Though the fall season this year in Bozeman has been particularly great for climbers with cool temperatures and low humidity, winter is right around the corner, coating local areas in snow and ice and pushing crowds back into climbing gyms.
Unfortunately, under the current circumstances of COVID-19, both the Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center and Spire Climbing and Fitness are enforcing strict occupancy limits. The typical late-afternoon winter crowds often don’t fit anymore and many patrons of both organizations are turned away at the door.
Faced with this challenge, many MSU students have turned to the age-old woody approach to training. Built from cheap plywood, two by fours and t-nuts (special nuts placed in the plywood that allow holds to be bolted to the wall), the “woody” offers a blank canvas for climbers to create their own boulder problems to stay in shape until the spring melt brings them back to the crags.
However, the phrase “cheap” is relative. Though a couple sheets of plywood, a handful of two by fours and some t-nuts may not cost much, the cost of climbing holds can rack up the budget to thousands of dollars. Some hold manufacturers like Metolius Climbing, Atomik Climbing Holds and Element Climbing offer bulk packs in the $200 range that include 30-50 holds.
To cut down on the cost, many companies offer discounts on clearance and defect holds. Element Climbing offers excess clearance holds sold by the pound on their website. Tension Climbing, a company that specializes in wooden holds and hangboards, offers defect holds that have knots or other weaknesses for half-off the usual price. For those looking for even deeper savings, a quick Google search of “how to make climbing holds” shows several videos on how to make custom wood and resin holds.
Finding space for a woody can prove an even more difficult challenge, especially for college students who likely won’t be able to drill a single screw into the wall unless they’re willing to factor their security deposit into the cost of the woody. In addition to their defect holds, Tension Climbing sells hangboards that can easily screw into doorway pullup bars for much less than the cost of a full woody, and fit almost anywhere.
Though the recent weather may make it feel like the 2020 fall season is finished, a few places like the Homestake Pass area, Allenspur and the Winter Wall along the Madison River offer good conditions for those still itching to pull on some real rock before the winter snuffs out local climbing until spring.