Climbing: Moves Like You've Never Seen Before

Outside magazine, April 1995

Climbing: Moves Like You've Never Seen Before
By Douglas Gantenbein

"You can have someone right there in your face when you climb," says Michael Jacob Sinclair, a San Francisco-area pediatrician who's pushing what he hopes will be the next big thing: a see-through climbing wall with identical holds on each side. It's called, appropriately, In Your Face.

Sounds nifty, except for an obvious drawback--those inevitable "in your soggy armpits" moments--but Sinclair is confident that the wall's unique features will prevail. The $9,000 unit is a 30-foot-tall, one-inch-thick acrylic structure that, says Sinclair, improves on ordinary indoor set-ups in two key areas: competition and instruction. The mirror-image holds allow "rock races," with two climbers scrabbling belly-to-belly up the same route, as well as face-to-face teaching. "It's great," says Bernard Zylberberg, manager of a Marin County climbing club that recently installed a unit. "You can show a student every move you make."

Skeptics, however, see it as a gimmick best-suited for kids, and sales aren't exactly roaring, with only two installed so far. Rich Johnson, manager of two Seattle-area Vertical Clubs, shakes his head when asked if he'd install the gizmo. Main gripe: the slippery plastic is just too far removed from real-world conditions. "Climbing has a lot to do with texture," says Johnson. "Not a chance."

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