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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

THE SCHURMAN ROCK -Seattle - 1938-1940
The smooth granite stones that lead to the top of The Schurman Rock are testimony to the thousands of people who have climbed to the summit. At about 26 feet tall, it's no Mount Everest and even at its summit, it is dwarfed by the surrounding trees that have grown since in was built.

The Schurman Rock is the first artificial Climbing structure or climbing wall known to have been built for the sole purpose of teaching and practising rock climbing and mountaineering. Until this event climbers used building and artificial structures, such as bridges aqueducts and retaining walls. The structure is described as a Polylith, being constructed from rocks and masonry concreted together to form climbing features. As a facility is there is an easy slabby side and a side with difficult climbs. The more difficult side offers the chance to practice different types of climbing, including chimneys and overhanging walls, and belaying an abseiling. Notably missing from the climbing features are jamming cracks, as these didn't become popular until the 1950's. A well as the climbing rock there are also irregular blocks designed to improve balance when moving over rough mountain territory. Perhaps the most incredible feature is the inclusion of a 'concrete glacier' to practice glacier techniques.

The Schurman Rock in West Seattle has been the practice ground for some of world's most accomplished mountaineers, including Jim Whittaker, the first American to reach the top of Mount Everest and his twin brother Lou who led the first successful ascent on the north Col of Everest and the legendary Fred Beckey. As well as the tens of thousands of youths that learnt to climb on the structure.


Conception and Building
1999 Closure
2003 Reopenning

It is said that it is, "an irresistible magnet for children who just love to clamber. From scrambling over boulders to vertical struggles up sheer walls, climbers of all abilities can belay, rappel and grapple their way over the rock." The Monitor Rock 1941Image © Copyright 1995-2010 City of Seattle
Conception and Building
The Rock is located in Camp Long. It was once a little used, 68 acre corner of the West Seattle Golf Course consisting of rough scrub land and bushes. In 1937 Seattle Park Board member, Archie Phelps, Judge William Long, Ben Evans of the Seattle Park Department and Clark Schurman, well known Scout leader, expert mountaineer and wilderness camp developer, embarked on a mission. They wanted to acquire and develop this land to make it into a place for organized scouting groups to learn camping skills. They were joined by a committee of representatives of youth groups, City Council members, other concerned citizens and supportive agencies and councils. Together they worked hard to create Camp Long and protect its natural beauty.
Photo by Patchoulli The Schurman Rock climbing wall was major attraction at Camp Long Scout Camp was designed by Clark Schurman. His dream was to build a human-made mountain incorporating every potential rock climbing problem into its design. After taking a winter to make a clay model of the rock, Clark Schurman worked very closely with the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) workers to create his dream rock. It took 2 years to complete the 20 foot high, erratically shaped climbing rock. Schurman called it Monitor Rock after its intended purpose to "warn, remind, advise and instruct. "After Schurman’s death in 1955 the rock was renamed "Schurman Rock" at a dedication ceremony in 1957, to honour Clark Schurman’s contribution to Camp Long and mountaineering.

In the Summer of 1941 two scouts, 12 year old twin brothers Lou and James Whittaker did their first climbs on The Rock. It is said that Clark Schurman designed The Rock so that when the top was reached the summit of Mount Rainer was visible and the aim was then to progress to make a successful ascent of the mountain. The young Whittaker twins caught the climbing bug, and in march 1963 James Whittaker, now a Mountain guide at Mount Rainer, successfully guided Robert Kennedy up the recently named Mount Kennedy. Later that year he went on to make the first American ascent of Mount Everest. Not to be out done, the following year, his brother Lou made the first ascent of the north col of Everest. The route that had taken the life of George Mallory forty years earlier.

Located in the heart of a thriving climbing community, this unique rock has enjoyed a long history of use as a practice rock for everyone from individual climbers and hikers to local climbing organizations like The Mountaineers. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and local youth groups have used it as their practice rock for over fifty years. In addition, the American Red Cross and Seattle Mountain Rescue have used the rock for practices to develop the skills which over the years have been utilized in the rescue of countless people in the state. For 60 years, a great breadth of people enjoyed the rock as an easily accessible place to practice climbing techniques without having to travel far from home.

1999 Closure
In the mid 1990's, Schurman Rock began to show significant signs of cracking, possibly as a result of previous settling. In 1999, it was finally declared unsafe and a chain-link fence was installed around the rock. While the Seattle Parks Department values the climbing wall significant asset, it was not scheduled for renovation in the near future because of recent budget cuts and more urgent needs throughout the park system.

2003 Re-Opening

The Seattle Parks Foundation spearheaded an effort to restore this historically and culturally significant landmark to its original use for the enjoyment of all citizens. As of March 2003, the Seattle Parks Foundation successfully raised the $90,000 necessary for complete restoration of Schurman Rock. Restoration has been completed, and the rock was dedicated and re-opened in a ceremony in summer of 2003. This exciting restoration project would not have been possible without the generosity and hard work of many donors and volunteers.
Photo by Chris Dent 4th August 2006
This photo was taken by Chris Dent on August 4, 2006
Photo By Chirs Dent 2006
This photo was taken by Chris Dent on August 4, 2006

Page Acknowledgements and References:

Seattle Parks Foundation

Seattle Government

Location: Find Camp Long

General Acknowledgements:

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