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Rocks are the Rage!

Tue, 03/01/2005 - 6:00am
Last updated
6 months ago
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Rocks are the Rage!

There are plenty to go around with new climbing structures

Remember when miniature golf was the rage? There’s a new rage in town that is “climbing” steadily in popularity, not only with children but adults as well. Climbing walls and boulders are “in” even if they are outdoors. 

The popularity could very well be a mirror of the growing trend of rock/mountain climbing on the real thing. Not that manufactured walls and boulders aren’t the real thing, they may just be a little less risky and more convenient…and on purpose. 

However, they are very close to the real thing. “There are literally thousands of different handholds [in climbing]. A good wall is set so that anyone with any amount of climbing experience can navigate the walls,” notes Matt Samet, Sr. Editor of Rock and Ice magazine. Through his association with the industry, he has also seen that some manufactured climbing structures and gyms could be considered a good training ground for people who want to tackle the mountain later. 

Climbing gyms have even begun to replace the traditional climbing clubs, although it is estimated by the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment that there are still over six million various types of climbers in the United States. That just goes to show how the popularity of the sport is growing on all levels. 

So, what about manufactured structures themselves? There are more and more types being built as popularity increases. 

Just as mountains have their own natural handholds carved in, there is a good variety of level change for everyone from the beginner to the more advanced climber with manufactured structures. With some, you’ll find a choice of three routes up, ranging from beginner to advanced. The level of difficulty changes from route to route with things such as handholds and spacing between making a huge difference. What a great thing for exercise, strength building, self-esteem and for just plain fun. There are probably a lot of parents out there who would like to have one in their backyard for the whole family to enjoy. 

Matt O’Connor, Project Manager of Eldorado Walls, shed a little more light on the subject. This really is a many-faceted opportunity for children and parents, and not separately, but together. “With parents having less and less time [because of demanding schedules], they could go ‘bouldering’ with their kids,” says O’Connor. “Kids and parents can do a boulder problem and cheer each other on.” The climbing dynamic, which is turn-oriented, makes it so each can climb a route at their respective skill level. 

Climbing is also a great idea for children who aren’t so keen on traditional team sports. It builds confidence, strength, coordination and is just a natural fun thing to do. If you’ve ever been to the climbing gym even, you may have noticed how climbers interact with each other...even siblings that may not get along the best find a way to help each other out and keep each other safe while climbing. Solid friendships and trust are formed also, as even in the climbing gym your partner’s life could be in your hands if you happen to be the belayer (the person steadying the rope at the bottom). 

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to try one out, guess what...it’s the right time. There are some great structures out there just waiting to be found. One of the great things about these climbing structures is that a lot of consulting and planning with professional climbers goes into their design, so you know your experience will be pretty realistic and meet safety standards. There are many companies out there getting in the game.

Playworld offers Climbing Boulders, which are a great intergenerational climbing experience used mainly in public parks. This means kids and parents alike can get together and enjoy playtime. Bouldering is becoming the fastest-growing climbing sport because of the ease of participation. No special equipment is needed to enjoy this fun activity. Climbing sports are showing up everywhere from their RockBlocks to indoor climbing walls as well as the Climbing Boulders. Find out more by calling 570-522-9800 or log on to www.playworldsystems.com.

BCI Burke is also in the climbing game. Because they have seen the climbing trends grow, they now have a new product called their GeoSculpt line. These monuments and boulders are realistic looking and even feel like the real thing with no two climbs being alike. The Burke Nature Adventure Series and GeoSculpt standards have come to being at the request of park and recreation personnel who have expressed the desire to see more natural recreation and appreciation. 

Their 18 different bouldering options (hand painted and hand sculpted) enhance the aesthetic appeal of a park site. They see climbing becoming a part of every park experience in the future. For more information, contact them at 800-266-1250, or see their new line at www.bciburke.com.

To answer the call for new structures, Landscape Structures, Inc. offers their own realistic rock structures called The Rock and The Ridge. 

The Rock was molded from the basalt cliffs found along Wisconsin’s St. Croix River. In addition, more than a dozen fossils are embedded in the surface of The Rock for an even more authentic appearance and it provides a realistic climbing experience for kids age 5 or older.  

The Ridge has many possibilities. It can be used as a stand-alone or linked to The Rock or other existing traditional play structures. It can even be used between decks on the PlayBooster and link two separate play systems such as the PlayBooster to The Rock. There are many handholds and pathways designed into The Ridge, which help accommodate climbers of many ages and abilities. Give them a call at

888-4FUNLSI or visit them at www.playlsi.com.

Rockcraft’s President/Designer, Ed Fisher, is one experienced climber who will tell you the importance of climbing activities for children and adults. He has been watching the trends since 1992. His goal was to try to create a product with a challenge but still make it accessible to all, physically as well as financially. The great thing is that these structures require no special training or equipment and also take away the financial factor for use while adding a different dynamic for areas not normally having mountains, or even many rocks, available for climbing. Their Cerro Torre structure and their pool climbing walls are great examples of friendly climbing structures. Call them at 866-786-1635 or visit them online at www.playwalls.com.

GameTime, in keeping with the growing trend, makes a product called the WallCano climbing system. This system is designed to appropriately challenge children in both of the age ranges of 2-5 and 5-12. Because of its modularity, a wall can be made to custom fit the intended space. Brightly colored hand and footholds are designed with appropriate ages in mind so that although a challenge, it could be mastered without intimidation. 

Climbing is also something that stimulates imagination for play-acting, which just adds to their fun. Children have been known to make up games as they climb on the WallCano and pretend that there is hot lava below or maybe a bear in the cave. Fun, safety and imagination…a great combination for play. Contact them at

800-235-2440 or log on to www.gametime.com. 

What will they think of next? Contact these manufacturers today to find out what they will add next to the rock rage!


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