How to build an outdoor climbing wall

Written by christopher rogers
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How to build an outdoor climbing wall
Use a variety of climbing holds to set challenging routes. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Outdoor climbing walls range from simple single-panel designs to elaborate multi-panel construction with adjustable overhang. While walls with multiple pitches and dihedrals (inside corners) look impressive, a simple one-to-two panel expanse is a good place to start for home builders. With proper planning, building an outdoor wall does not have to break the bank and can provide many years of climbing fun.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • 1 4-by-8 foot panel of ACX 3/4-inch plywood
  • 8 2-by-4 by 8-foot studs
  • 6 4-inch bolts, 3/8-inch diameter
  • 12 nuts and washers for bolts
  • Self-drilling decking screws (1 5/8 inches)
  • Electric drill with 7/16-inch bit
  • Cordless screwdriver
  • Saw horses
  • Crescent wrench
  • Tape measure
  • Saw
  • Climbing holds with T-nuts

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    Frame the Panel

  1. 1

    Design your climbing wall and determine the types of holds you will require. This project constructs a single-panel freestanding wall.

  2. 2

    Lay one 2-by-4 stud on the sawhorses. Measure and cut in half to two 4-foot lengths.

  3. 3

    Place each 4-foot stud under the top and bottom edges of the plywood panel. The studs should align vertically, lengthwise, with a 2-inch side resting against the plywood's underside.

    How to build an outdoor climbing wall
    Textured paint creates realistic climbing surfaces. (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  4. 4

    Drill decking screws (6 to 8 inches apart) through the plywood into the 4-foot studs. Apply textured paint, if using.

  5. 5

    Flip the plywood over and measure the inside distance between both studs. This measurement should be approximately 7 feet 9 inches -- 8 feet minus the thickness of each stud.

  6. 6

    Lay three 2-by-4 studs onto the sawhorses. Measure and cut to the previous length (7 feet 9 inches).

  7. 7

    Flip the plywood back over and place one 7-foot 9-inch stud under each side edge. Drill decking screws (again, 6 to 8 inches apart) through the plywood into the 7-foot 9-inch studs.

    Finish the Panel

  1. 1

    Flip the panel face up. Measure the positions of 248 bolt-holes: 31 staggered vertical rows of eight holes across. The distances between holes and rows does not need to be exact, but try for a row every 3 inches and holes that are 6 inches apart. Use the 7/16-inch bit to drill the bolt-holes.

  2. 2

    Drill decking screws through the front panel into the last 7-foot 9-inch stud. Try to block as few holes as possible when centring the stud between the two sides.

  3. 3

    Lay two 2-by-4 studs on the sawhorses. Mark the left ends "A" and "C," and "B" and "D" on the right. Drill one hole three inches in from end A; drill 16 holes three inches apart from the other three ends. (The additional holes allow you to adjust the panel's angle.) Repeat with the remaining two studs.

  4. 4

    Drill two holes in each side stud of the climbing panel: one 5 inches from the bottom and another at 6 feet.

  5. 5

    Use a bolt, two nuts and two washers to secure the D ends of two studs to the 5-inch hole in the panel frame. Repeat with the B end of the last two studs. It helps to have a friend hold the panel as you complete this step. Note that your choice of hole in the B studs will determine the forward lean of the climbing wall. Place a breeze block under each D stud to prevent the panel from tipping over backwards.

  6. 6

    Screw in climbing holds using supplied T-nuts.

Tips and warnings

  • Apply textured climbing paint before construction to improve the aesthetics of your wall and prevent holds from spinning. Alternately, two pre-textured, 4-by-4-foot StoneAge climbing panels may be used in place of each plywood sheet.
  • Use wood glue when framing your panel for additional stability.
  • Bright-coloured holds will be easier to see when climbing outdoors.
  • Ask the routesetter at your local climbing gym for design tips.
  • Place crash pads or old mattresses on the ground under your wall to prevent falling injuries.

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