DIY Climbing Wall: Part 1

So many weird and wonderful (and kind of unexpected) things have happened to me in the last year, not the least of which is that sometimes I do this now…


Like, I’ve left the farm on more than one occasion to go climb things that are not ladders or scaffolding or my roof, and while it’s not so weird that I spend my free time climbing precarious shit (I mean,  obviously), it is weird for me to willingly leave the farm.

And, yet, I’ve already got my next trip planned.

Climbing has given me a great reason to work out new muscles and to go on adventures with my brother and my friends, and, because I’m me, to build some new shit…


You know, I can’t help myself, and I don’t even try anymore. One of the great joys in my life is that I have the skills and tools (and space) to build whatever I dream up, and what I’ve been dreaming about for the better part of a year is my own climbing wall out in the big barn.


And, listen, I did not start building a climbing wall for the better part of year because I’m fully aware that half of my house is still torn up. I don’t have a kitchen floor, or an upstairs bathroom, and I haven’t even started on the master suite or residing the back side of the house.

Also, I haven’t had time for frivolous projects because I’ve been digging post holes for what feels like forever with the chicken run, and vineyard trellis, and the new greenhouse foundation. And you know what? I hate digging post holes, but I do that shit because I love this farm and it needs to be done. But a few weeks ago after spending five hours trying to get the auger to cut through the clay out in my garden for that greenhouse foundation I was finally like EFF THIS, I’M GOING TO GO BUILD SOMETHING FUN. So I did.


Here’s the thing about DIYing a climbing wall. I’m licensed to build actual houses, so I feel really confident in my ability to design and construct a wall that won’t collapse under its own weight and crush me, but because I’m building it in a non-standard way (attached to the framing of a pole barn) I’m not going to give any lumber dimensions or advice about how to build your own wall… you’d really have to understand the structural reasons behind why I did what I did to adapt it for building anywhere else. But, for the curious, I will tell you about what I did to get started (and what I’m planning to do next.)

First, my wall is going to be 12′ tall, and take up a 14×12′ corner of my pole barn.

I started by framing out some support walls that I attached to the existing frame of the barn. Also, it’s been years since I’ve framed out walls, and I’ve never framed out 12′ walls and then tried to lift them in place by myself…


It was actually a blast. I forgot how much I love rough framing. And, also, super glad I’ve be lifting a lot of weights for the last few years. It turns out my barn– like everything else in my life– is not exactly square, so on more than one occasion I had to pull a wall down, adjust, and then lift it in to place again with the sheer force of all the swear words in my vocabulary…


I also decided to build a platform to keep the crash pads off the concrete floor, both because it’s a little bit softer of a landing and because there’s some moisture that gets into the barn occasionally. (My the way, my mom was instrumental in framing the floor and attaching the subfloor… she doesn’t love building but I convince her to use the big tools every once in a while.) At this point I basically had a blank canvas, and it was time to work on building out the features of my wall. First, a 15-degree overhang on one section of the wall, which required a fair amount of wine math.


Then I build out the framing for the first section of the wall…


Once I had the framing up, I tested it out in the most scientific way possible.


Seems good.

Then I prepped the sheathing for the wall. (Industry standard is 3/4″ plywood, and I used a pressure-treated version because the barn is enclosed but not totally weatherproof.) Prepping included drilling a lot of holes in each sheet of plywood (in a 6″ offset pattern which is about 120-ish holes per board.) And then I installing t-nuts into each hole, which is how many of the bolted-on climbing holds will be attached.


After the t-nuts were in place I attached the sheathing to my framing with a whole lot of deck screws. I managed to get the first two pieces of sheathing on myself by screwing a ledger board into place temporarily (and then putting a climbing hold on the sheathing for better grip), lifting the plywood in to place, and then using a 2×4 to brace it while I put in the screws.


(Yes, I did bolt on a climbing hold and use it as a handle while I did this.) The third piece of sheathing went up the same way, except my neighbor happened to walk in the barn right before I tried crushing myself to death walking up the ladder with it, so he and his friend lifted the plywood into place while I braced and screwed it it. And then came time for the fun part… climbing!


Except I still haven’t figured out how to set a route that my little brother can’t climb on his first try… I’m going to get him eventually though. I also still need to frame out the second section of wall (with a big overhang) and sheath it. Then I’ll be using wood filler on the joints, texturing, and painting the wall before it’s done. I’m also using a small crash pad at the moment, but I fully intend to upgrade and create a foam floor covered in vinyl. Since this is one of my “fun” projects, a lot of that work will take a back seat to things like re-building the greenhouse and prepping the farm for winter. But, even with this little section of wall complete, it’s one of my new favorite places to hang out on the farm…


28 Responses

  1. “You know, I can’t help myself, and I don’t even try anymore. One of the great joys in my life is that I have the skills and tools (and space) to build whatever I dream up” HearHear!

    Holy Shit…. that’s a LOT of Tnuts!

    Great Post

  2. This is so seriously cool. I am glad you took the time to do something that is fun for you – ongoing fun, at that. Inspiring in so many ways.

  3. This project looks really complex. I admire your passion, perseverance & courage! Also, I’d love to read how will you secure the wall so that it’s safe for children. Greetings!

  4. To be honest, this is absolutely cool. I wouldn’t do this though..not because of anytime but because I’m afraid of height. And I’m sure this will take up a significant time and effort too. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Love your energy and enthusiasm, can’t wait for your next post! Too many bloggers out there with 2 stoves in their kitchen (2!) who order meals thru online delivery services…or 2 dishwashers, or obsess over replacing a perfectly good chandelier! So superficial…thanks for being REAL!

  6. I just can’t seem to skip a day without reading your blog. Everything in it just fascinates me, specially that you are able to send the message across very well. Thanks again Kit!

  7. Nice post. very unique and interesting project. Thank you for sharing this informatic post.

  8. I didn’t expect that someone can actually build a DIY wall climbing building. Thank you for sharing this, it is truly inspirational.

  9. Climbing just makes you feel good not just in the long term when you start to see the results on your muscle tone, you can feel the results while climbing or soon after! Of course you get a rush when you complete a climb, especially one you felt that you might not be able to do.

  10. One of the great strengths in building a climbing wall is that it doesn’t have to be complicated and it can be made accessible in all kinds of spaces,” Brita says. “You don’t need a minimum ceiling height.” For lower ceilings, Brita suggests moving out horizontally, or adding volumes, forms that project outward from the wall for added terrain.

  11. I had no clue how to climb or improve at climbing when I first started. Luckily, my gym offered an adult (non-competitive) climbing “team” that met twice per week. It cost me extra to sign up but it was worth the money.

  12. Climbing will provide you a total body workout, incorporating the use of several muscle groups simultaneously. During a rock climb, you can expect to engage your abdominals, obliques, deltoids, trapesius muscles, biceps, latissimus dorsi , quadriceps, calves and even your fingers.

  13. Wow what a cool & creative thing to do whilst in iso! Can’t wait to get started but I think I’ll need to improve my fitness if I want to get good at wall climbing!

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.