How to build a commercial grade Climbing wall. Part one.

Updated: Mar 4

Note from the Author: This post is now out of date. When I built the wall we built when Skyhook first opened, I was copying the building process of another local gym that opened ages ago. I didnt know enough at the time, and the design I built back by copying them was out of date when I did it, and is now about 20 years past modern "Best Practices". Check out our new website,, where we will soon post how modern walls are made today.

If you are curious how commercial climbing gym facilities build and design Climbing and Bouldering walls, look no further! So as tradition dictates, here is the final product first! This is the bouldering wall set up for a ninja competition we hosted here at Skyhook in February.

Bouldering wall
Our bouldering wall! this picture was taken during a Ninja Warrior competition, so most of the holds were down so people only had one route to worry about based on their age.

Our Bouldering wall closer to how it normally looks.
Our Bouldering wall closer to how it normally looks.

So let me start off by asking you a question. Have you ever wanted to create something? Not just build a bed or cool peice of art, but build something that will change peoples lives? If you ever wanted to make a difference in the world, then this story is for you. If you have never felt that way, feel free to skip this paragraph and keep looking through the rest of the build album.

I am posting this because it has been one year since Skyhook Ninja Fitness opened, and I was looking back through all of the pictures of where it started and decided to share a part of the journey that brought me to where we are now. I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, other then the fact that I knew I wanted to change the world. I have been a personal trainer for the last 5 and a half years, and did that to help pay for school. I went to school for premed, switched to pre-physical therapy, and then changed my major a couple more times. I started going to school for engineering, but all the while I was training people and opened a personal training studio out of my house. At the same time, I wanted to train for American Ninja Warrior, and finding no gyms in Oregon. I decided to start building my own obstacles. As my homemade obstacles slowly expanded, my clients interest in wanting to use them, one thing led to another, and Skyhook Ninja fitness was born.

I used my engineering knowledge and connection to design and fabricate the entire gym. My mission was to build a community dedicated to physical and emotional growth through fun, functional fitness. My goal is to start with one gym, then slowly spread across the nation until we have changed the world.

Solidworks climbing wall design
The first draft of our climbing wall in Solidworks

So here is where our journey starts, a design in Solidworks! I know there are better programs out there for this, but I had learned Solidworks in school, and most importantly, knew a PE (professional Engineer) who used solidworks and could check my work and then stamp it for me. I consulted with many experts in the field and industry before I settled on this design. The idea behind having very few angle changes means that it would be easier to build and I could rely on climbing volumes in order to keep the wall interesting.

Looking back I would have changed a couple things about this design, such as the sections that had 90 degree angle changes. They are boring for our routesetters to set and they feel similar to climb on. We are fixing the problem by making some custom climbing volumes, but simply changing the design in the first place would have been better.

cut list
Cut list

Next I needed a cut list and materials list! The steel yard I ordered from could not cut the angles for me, but they were able to cut the steel to length, and then we cut the angles into it. Figuring out how to do that was some very fun and tricky math!

tools for the job

welder and scissor lift
Welder and scissor lift

Next up are the tools needed for the job. This little handy angle finding tool was amazing for this project. It was so handy I bought them as gifts for some of the people who helped with this project since they all wanted one after using it.

You will also need an industrial welder, and a scissor lift. The scissor lift was crucial to lifting the heavy steel bars into place. We borrowed the welder and I bought the scissor lift off craigslist. It has had its share of issues but I have to say for what we paid for it it has been great to us. We named her Big Bertha.

Awesome concrete drill
Dewalt drill

You will also want one of these. I started off with a regular hand held drill to try to drill the holes for the anchors, but quickly realized the futility of that endeavor. I went and bought this bad boy, as well as some fantastic drill bits that chew through concrete and rebar!

Makita drill

I bought this drill for this project to attach the plywood to the outer steel frame, but quickly discovered it was not quite up to the job. That being said, this is still a phenomenal tool, and still came in use for our other projects.

Hilti black powder actuated nailer
Hilti Black powder actuated nailer- More trouble then its worth!

This is the tool I ended up using to attach the plywood to the frame. it is a Hilti black-powder actuated nail gun. It shoots nails into steel so quickly they weld themselves to the steel. More on this tool later.

helps to drill the holes straight!
Drill attatchment

This handy dandy attachment for my drill helped immensely with drilling the holes for the T-Nuts. It makes sure that the drill bit is perfectly perpendicular to the wood. I purchased this tool on Amazon.