Wall Update

I have been climbing on the wall for a few months now. Usually once or twice a week in addition to whatever other climbing I manage to squeeze in, and now that the weather is getting nice it is really motivating to be able to open up the garage door and get some fresh air while climbing. It’s not climbing outside but it’s pretty sweet for a tuesday night.

I digress. I think that climbing on the wall through the winter usually at temps of around -5 °C the chain stretched, that or I am wearing it out faster than I would expect. Either way come spring time some of the planks weren’t quite getting pulled around in time to make it onto the return guide on the back of the wall and it was stalling. So I had to cut the return channel a bit and bend the return guides out a little more by hand, shown below. Bending by hand didn’t make for that pretty a product, but things are running again and I didn’t have to tighten the chain.

Guide flange cut longer and bent out further. The bend started at the slotted hole previously. The black goo on the boards is a combination of wax (lube) and mill-scale, it’s not a problem.
The next version of this design will definitely have longer lead ins like this from the get go. It will help avoid problems and I see no trade off in doing it. I will climb on it like this for a couple more months then check the chain to see if it has stretch significantly. If so I might consider going to a heavier chain than the #40 I am currently using.

Also, I had added the slotted hole so the lead ins would be easy to bend by hand, but with a crescent wrench it was pretty easy to bend the longer ones by hand. So next time there will be no holes and they will be a lot sturdier.

I am putting on 200 to 400 feet per session and I am guessing I have put at least 6000 feet of mileage on the wall and there are no serious problems cropping up so I think it is doing pretty well for a prototype.

More Emerald Lake Updates

Morgan and I went out to Emerald lake on Sunday and tacked another pitch onto the top of Diamond in the Rough. We also decided that the grades on the topo were pretty sandbagged so the guide has been changed to something I hope is more accurate at 5.9.

Bolting this new pitch we traversed right along a ledge system from the top of Pitch 2 to find better quality rock. And we did find better rock but only about 4 bolts worth then it turned to choss. We were taking turns bolting from stances, since we were only going to get one new pitch done for the day, and Morgan drew the short straw leading us through the loose rock above the solid climbing that I got to lead.

Morgan on Pitch 3 of Diamond in the Rough
After rapping down and doing a bit of cleaning, we marched further left up the talus slope from DITR so I could check out a line Morgan bolted last summer (or maybe it was the summer before). It is the second unrecorded line left of Family Jewels (maybe 100m) and clocks in at around 5.10c, 6 bolts. If you are there I would recommend trying it out. This climb is a fine piece of work on Morgans part.

Update: Guard and Holds

I now have holds (not just hunks of 2×4) and the finger guard on the wall. Video Here.

Having had the wall running for a few weeks now, I can say that I am pleased overall with how it is functioning, no break downs yet, and that it is proving a usable piece of exercise equipment. It hasn’t supplanted my trips to the gym but I no longer feel any impetus to go to the gym without a ready partner. And I genuinely can squeeze in a 1/2 hour climbing workout when I don’t have time to go to the gym, just as I had hoped. So I am climbing more.

I only recently acquired a decent stash of holds so up to this point the “route” on my wall has been pretty hard and I haven’t been able to do any endurance training. The upside of this has been to demonstrate to me that the wall is a VERY effective anaerobic endurance training tool. I can get a mad pump on in about 5 minutes, without any trouble. And interval training on the wall is alot of fun.

Given the response to my last video I elected to get the guard finished rather than leaving it in the corner to rust. The brush on the guard isn’t as stiff as the ones I have used at my work so the guard will need a little tweaking to compensate for the sagging brush. As is it still keeps your fingers out of the pinch point but I am losing valuable inches of climbing room.


With the bigger motor I can run the wall at 15 feet per. minute (fpm) with no problem, without a climber on the wall. I might be able to go faster but I haven’t tried it yet. I guess having tripled the available torque was a safe bet.

15 fpm is a quick but not a super fast climbing pace. For the endurance and interval workouts I have tried so far it is certainly fast enough. I will play with it and post an update when I find out what its top speed is.

I made up a simple plywood bracket and hung all the power supply and driver, off the gear box. This kept all the wiring nice and tight. You just have one power cable and one control cable running up to the bundle of stuff up top. It would also make things easy to enclose if you wanted to make a weather resistant version. For now the controller is sitting on a paint can next to the wall but I will be building a bracket to put it up around face level.

My bundle of electronics at the top of the wall. Not pretty but entirely functional and it definitely could have been worse.


And here is a video of me climbing the wall at 14 fpm. It starts slow and ramps up to full speed by about 20 seconds into the video.

Electrical/Software Design

My new, massive NEMA 34 motor and driver arrived in the mail a little while back. This thing is going to have enough torque to drive the wall no matter how much drag there is in the tracks! (3x current motor)

New motor and driver setup

I was going to build a simple tone generator circuit with a 555 timer and a big control knob to adjust the speed. Using the rough design below.

Basic wall controller circuit. Scribbled out on the back of some other work.

But while I was digging parts for this circuit out of my junk electronics box I came across my old handyboard. I built this thing more than a decade ago and have hardly used it, but as the name implies it is actually handy…. or it should be.

I started programming it to control my treadwall and found I wanted a little more functionality than it normally offers. So I wasted two weeks trying to adjust the timer output from a non-standard pin. ugh. But it is now set up how I would like and ready to go. Just not as handy as it could have been.

Right now the available menus look like this:

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I did add a big control knob for adjusting speed and other options as an additional means of user interface as well as using the start and stop buttons on the handyboard. I will likely add another button too, cause it feels like it needs it.

I am thinking I will add a motor to adjust the angle of the wall in the future. At which point it will be really cool to add workout modes that adjust the wall angle automatically.

I would love to hear ideas for additional workout modes. Please comment with suggestions! Include ideas for workouts that change wall angle if you have any.

End of the Season: More Route Development

Morgan and I managed to get out to the mountains for one last day of bolting before, what looks like, the end of the season for anything but bouldering. And we accomplished everything we hoped to do for the day; that alone is a huge success for any day out climbing.

We set out bright and early to hit the parking lot at 9am, with the intent of adding a final pitch to the top of Family Jewels and then hopefully rap bolting another line nearby. It was a brisk start at +5°C but the sun caught the wall all morning and we left a bunch of extra clothing at the top of the first pitch (along with our spare drill bit). Linking pitches 2&3 we quickly regained our high point on the top of pitch 4 of Family jewels with me leading and Morgan carrying our pack. Morgan got a raw deal considering the pack had our water, lunch, drill, hammer, and bolts. At the belay we discussed at length whether we should head up the clean, but more difficult climbing above the belay, or head up the easier, chossy corner system to our right.

I chose the cleaner looking line and equipped with our drill set off from the belay. (Rather than my own boldness this choice was likely due to the fact that Morgan took a dramatic fall, while bolting on lead, just a week earlier when a hold ripped. Morgan took it in stride but his story made the solid rock look much more appealing.) The climbing proved to be about 5.9, maybe 10a, and super fun right off the ledge. After the first bolt it, thankfully, eased off to climbing more like the ledgy 5.7-8 terrain found on the rest of the route.

The first bolt of Pitch 5 as seen from the belay. Not quite hands free drilling for the first couple bolts. Gorgeous rock though!

The pitch proved to be a bit longer than 30m so we elected to add a rappel station midway which allows the route to be rappelled with a single 60m rope. There is potential to add another pitch or two of climbing above the top of pitch 5 but it looks to be low quality, low angle climbing. It would only be worth doing if it turns out that it accesses some better climbing higher up, which might be the case.

Morgan coming up to the belay ledge at the top of pitch 5.

Rappelling down, I managed to break the drill bit while adding the extra station. Morgan generously offered to be lowered down to retrieve our spare drill bit; adding a solid 65m+ of climbing to his day coming back up. During this lowering and extra climbing he scoped our next objective, a line to our right.

Back at the top of pitch 4 Morgan set off to my right with the drill and a bag of bolts. He placed a directional anchor and I lowered him 60 rope stretching meters while he checked out the line. From a large ledge system Morgan climbed back up on top rope, cleaning and placing bolts as he went. We had underestimated the climb and roughly half way he ran out of bolts and had to come up and restock before finishing the route.

Morgan was pretty stoked when he was done so I was anxious to check out the line. We traded spots and he lowered me off and I took my turn trying it on top rope. It proved to be the best pitch I have climbed on this wall so far. 50ish meters of sustained climbing on good rock without the frequent ledges which seem to characterize the rest of the climbing we have found there. Although it is probably only around 5.8 in difficulty it is pretty technical slab and it takes a bit of wandering to find the holds that keep the climbing in that range.

It would have been nice to climb the new route from the ground but, with the extra station and broken drill bit it was getting on in the afternoon and we had both climbed all the terrain in the new line. So we decided to head out early and be home in time for supper.

A new topo is available which includes the new line (which Morgan named “Diamond in the Rough”) and the new 5th pitch on Family Jewels. We hope to get out first thing in the spring and make the first pitch of Diamond in the Rough a little more user friendly. As in my previous post, emerald wall can be found right here.

Testing Update

A quick update: I did more testing last night after adjusting a plank and managed to get the wall up to 10ft/min; a very reasonable climbing speed. Ultimately, i would like to get it running up to 15 or 20ft/min.

I suspect that the stalling issue I had recently was due to a change in temperature as much as issues with the planks. Basically, the small, low torque motor I am using only has to overcome the friction in the gearbox. It doesn’t need to really drive anything, but when the temperature drops and the oil becomes more viscous that drag in the gearbox increases.

At 10ft/min the motor is turning at 600rpm, and having a torque curve like the one below, I am guessing it is putting out, at most, 200 oz*in of torque at that speed. So very little torque.


I think my options for dealing with this are: lower oil viscosity, use a lower ratio gear box, or a higher torque motor. The use of a lower ratio gearbox might seem counter intuitive but if we go from a 60:1 gear ratio to a 15:1 ratio the motor will be at the same operating point and the wall will be moving much faster. Since the motor isn’t really driving the wall, it just needs to overcome the friction in the gearbox, which will be comparable, this should work. In the end I will probably end up trying all three options.

The 60:1 gearbox wasn’t my preferred choice when I was designing the thing i was hoping for 20 to 30:1 but it was at princess auto and it was cheap. I guess this is what happens when you compromise on your design.