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What is a Climbing Wall

Bildering And Bilderers
Geoffrey Windthrop Young
Arthur Pinner

First True Climbing Structure
Clark Schurman
Camp Long

Post War Development

1960's Boom
Britians First Climbing Walls

1970's Development

Climbing Wall ManufacturersBendcrete Climbing Walls

DR Climbing Walls

University Walls
Brunel University
Spire Rock
University of Washington

The 1980's Wall Development
The invention of the bolt on Hold

First Commercial Climbing Centre
Vertical, In Seattle
Mile End, London

The 1990's Beginning of the Golden Age

21st Century Climbing Walls and the Future

For want of a better word or phrase, PRE HISTORY, describes our story of climbing walls and really does start with the history and development of Rock Climbing from its very earliest form, evolving from the early alpinism via Lakeland rock climbing, bouldering and Bildering.

In 400 BC Chinese watercolors depict men climbing rocks. In 1300's in the Southwest of USA The Anasazis drilled holes for posts and carved steps up the steep rock cliffs in Chaco Canyon. There are cliff dwellings scattered throughout the southwest. Given the difficult approaches to some of these cliff dwellings it seems reasonable to assume that the natives had the skills necessary to ascend what would now be considered technical climbing terrain.

In 1492 Antoine de Ville ascended Mont Inaccessible, Mont Aiguille, a 300 metre rock tower south of Grenoble, France. Under orders from his king, he used the techniques developed for sieging castles to attain an otherwise unreachable summit. The ascent is described by François Rabelais in his Quart Livre. In 1695 Martin Martin describes the traditional practice of fowling by climbing with the use of ropes in the Hebrides of Scotland, especially on St Kilda.

The first recorded ascent of Mont Blanc was on 8 August 1786 by Jacques Balmat and the doctor Michel Paccard is generally refered to as the start of mountianeering and the precursor to rock climbing.

In 1929 the FRCC book to Pillar, H.M. Kelly describes the moment when rock climbing was born from mountaineering and so our story begins as a disipline from mountineering.

"That Pillar Rock should have attracted mankind over one hundred years ago, is not surprising in view of the fact of its unique position amongst our climbing grounds— an isolated crag on the breast of a mountain flanking one of the most desolate of our Lake District dales. The very remoteness of its surroundings, as well as the apparent inaccessibility of its summit, no doubt fascinated as well as awed the shepherds and others whose work or play took them within the neighbourhood, and its solitariness naturally became a challenge. Early Guide Books, farm fireside talk, and inn gossip, undoubtedly clothed it with a certain amount of romance; and when Atkinson made his first ascent in 1826 it only increased the allurement of the place. It is not very difficult to assign to this first ascent its due place in relation to our sport, for it cannot be gainsaid that in it was the first seed of what we know as English rock climbing. The climbing of rocks as a sport in itself parted ways with mountaineering as then known...."

It was a further 31 years on December 22, 1857, a group of British gentlemen mountaineers gathered together at the Ashley Hotel in London to form the Alpine Club. They concluded that to join as a full member, you would need to climb twenty ‘respectable alpine routes and peaks’ or places equal to these. Women were naturally excluded from membership but it didn’t stop them from climbing and later forming the Ladies’ Alpine Club in 1907. These early mountaineer women considered themselves to be first and foremost ‘ladies’, so they continued to wear their full skirts even while hiking. It was sixty-seven years later in 1974 that the Ladies’ Alpine Club finally merged with the men’s."

John Gill has a great series of articles on his web site describing the history of crag climbing and and bouldering of this era.
Very soon after the sport of rock climbing is born we see climbers climbing on buildings and boulders.

The Following is a brief History of Climbing from this point from Wikipedia

1869 : John Muir, famed naturalist and climber, wearing hiking boots, makes the first ascent of Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows as an on-sight, free solo. He is also known for spending a night at the top of a 100+ foot tall pine tree during a lightning storm, now known as the John Muir Tree.
1875 : Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is first climbed by George Anderson. He uses eye bolts in drilled holes as hand and toe holds. He uses a fixed rope to return to his high point each day.
1880s : The Sport of Rock Climbing begins in the Lake District and Wales in Great Britain , Saxony near Dresden, and the Dolomites. W. P. Haskett Smith is frequently called the Father of Rock Climbing in the British Isles, and Oskar Schuster was an early climber at Elbsandsteingebirge.
1886 : W. P. Haskett Smith makes the first ascent (in free solo style) of the 70 foot Napes Needle, in the Lake District of England. The resulting publicity introduces the general British public to the new sport of rock climbing.
1887 : Georg Winkler, at the age of 17, makes the first ascent - solo - of Die Vajolettürme in the Dolomites, initiating the sport of rock climbing in that area.
1892 : Oscar Eckenstein, a British climber and early bouldering advocate, conducts a bouldering competition, with cash prizes, among the natives while on an expedition to the Karakoram Mountains..
1893 : Devils Tower is first summited by ranchers William Rogers and Willard Ripley through the use of wooden spike pounded into a crack and then connected with a rope. After 6 weeks they summited on the Fourth of July.
1897 : O. G. Jones leads Kern Knotts Crack (ca 5.8) on the Great Gable in England 1900 (approximately) : Oscar Eckenstein demonstrates to British climbers the concept of modern balance climbing on his eponymous boulder in Wales.
1906 : Oliver Perry-Smith, W. Huenig, Rudolf Fehrmann climb Teufelsturm in the Elbsandsteingebirge, 5.10 (with original shoulder stand around 5.8+).
1910 : Hans Fiechtl replaces the attached ring on pitons with an eye in the body of the piton which is a design used to this day.[5]
1910 : Otto Herzog designs the first steel carabiner, specifically made for climbing.
1910 : Austrian development of rappelling.[
1910 : Oliver Perry-Smith, M. Matthaeus, H. Wagner ascend The Grosser Falknerturm, W. Route in the Elbsandstein, 5.9.
1910 to 1914 : Hans Dülfer suggests using equipment to ascend otherwise unclimbable rock, devises dulferitz rappelling technique
1914 : Paul Preuss, an advocate of Free climbing, coins the term "artificial aid" to describe the use of mechanical aids to progress up a rock. His rule number four (of six) stated: "The piton is an emergency aid and not the basis of a system of mountaineering."
1914 : Siegfried Herford and companions climb the Flake Pitch on Central Buttress of Scafell (5.9), England's hardest climb at the time
1919 : Sees the publication of Guido Rey’s book, "Alpinisme Acrobatique", on the "artificial" techniques utilizing the latest, easily available pitons and carabiners
1920s - 1930s : Robert L. M. Underhill and Miriam Underhill (Miriam E. O'Brien) - One of the early rock star climbing couples. Robert is remembered for introducing European climbing techniques to the west coast of the US through an article in the
1931 Bulletin of the Sierra Club. 1922 : Paul Illmer and party ascend the Illmerweg on Falkenstein (5.9/5.10), Elbsandstein
1923 : Willo Welzenbach creates the standard numerical rating system for the amount of time typically needed to complete a route (Grades I to VI).
1925 : Solleder and Gustl Lettenbauer climb the Northwest Face of the Civetta in a day, a 3800 foot 5.9 route in the Dolomites, using only 15 pitons for protection and belays.
1925 : Albert Ellingwood and a party of three climb the 2000 foot Northeast Buttress of Crestone Needle (5.7, 14,197 feet).
1927 : Laurent Grivel designs and sells the first rock drill and expansion bolt.[5]
1927 : Joe Stettner and brother, Paul, apply European techniques in the USA on their ascent of the Stettner Ledges on the East Face of Long's Peak.[7][8]
1927 : Fred Pigott's experiments with slinging natural chockstones and later machine nuts, for protection at Clogwyn Du'r Arddu on Snowdon, directly led to the development of the modern Stopper.[5]
1930 : Jack Longland climbs Javelin Blade (5.10), Hollytree Wall, Idwal
1931 : Emilio Comici and the Dolomites. Comici is the inventor and proponent of using multi-step aid ladders, solid belays, the use of a trail/tag line, and hanging bivouacs. Pretty much the origin of big wall climbing and techniques. He uses them to good purpose with an ascent of the 26 pitch, 4000 foot Northwest Face of the Civetta.[5]
1934 : Pierre Allain champions bouldering at Fontainebleau; climbs L'Angle Allain (V2)
1934 : Dick Leonard, teams up with Jules Eichorn and Bestor Robinson for the first ascent of the Eichorn Pinnacle of Cathedral Peak in the Sierra Nevada. He also creates the concept and practice of the dynamic belay at Indian Rock.[7]
1935 : Pierre Allain produces first soft-soled climbing shoe. Revised for extreme rock 1948
1938 : Ricardo Cassin ascends the Walker Spur of the Grandes Jorasses "...perhaps the finest in existence" - Gaston Rebuffat from "The Mont Blanc Massif - The 100 Finest Routes".
1938 : North Face of the Eiger ascended by Heinrich Harrer, Fritz Kasparek, Andreas Heckmair and Wiggerl Vörg.
1939 : David Brower and the rest of his Berkeley crew use four bolts in the process of ascending Ship Rock in New Mexico.[7][8]
1940s : World War II leads to the development of inexpensive army surplus pitons, carabiners and the newly-invented nylon rope.[5]
1946 : Rene Ferlet climbs Marie-Rose (V3) Fontainebleau
1946 : John Salathe, at the age of 46, attempts to rope-solo aid the first ascent of the Lost Arrow Spire, one of the most exposed features in Yosemite Valley. (The protection bolt he places on that attempt was the first, or one of the first, in the valley.) He is also known for his forged pitons made from the axle of a Model A Ford.
1952 : Lionel Terray ascends the Patagonian peak, Monte Fitz Roy, with his partner Guido Magnone.
1952 : Joe Brown makes the FA of Cenotaph Corner (5.10) Dinas Cromlech, Wales
1952 : John Streetly makes the FA of Bloody Slab E3 5b (5.10d) Llanberis Pass, Wales
1953 : Robert Paragot climbs Le Joker (V5) Fontainebleau
1954 : Joe Brown and Don Whillans climb the West Face of Aiguille de Blaitiere, including the famous Fissure Brown (5.11), in the Alps. 1955 : Walter Bonatti Considered one of the greatest climbs of all time, his solo first ascent of a new route on the Southwest Pillar of the Dru takes six days.
1955 : John Gill introduces chalk & modern dynamics; first V8 (1957), V9 (1959) ; freesolos FA Thimble overhang (5.12a) (1961)
1957 : Layton Kor appears in the climbing community of Colorado and gains recognition as a notable climber. Makes landmark ascents, including Redguard, The Bulge, T2, Naked Edge, X-M, and the Yellow Wall. Kor is noted as one of the key forces behind the progression of climbing in the west.
1958 : Warren Harding and team climb the 3,000 foot Nose of El Capitan using siege tactics, taking a total of 45 days over an extended period. Almost entirely aid climbing, with many bolts (125), the climb is given worldwide recognition.
1961 : Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, and Tom Frost ascend the 3,000 foot Salathe Wall on El Capitan. Continuous ascent by Robbins & Frost in 1962.
1964 : Robbins, Pratt, Frost, and Yvon Chouinard climb the North American Wall on El Capitan,
1967 : Pete Cleveland climbs Superpin in the Black Hills (5.11X)
1968 : Royal Robbins solos the Muir Wall on El Capitan.
1971 : Al Rouse climbs Positron (5.11) Gogarth, Anglesey
1971 : Tom Frost and Yvon Chouinard design Hexcentrics.
1974 - 1977 : Jim Holloway establishes - in Colorado - the hardest bouldering problems in the world, at the time. These include Slapshot (V13) and Meathook (V11).
1976 : John Bachar initiates an era of free soloing with his ascent of New Dimensions 5.11a.
1977 : Pete Cleveland climbs Phlogiston, at Devil's Lake, 5.13a/b or V9 [7] 1978 : Ray Jardine invents the first modern spring loaded camming device (SLCD or cam)
1979 : Tony Yaniro climbs Grand Illusion, Sugarloaf (CA), 5.13b/c [7] 1970s : Sport Climbing is developed, in France
1980 : Boreal introduces the first "sticky rubber" shoe, the Fire
1980 : Bill Price climbs Cosmic Debris, Yosemite, 5.13b[7]
1983 : Alan Watts introduces sport climbing to the US, with Tots, 5.12b at Smith Rock, Oregon [7]
1985 : Wolfgang Gullich climbs Punks in the Gym, Mt. Arapiles, (some say the first 5.14a/b some say 5.13d)
1986 : Antoine Le Menestral climbs La Rage de Vivre, Buoux, (many credit this as the first 5.14a) [12]
1987 : Wolfgang Gullich climbs Wallstreet, Frankenjura, 5.14b
1990 : Ben Moon climbs Hubble, Raven Tor, 5.14c

References and Acknowledgements:

General Acknowledgements:
Gary Thornhill
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