Improving training for climbers by enhancing explorative climbing in indoor climbing gyms.
Indoor climbing is growing in popularity and is even considered to be included in the Olympic games of 2020 in Japan. Despite the fact that numerous new climbing gyms are being built, there has been little innovation in the gyms themselves. For decades climbing gyms are constructed of wooden walls with plastic holds screwed onto them.
When climbers climb outdoors for a while, and return to an indoor climbing wall their level has improved. So there is something that can only be trained outdoors that can’t be trained indoors. So the question for this project arose: how can the training of indoor climbers can be and improved?
Currently when climbers train, they climb a route of a certain level. A number indicates the level of difficulty, which is determined by type of holds, the length of the route and the angle of the wall. The route is marked with coloured holds, and the climber is only allowed to use holds of that colour. This way, a climber practises the separate moves to climb, but does not exercise explorative route finding.
When climbing outside on rocks, explorative route finding is apparent. Outside, the bumpy rocks present numerous options of holds, compelling the climbers to decide on their body position, the placement of hands, feet and centre of gravity, which holds to use. The climber explores what his body position should be in order to proceed, thus constantly solving a puzzle during climbing. Indoor climbing routes deprive climbers that puzzle because the route setter has solved that puzzle for them.
One of the solutions to introduce that puzzling feeling is to enlarge the holds. Big holds offer more opportunities to grab the hold, therefore increasing explorative behaviour to find the right body position. The holds have long straight edges and flat planes without any bumps or dents so that the climber isn’t guided. The climber is forced to feel for himself where it’s best to hold the edge. These big holds have a block-like shape.
When a route consists of only blocks, the number of options to climb that route increases hugely, making it harder to determine its level of difficulty. Therefore, a new points system is introduced to quantify the route and to motivate the climber. Some edges are tougher to hold due to the angle between the planes. Also, some edges of blocks are harder to reach due to their placement within the route. In the design, the edges get points. The most difficult edge is given 1 point, and the easiest edge receives 5 points, as shown in the image. The difficulty of the route depends on which edges of blocks the climber uses to get to the top. The climber is supposed to finish the route with the least amount of points. This way, the climber is exploring his maximal abilities to find the route resulting in the lowest score.
In the user test, 10 medior skilled climbers were asked to climb the newly designed blocks and score their opinions on a questionnaire. In the first round, the score numbers on the blocks were covered, so that the climbers were free to choose how they wanted to use the blocks. In the second round, the climbers were given the task to climb receiving the lowest total score to reach the top. The blocks were judged to be more fun and challenging; climbers were more engaged to help each other with suggestions and stimulated each other to achieve the best scores. The new blocks were judged as thrilling and more challenging, but not as imitation of climbing on outdoor rocks.
Jansen, A.J. , Visch, V.T.
master thesis, November 2015