These days, garage climbing gyms are ubiquitous, if not a bit cliche. Holds on cinderblock walls, sheets of plywood attached to a wood frame, angled wood planks fabricated to create a crack…there are no limits when it comes to fabricating climbing contraptions. Particularly at home where you can get away with making stuff that would never fly at a commercial gym. We used to have this climbing wall adjacent to our dryer. Much to my Mom’s dismay, many problems would require a sit-down start with a left foot smear off the side of the dryer.
I bring you a few videos shot on my Sony camcorder at Terry Andrew’s garage climbing gym – back in the 1990s. I recently digitized these and decided to upload them in an effort to preserve a particular era in climbing history.
Climbing at Terry’s was a nearly weekly ritual. There was a climbing gym up in Oklahoma City that we loved – the original Summit Rock Gym off of 63rd Street – but we loved being able to set our own routes at Terry’s, to be creative, and to challenge each other.
Terry’s gym was an introduction to us as to what a climbing gym could be – if you let your mind run free. I recall no less than three major redesigns over the course of climbing at Terry’s. Each time the space expanded.
Terry used to make his own holds. And when I say make his own holds, I do not mean in the traditional sense of the word. It wouldn’t be unusual to show up and see new holes cut out of the plywood – pockets. One time, Terry came up with these polyester resin holds. They were brown and looked like mudpies. They were these goopey looking piles but when you touched them they were super grippy.
“How’d you make these things,” I asked him.
“Dug some holes in the backyard, mixed in some playground sand and filled it with resin,” he explained. After the resin cured, he drilled a hole through them and bolted them to the wall.
This “set” of holds were uncharacteristic in every sense; ugly in every respect, unfriendly, and damn near impossible to grab. As such, they secured the crux move of countless routes and the bane of our indoor sessions. Some of the flattest of these doo-doo-cookie-looking “patties” were relegated to nothing more than intermediate footholds due to their unuseability.
As you can tell from the maddening amount of chalk on the walls, we did not use route tape – nor was route tape even a thing, yet. Most of the problems we came up with were unmarked – just memorized.
As time went on, we added more “actual” purchased holds. Most climbing hold companies had some kind of hold-of-the-month club back then. The brands back then that we liked were Pusher, StraightUP, Climb It, Nicros, Metolius, and a bit later, SoIll and Voodoo started coming into the picture. But our all time favorite holds back then, by far, were the Tony Yaniro holds. The Yaniro hangboard (now poured by Atomik) is still my all-time favorite.