Teen Builds Home Climbing Wall during Pandemic
Alex Brown became hooked on climbing when his older brother took him to the Seattle Bouldering Project two years ago. From that moment on, he climbed there every weekend. Whenever he and his family travel, Alex makes a point of getting to the local climbing gym. He even had the thrill of meeting rock climbing legend Alex Honnold during a climbing session at Momentum in Seattle. To Alex, the best part of rocking climbing is hanging out with friends and getting better at the sport. His love for climbing was also influenced by the fact that his school, Tahoma High School, has a very innovative climbing program. He and his friends climbed daily during the school’s Power Hour, a one-hour block designed for lunch and academic work or extracurricular interests.
The idea for a home climbing wall came about when the state of Washington closed schools and climbing gyms, preventing Alex from participating in his favorite activity. At first, Alex introduced the idea to his parents as a joke, which soon turned into the not-so-hypothetical question of “but what if we did build a home wall?” Soon the spare bedroom was under consideration. Eventually, the garage was deemed the best location due to a higher ceiling.
After doing some online research, Alex and his father (an engineer), created a plan to build their home climbing wall, the first large DIY project for Alex. The final result is a 174-square-foot climbing wall that features a vertical slab (8' wide x 9' tall), a 20-degree angle section (12' wide x 10' long) and a textured surface that they achieved using deck paint. 12-inch crash pads create a safe landing surface. Alex climbs several times a week on his home wall for 2-3 hours each session. The climbing wall has also given him the opportunity to set routes for the first time. He loves creating problems and then working to figure out the moves to accomplish them.
Currently a sophomore, the worst thing about remote learning for Alex is not being able to see his friends. The only positive for him is that the academics are less stressful. His excellent third quarter grades became his final grades, so that took off some of the pressure. In addition to climbing, Alex enjoys snowboarding in the winter and is a member of the robotics team. Right before the shutdown, Tahoma High School started a climbing club and Alex is running for president. He, along with many others, hopes that school can re-open for in-person learning--and climbing--in the fall.