Soon, you might be able to climb notorious outdoor roots from the comfort of your indoor climbing gym.

By Ryan Halvorson


Popular outdoor climbing routes may be making their way indoors, thanks to researchers from Dartmouth University.

The team, led by Emily Whiting, PhD, assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth, used 3D modeling to mimic climbers’ movements on certain routes and then manufactured holds based on what they observed.

“To replicate the climbing routes indoors, the team created 3D reconstructions of the rock walls using multi-view stereo,” says information from a Dartmouth press release. “They also shot reference video of the climber’s ascent to capture where he supported his body and to estimate his skeletal poses, including the contact regions for his hands and feet on the rock wall.”

Only portions of the cruxes were reconstructed due to cost restraints. They were based off of “Things As They Are Now (TATAN)” in New Hampshire and “Pilgrimage” in Utah—both sites are rated 5.12a. The holds were created through rapid prototyping, and molding and casting techniques. Climbers then tested the finished product to determine any differences between the fabricated route and its outdoor counterpart.

Visually, the climbers’ movements matched those that had been recorded at the source locations. The climbers confirmed that the routes felt exactly the same or very similar to what they had experienced on-site.

Whiting believes this could offer climbing enthusiasts an opportunity to try out popular, far-away routes that they might not otherwise attempt as well as a chance to train before heading out to the actual location.

“Since there’s limited time and accessibility at remote climbing locations, the ability to train at a convenient indoor gym can make the difference between success and failure,” says the professor.

Check out the video below for an inside look at how the researchers completed this process.

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer, editor and content specialist for Mesa Rim.