While the techniques and sport of rock climbing was originally created as an outdoor sport and an offshoot of the methods developed for mountain climbing in the Victorian era, the indoor version has now become the most popular way that people get their start learning how to climb, and for many people who live in parts of the world where it is inconvenient (or impossible) for them to reach a significant outdoor rock climbing location, indoor climbing walls provides a way for them to enjoy their hobby whenever they want. An indoor climbing wall is usually not made of rock, but of some kind of textured material including concrete and paint which is placed over a multiplex board.
For walls designed to help people learn the basics of climbing, hand holds are generally screwed onto the wall. A beginner’s wall may be a simple vertical wall with regular hand holds spaces so that it is easy to move upwards – this helps a novice rock climber get used to supporting his or her own body weight while scaling a wall. More advanced climbing walls can have more complicated surfaces and reliably fewer hand and foot holds to hang on to. However, it is unusual for indoor climbing walls to be completely devoid of hand holds and foot holds because unlike outdoor rock climbing surfaces, indoor surfaces do not generally make use of belaying equipment and the various kinds of anchors that damage the face of the rock. While the climber of an indoor rock wall may use a harness depending on the height of the wall and the lesson being taken, a primary method of protecting oneself from a fall is a thick padded surface below the wall. Climbers are also usually required to wear protective gear so that even in the event of a fall it is illegally that they will suffer an injury.
While an indoor climbing wall does not provide the same degree of challenge as an outdoor area, it is significantly safer and it makes it possible for people who live in the city, far from suitable rock climbing locations, to learn how to climb and develop their skills. It also gives people a place that they can go to climb when the weather is not suitable for climbing (if it is rainy or snowy).
Artificial walls for rock climbing were first built in 1964 in Great Britain and have since spread around the world, with an increasing number of large gyms including rock climbing walls as one of the options that they provide for working into fitness routines. Indoor climbing walls can be designed with complex molded features and the optimal routes, as well as more challenging routes, can be indicated with marks on the wall to help people visualize their goals and work towards conquering the more advanced paths up the climbing wall as they learn new techniques and better develop their climbing strength and coordination for climbing on a sheer rock face. And as a sport in itself it can be very exhilarating, and takes some beating.