Climbing: Moves Like You’ve Never Seen Before

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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.”