Picking an Angle for Your At-Home Climbing Wall
Picking the angle of your home wall is one of the most important decisions you will make when setting it up. Even if you have a modular woody that allows you to adjust the angle, it is important to understand some of the popular angles chosen for at-home walls and what benefits and drawbacks you get from them. Climbing wall angles refer to the angle at which the climbing wall leans away (or toward) from the wall it is mounted on. They are generally thought of as slab (greater than 90 degrees), vertical (90 degrees), and overhung (less than 90 degrees). A lot of times people think about these angles as beginner, intermediate, and advanced respectively. While this is often true because the higher the angle the easier it is to stand on your feet, keep in mind that every professional bouldering competition includes at least one "slab" climb to test pro-climbers (the wall is usually a vertical wall, but this is still referred to as slab climbing). So it's possible to have super hard climbs on slab and vertical walls!
Slab means the wall is slightly inclined away from you. Slab walls are great for small children who need to get comfortable holding onto holds before feeling as though they can move their feet. If you have a large enough space on your woody, it can also be a great idea to include a slab section so that you can warm-up easily. The biggest benefit of a slab angle is that it is incredibly easy to set easy problems. If you have jugs or edges, as long as they are placed in a way that allows the climber to pull down on them, you can set a climb that most everyone can do. The downside of the slab wall is that it is difficult to set difficult climbs. Routesetters practice for years to master their craft, so setting good climbs is never easy. But on the slab, in particular, it is difficult to put a sequence of holds on the wall that hits the sweet spot of tough but doable. Slab walls are also not a great idea if you think you may progress quickly. Once you reach an intermediate level of climbing, you will be jonesing for something more overhung!
A vertical angle is probably the most common for at-home climbing walls. It is a neutral angle that allows for both easy and difficult climbs depending on the holds used. It is also a great angle for children for the same reasons as the slab. The biggest downside to a vertical angle is that it doesn't allow much room for improvement. Slab climbing is a fun and important skill set, but only encompasses a small fraction of the movements that rock climbing requires. Much like the slab wall, once you reach an intermediate level, you will likely wish that you had some kind of overhang to challenge you as a climber.
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Overhung walls are by far the best walls for any kind of rock climbing training at home. "Overhung" captures a huge range of angles, each of which has specific benefits and downsides. As a rule of thumb, overhung walls require core tension to keep your feet on the wall. The more dramatic the angle, the more core tension is required. Also, as the angle becomes more dramatic, it becomes increasingly difficult to set easy climbs on the wall. Finally, overhung walls more closely resemble the types of angles you will find when bouldering outdoors. Let's take a look at a couple of popular angles:
20-30 are great angles if you are just starting training for climbing. While any angle past vertical will feel more difficult, many climbers find that 20-30 is the sweet spot between too easy and too difficult.
40-degree walls are a staple of indoor climbing. Most climbing gyms have a 40-degree wall where they set some of the most difficult problems in the gym. You will certainly feel the 10-degree difference between a 30 and a 40-degree wall. 40 is no joke. But you can't go wrong with a classic!
Once you pass 40-degree, the wall is often referred to as a roof. Roof climbing can be some of the most difficult terrains that rock climbers traverse. We do not advise you to build an at-home wall above 40 degrees unless you know what you are getting yourself into.
It can be stressful to pick the right angle for your at-home climbing wall. Remember to pick the angle that best suits who will be climbing on the wall, how experienced they are, and what type of climbing they want to do.