Giant Volume

August 18, 2021
By: Randall Chapman

Back when I owned the old climbing gym in Grand Junction, I had a fun canvas to work with. Previous owners had built some interesting features. They worked with the space they had which often meant building around structural supports and in old office spaces, this led to two big bouldering caves with a lot of roof climbing. One cave had a roof 8’ wide and about 20’ long with a nasty shallow off width crack running through it. The other cave had about 8’X10’ of roof, both dead flat with little to no feature to them. One day my wheels started turning and I started to think of ways I could add some feature to one of these dead flat roofs, I designed a giant wooden volume that could be moved around from time to time.

Over the years of owning the gym I noticed that as routes were set, they often filled the walls and went up onto the roof usually ending one or two moves into it leaving the center empty. I couldn’t blame the route setters, a fun, long roof route is fun from time to time but setting it is daunting and really only a few people even climb them more than once after they get them. However, a cool feature like a stalactite hanging down provides an aesthetic that inspires both setters and climbers alike. The addition of this roof feature made the cave much more popular and it was a fun project to work on. Every 6 months we striped all the routes in the cave and rotavated the feature giving a fresh new feel to the room and it inspired the setters to come up with new ways to move around the feature.

I started off by drawing up ideas in Autocad, unfortunately I lost the file. With this drawing I was able to get all of my angles and do a little tweaking of the design till it matched my vision. From here the construction was simple, I forget how big it was exactly but it was about 6’ long, 4.5’ wide and hung down about 2’.  I made it out of 3/4″ plywood with 2X4 ribs for structure. 

I painted it with Deck Restore, a thick texture paint sold at Lowe’s Depot intended for painting old wood decks that were loosing their usefulness. It was a decent product and it held up to climber traffic for several years. 

Once mouted, routes were set and fun ensued. This feature was big enough I once set a route that circled the feature never leaving it and no hold was used twice, except for as feet. 

Over the years I made several, simpler features. Here are a couple of examples. These were quick and simple but they added a lot to the setting at the gym. 

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