyebolts with nuts (more if anchoring off more spots)

Twelve large washers (more as needed)

Construction Screws (2 inch and 3 inch) – A whole bunch of them

T Nuts (I put 60 per panel because that’s how many I had, so 120 total)

Climbing Holds (I have 50, including little footholds)

Scrap Locking Carabiners

 

Tools:

Pretty much the same as the drytooling ladder… except this time I had some help from friends!

Cordless drill with 3/8th’s inch Spade Bit & Robertson bit (also a step bit for clearing tnut holes if you have one makes life alot easier!)

Utility knife

Marker

Speedsquare/Measuring Tape

Hammer

Circular Saw

 

STEP 1: Figure out the size of the space you have to work with and the dimensions of your build.

Figure out the sizing of your space and the dimensions you have to work with using your measuring tape. I had 8 feet across and 8 feet up to work with, minus some on the top because of the rafters. I knew that there was a ceiling vent that I had to space my support beams around, which left my spacing just a little off a standard framing spacing of 16 inches between each board. I knew I wanted two 4×8 panels of holds, so that effectively gave me an 8×8 square to build.

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8×8 climbing square is about all the room I have to work with

STEP 2: Drill holes and hammer T-Nuts

After you know where you will be putting your support beams, you can mod your tnut grid accordingly. I had 120 tnuts, and found that a grid of 6×10 holes per sheet of 4×8 plywood gives me a nice grid to work with. I clamped my sheets of plywood together so I only had to drill 1 grid.

It is important to drill your holes straight. Take your time.

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If you don’t have Drill Press jig to ensure you are drilling straight, or a level on the drill, just take your time and make sure you are drilling as straight as you can

Don’t worry about the exact spacing of your grid, just eyeball it and it’ll be good enough. Just figure out one line up and down and one line across using a measuring tape so that you get enough holes for your desired number of Tnuts.

Clean out any breakthrough on the other side of your drilled holes with either a utility knife of a Step Bit if you have one.

Hammer in the Tnuts on the opposite side from the side you want to be your climbing side. I recommend ear protection for this… by the time you hammer in 120 of them or more you go kind of deaf.

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About a million hammer strikes later you too will have a board full of T-Nuts!

STEP 3: Mount your Vertical Support Boards, bottom board, and backing boards

I put my boards out and zipped in a couple screws per board just to hold them in place so that the other boards could be mounted.

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After all your vertical boards are secured with a few screws, mount a board running along the bottom of vertical support boards. This will be the board the wall pivots on, so make sure your screws are flush or even sunk in a little bit.

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Recruiting a few friends with some extra drills speeds up the securing part quite a bit

After the vertical boards and the bottom board are mounted, you can put a few boards spanning horizontally the entire back of the wall and attach with a couple screws at each vertical board. I put three horizontal backing boards spaced approx 2 feet apart. You could also cut up a bunch of small pieces to screw in between your main boards, whatever you feel you need to get the stiffness required for your wall.

STEP 4: Drill and Attach your Anchor, and raise your wall!

For my anchor I used some heavy duty eyebolts and some thick guage chain. I attached the bolts with an extra bracing piece of wood both on the climbing wall and on the ceiling rafter to help beef up the anchor. I ran the chain through the eyebolt, and then have a scrap carabiner acting as a jammer to stop the chain. This is what makes the whole system adjustable.

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A chain secured through the eyebolt with a carabiner jammer keeps it from descending, and keeps it adjustable!

Once you have your anchor built on both wall and ceiling, raise that wall high! This is where friends come in handy!

STEP 5: Build a Wedge for the back of the wall and weight the bottom

I put some loose freeweights lying against bottom to keep it from moving around, and I made a wedge for the back to snug the wall outwards so it doesn’t bounce around at the top.

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A few scraps of 2×6 and wedged in keeps the top from bouncing back

STEP 6: Put some padding down, mount some holds and get climbing!

That’s all there is to it! Again, this isn’t rocket science, and there are a million different variations on this theme that could be built. Play around with the ideas here, adapt them to your own space, and come up with something cool!

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Have fun!

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