December 07, 2022 5 min read

photo cred: Blake Coudriet (@bc_low on Instagram)

It’s winter time again for us folks in North America. For those who love skiing or snowboarding–it’s your time to shine! For those who like to stay inside during the colder months, we got you covered, too. We asked our dream team member Krystin how she survives the Seattle winters, and she came back to us with a DIY project to stay fit and have indoor fun.   

Here is how to build an at home rock wall, the ultimate winter DIY project:

Photo cred: @BC_LOW

What first gave you the idea to build a climbing wall?

The winters in Seattle are pretty dark and wet, so my husband Peter and I try to find a balance of night skiing and climbing gym time mid-week. This balance is important to us to stay in shape for both sports. We moved away from Seattle and out to North Bend to be closer to the mountains at the end of 2020. With the move, we are about 45 minutes away from all of the climbing gyms in the Seattle and Bellevue area. It made sense for us to build some sort of climbing training wall at our house so that we can climb whenever we want and not have to motivate and drive far to get to a gym.

How long has the project taken to come together from the first concept until now?

We have always talked about the need to build a home wall since we planned to move to North Bend. Once we moved in December of 2020, we slowly made plans of where to put the shed in our backyard and the general size and shape of the structure and looking into permitting rules. Peter designed the shed in Solid Works (he is a mechanical engineer) and then we started actual construction of the shed in August 2021 and finished roofing the shed on Halloween 2021, one day before it started raining and snowing in the PNW for many months straight. 

Since finishing the outside structure, we spent most of the Winter and Spring 2022 piecing together collecting foam, holds, and wall materials. We completed hanging the climbing walls in June and installed the crash pads in July. We finished putting up siding and painting the exterior ourselves in September 2022. Start-to-finish building the shed plus walls and crash pad was about 12-13 months, with 6 months of dreaming and design work up front. The construction has been mainly Peter with my help, and we've had some incredible help/extra hands from a few of our best friends: Blake, Yulia, Hector, and Hedvig.

Any updates or improvements on the project that are still on the to do list?

We still have one wall to complete! We want to put in a training wall that is maybe 10 degrees overhung with campus rungs, hang boards, and other training circuits. We also plan to create some sort of hammock style seating that can be a soft material that hangs from the sides of the wall to provide soft seating that won't get in the way of climbing. Eventually, we might insulate the shed but for now we have a little space heater that works well for winter evening climbing sessions.

How did you choose materials to use in this project?

We chose materials for the climbing shed entirely based on the ability to up-cycle second hand materials that would have otherwise gone to a landfill or that were being re-sold for second use. Both Peter and I are always thinking about ways to reduce consumption of new materials, and strive to make the best choices we can to select sustainable materials or re-use and recycle materials that might be considered trash to someone else. 

All of the foam, wall panels, and volume holds are second hand materials from HEST, The Collective, other local rock gyms, or builders that we wanted to re-purpose, and the majority of our holds are factory seconds from a few climbing hold manufacturers. Even our shed door is repurposed from our friend Mike who bought a house that had a random extra giant door with frame leaning against the side of his garage that ended up being perfect to fit in our giant doorway. 

Some of the cooler materials we got to use in the climbing shed: HEST two-layer memory foam damaged pieces from the warehouse used in stacks that provide high and low density layers to soften impacts for bouldering falls. Ballistic nylon fabric up-cycled from Ideology to create a crash pad cover. This material was chosen to use the remaining material from an older project and because of its high durability and strength. This material does an incredible job protecting the foam from chalk, sweat, and moisture and it is easy to vacuum chalk and dirt from the surface. Climbing holds that were hand shaped by Peter with extra pieces of scrap wood. A few of our holds were even handmade by Peter using an algae-based polyurethane (bio-based plastic).

How did you build the custom crash pad?

I have an old back injury from a bad climbing fall, so we wanted to be very thorough in finding a seamless and well designed crash pad for the entire surface of the shed floor. Zac at HEST and IDeology Design helped with our crash pad design and their industrial designer Hedvig hand sewed the crash pad covers for us in June for us to wrap the HEST foam. It was a team effort and we were lucky to have some of the best resources to get the job done correctly!

What was the space used for before?

We built the whole shed from the ground up in our backyard! We had to transplant a Rhododendron tree to make the space in the yard but we are excited to have it in an optimal location very close to home.

How much did the design change once you started building it?

Originally we planned to make an adjustable wall for the main overhang wall, but the more we thought about the complexity of that build the more we liked the idea of keeping the angle at 25 degrees to make the wall difficult/overhung, but forgiving enough to train on smaller holds even if we are feeling less strong than peak climbing shape. That is really the only thing that has changed since our initial design concept.

how Does the performance of the memory foam feel now that you've climbed on it?

The HEST foam layering for the crash pads works perfect. We worked with the HEST designers to chat about some work they've done in the past researching climbing crash pad impacts, and we were able to optimize the layering to be stiff enough to not roll ankles easily, but soft enough to protect big impacts from the top of the wall. I've fallen a few times straight on my back from the top of the wall and the pads are perfect to protect a climber from any injury. We've joked a few times that we could rent the climbing shed as an extra bedroom to friends. ;)

You can follow more of Krystin's adventures on Instagram: @krystinnorman

Photo cred: @BC_LOW