• TNB: The Risk of Climbing
  • TNB: How to Get Stronger by Doing Nothing for 5 Minutes a Day
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Improve Your Footwork
  • TNB: In Praise of the Weekend Warrior
  • TNB: Joe Kinder Visits the World's Hardest Cave
  • TNB: Celebrating Insomnia in Chamonix
  • TNB: Run, Rabbit: Hermann Gollner, 71, cranks Pump-O-Rama (5.13a)
  • TNB: Best Five Photos of 2014
  • TNB: Clip Like A Pro—5 Tips from Sasha DiGiulian and Sean McColl
  • TNB: Five Things Every Gym Climber Must Know About Climbing Outside
  • TNB: Still Jeff Lowe
  • TNB: Moving Over Stone With Doug Robinson
  • TNB: Wheels Up—The Top 5 Climbing Rigs
  • TNB: Is K2 The New Everest?
  • TNB: Things—Besides Us, That Is—That Fall
  • TNB: When Homemade Gear Works, Sorta
  • TNB: The Outsiders
  • TNB: R.I.P. Homero Gutierrez Villarreal: The Padrino of El Potrero
  • TNB: A Short Talk with Sierra Blair-Coyle
  • TNB: Ian Dory, Ninja, or The Craziest Thing I Ever Seen
  • TNB: The Best Crag Dogs of All Time
  • TNB: 5 Ways to Make People Love Your Routes
  • TNB: Hudon and Jones, and Don't Forget It!
  • TNB: Climbing's Tribal Rites
  • TNB: Sasha DiGiulian and Alex Johnson On How to Be a Modern Pro
  • TNB: Is Dean Potter A Bad Father?
  • TNB: Silly Places We’ve Slept: Tales of Unplanned Bivies
  • TNB: Forgotten Hero - Frank Sacherer 1940-1978
  • TNB: The World-Class Weekend Warrior – Martin Keller Climbs V15
  • TNB: Everest Sherpas No Longer Willing to “Grin and Bear It”
  • TNB: Hardheaded Helmet Lesson Learned
  • TNB: Six Most Awesome Jobs for Climbers
  • TNB: The Coolest Climbing Deal Breaker
  • TNB: Sharma and Glowacz Send World’s Steepest Rock Climb
  • An Encounter with a Legend - Patrick Edlinger: Plus A Whipper Vid
  • TNB: Six Things Every Climber Should Do Before They Die
  • TNB: Falling from the Top
  • TNB: Weekend Whipper
  • TNB: Band of Crushers
  • TNB: Charlie Porter, We Hardly Knew You
  • TNB: Climbing's Greatest Route Names
  • TNB: Hot Women Die and Have Sex on Everest
  • TNB: The Great Tragedy at Carderock
  • TNB: Thoughts On Death, and Last Words
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Big Story
  • TNB: Next Level? Honnold Pushes the Game on El Sendero Luminoso
  • TNB: Jeff Lowe Invented the Sport
  • TNB: Climbers We Lost in 2013
  • TNB: The Top 10 Climbing Achievements of 2013
  • TNB: If Ondra Isn't The Best Climber In The World, Who Is?
  • TNB: The Most Popular Weekend Whippers of the Year
  • TNB: Storm Years or Typhoon? The Biggest Issue in Climbing
  • TNB: Jim Bridwell Speaks
  • TNB: Honnold's Biggest Solo
  • TNB: Death on Forbidden Peak: Was the NPS Complicit?
  • TNB: Ice Climbing Goes to Sochi Olympics
  • TNB: When Gear Attacks
  • TNB: 8a.nu: The Best Climber in the World is the One with the Most Points
  • TNB: Shutdown: Illegal Climbers in Yosemite—Ninjas or Criminals?
  • TNB: Who is the Best Climber in the World?
  • TNB: The New Courage in a Rucksack
  • TNB: Unsolved Mystery: The Ten Sleep Shooting
  • TNB: The Pad Problem: Honnold, Kehl on Headpoints and Highballs
  • TNB: Travels with Delaney Miller: National Champ Turns to Rock
  • TNB: Jail Food and Booty
  • TNB: Love on the Road
  • TNB: Is Pakistan Safe for Climbers?
  • TNB: Flash Floods, Climbers and How to Get Out of the Way
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Level
  • TNB: Best In Show: Brand New Gear from the Outdoor Retailer Show
  • TNB: Adam Ondra Ties the Knot
  • TNB: Climbing's Big Mistake
  • TNB: Under Pressure: Trotter and Honnold On How Bets Can Help You Send
  • TNB: The Tragedy of Tito Traversa
  • TNB: My Favorite Bling Can Be Yours Too!
  • TNB: DR's Crazy Brain Puzzle. Get It Correct or Else.
  • TNB: What Happened To Climbing Films?
  • TNB: Cry of the Colorado Fussy Snivel
  • TNB: Mystery Solved!
  • TNB: The Mystery of Moses Tower: Help Answer a 25-Year-Old Question
  • TNB: The Only Blasphemy
  • TNB: No Such Luck
  • TNB: Erasing Midnight Lightning
  • TNB: Mayhem: Crawling, Balling and Brawling on the Evere$t Soap Opera
  • TNB: Watching the Boston Marathon
  • TNB: Chasing the Devil's Snort
  • TNB: Born-Again Gumby
  • TNB: Super Unknown: Austin Dark Horse Establishes 5.14d in Random Texas Cave
  • TNB: Fearless?
  • TNB: The Big Freaking Deal, Ain't Bouldering
  • TNB: Honnold's Achilles' Heel
  • TNB: He's Either Crazy or a Poet
  • TNB: The Best Sport for Kids?
  • TNB: The Fish Cheat and the Prince of Climbing
  • TNB: A Letter from Santa... I mean Sharma
  • TNB: Traveler's Advisory: El Potrero Chico, Mexico
  • TNB: A Year Ago: Athol
  • TNB: UIAA Issues Bizzare Indictment of Sport Climbing
  • TNB: Gun Control
  • TNB: What's the Problem?
  • TNB: Derek Hersey's Magic Carpet
  • TNB: The Apprentices
  • TNB: The Jungle
  • TNB: Klem Loskot is Back Climbing V15 and 5.15
  • TNB: Eliminated
  • TNB: The Hurt Locker
  • TNB: Baddest Climb of the Year
  • TNB: Crossfit Misfit
  • TNB: Tony Scott, Climber, Movie Maker, Lived and Died Large
  • TNB: Eating People and the Real Seventh Summit
  • TNB: What Would Warren Harding Do?
  • TNB: The Curse Of The Bandit
  • TNB: Reality Pro
  • TNB: Chris Sharma and The Art of Jeep Maintenance
  • TNB: American Dirtbag
  • TNB: How Not To Climb 5.12
  • TNB: Project FAIL
  • TNB: The Backwards Future of Climbing
  • TNB: The Passion of Grubb
  • TNB: The Death of Progress
  • TNB: The Da Vinci CO
  • TNB: The Philosopher King
  • TNB: Spam Alert
  • TNB: Unholy Matrimony
  • TNB: Bad Genes
  • TNB: WORLD
  • TNB: Mouth Wide Shut
  • TNB: Outside Reality
  • TNB: The Day I Saved Jésus
  • TNB: My Pad, Your Problem
  • TNB: House Rules
  • TNB: Five Things I Don't Hate About Climbing
  • TNB: Metro-Pointing
  • TNB: Beast in the East
  • TNB: Artificial Intelligence
  • TNB: To Boldly Go Sprad Climbing
  • TNB: Self-Destruction
  • TNB: Soul Sport
  • TNB: Your Most Psyched
  • TNB: Nine Pitches
  • Video Spotlight
    2010 UBC Bouldering Championships...
    2010 UBC Bouldering Championships...

    TNB: Artificial Intelligence

    29-Jan-2010
    By

    In the last 25 years, no piece of gear has been more influential to the sport of climbing than artificial gym/training holds. A close second might be the cordless drill, and then way down the list you'll find such items as sticky-rubber shoes and spring-loaded cams, critical items that, for sure, pushed climbing standards and made the sport easier and better.

    But cams and sticky rubber were not responsible for introducing millions of people to climbing. They did not make the sport automatically seem fun. They did not grow the sport or the industry. They were not responsible for the development of competition climbing, which has produced the world's best rock climbers. They did not provide the training apparatuses that are now allowing even teenagers to climb 5.15.

    Plastic holds did.

    The evolution of artificial climbing holds is murky. Perhaps because plastic/indoor climbing is often regarded as something not real or legitimate, no one has really bothered to write its history. François Savigny and the French company Entre Prises (EP) are credited with being the first to commercially manufacture artificial holds as early as 1984, 25 years ago. The first holds from EP were hexagonally shaped holds made of resinous concrete. They were painful to grab, heavy and came in a very limited number of shapes.

    However, though we think of indoor climbing as not real, the desire to pull down on manmade problems is a natural instinct in climbers, as evinced by the fact that climbers had been making their own holds since the early 1970s. Brooke Sandahl of Metolius says that he screwed wooden blocks onto rafters as early as 1976. People bolted rocks to the undersides of tunnels. And, with no climbing gyms around, climbers used buildings to fill the void.

    What followed next, and continues to this day, is a crucible of art and engineering, where creativity and vision meet technology.

    The earliest holds just weren't that fun, says Mark Jackson, a designer of 18 years at Entre Prises USA. They were sharp. There was a trend in the early 90s toward more rounded shapes. Now it has come full circle, back toward more natural, sculpted shapes, while still keeping in mind ergonomics.

    Holds and walls that are fun to climb not only introduce people nowadays to the sport, but get them hooked. The sheer numbers of different shapes are approaching the near-infinite permutations of natural rock grips, allowing climbers to gain comfort, familiarity and strength in various hand positions more quickly and easily than ever. Atmospheric ratings, and the rate of improvement for most climbers, not to mention their attitudes, can be attributed to the plastic hold.

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article:
    Hello