By Brian Berkovitz
The Active Times
In recent years, climbing gyms have begun sprouting up across the globe, particularly in cities, where they've brought the outdoor-centric sport of rock climbing indoors and to the masses. In the growing business, however, there are some stand-out structures from certain architects and designers who take their designs to the next level.
In this slideshow, we'll show you some of the most unique and impressive man-made climbing walls from around the world. From an indoor ice-climbing palace in Scotland to 500 scenic feet of bolted holds in Switzerland, adventure awaits. Climb on!
Opened in 2010, this gym boasts a whopping 30,000 square feet of climbing terrain, making it one of the nation’s largest indoor facilities. With lead and top-rope climbing up to 60 feet and features including mega-rolls, overhangs and roofs, the roped climbing here is not to be missed. For the less vertically inclined, the bouldering area has plenty of variety and is reset frequently. The gym is also very family-friendly, including a separate kid's section complete with 12 auto-belays and a giant scalable dinosaur.
What began in 1990 as an outdoor school leading expeditions to K2 and Kilimanjaro has expanded to become the largest indoor climbing facility in the country, boasting over 38,500 square feet of climbing. With over 200 lead and sport routes and an expansive bouldering area Earth Treks has a cornucopia of adventures for climbers of all levels. Be sure to check out their unique death-star feature -- a bulbous overhang curving four feet out and 10 feet up to a challenging top-out. Earth Treks has three locations in the greater Washington D.C, Northern Virginia, and Maryland region and will open a fourth in Golden, Colorado, in November. Don't let their indoor expansion fool you, though; they haven’t lost sight of their outdoor origins. Earth Treks continues to host expeditions abroad, making sure its climbing community stays well rounded.
This facility boasts an outdoor wall 164 feet high overlooking downtown Reno, making it the nation’s tallest outdoor climbing wall. Though the view at the top may not compare to some of the other breathtaking vistas on this list, the experience comes with all the amenities of urban climbing. Base Camp also has a competition-ready indoor bouldering area -- over 2,700 square feet -- with two freestanding boulders and a separate climbing area for kids.
With 1,400 square meters of indoor ice climbing routes up to 50 feet high, this is the world's largest indoor ice climbing facility. The frosty façade is so massive the designers had to pour a 15-meter thick concrete slab to hold up the 500 tons of man-made snow comprising the routes. Each of the 25 lines are hand-packed and manipulated to simulate outdoor conditions, where routes change shape constantly due to unpredictable weather. The room is kept below zero, with a rotating heat loop that recreates natural freeze and thaw cycles. Think that’s cool? Ice Factor also offers an indoor bouldering area, an outdoor rock climbing tower and a roped climbing wall with a hydraulic feature that extends to a six-meter overhang.
Although this massive facade wasn't built for climbing, its rock-crawling makeover only seems natural. The 540-foot Swiss dam was bolted in the 1990s, becoming the world's highest artificial climbing wall. The climb starts off concave, but through its five pitches gradually flattens to a vertical face.
The holds begin 20 feet off the ground to ensure passersby dont hop on, but you can rent a key for the access ladder from Ristorante Luzzone at the top of the dam for about 20 dollars and a 100-dollar deposit. Once you reach the top, take in the breathtaking view of Lago di Luzzone, the crystal-blue lake encircled by the four plush-green peaks of Piz Terri mountain to the north-east, Plattenberg on the east, Torrone di Nav to the south, and Pizzo Pianca to the north.
This adventure resort holds a Guinness World Record for the world's tallest freestanding climbing tower at 140 feet. The routes zig-zag through 4 overhangs and chimneys, with sequences ranging from 5.5 to 5.12. Once the wall tops out, you're rewarded with a sweeping panoramic view of Snake Creek Gorge. The resort also holds the record for the largest and longest zip line eco canopy tour, with nearly 9 miles of cables whizzing the rider up to 60 mph over the rubble of Old Banning and rapids of Snake Creek.
If Salvador Dali lived in the Victorian era, he might have painted a scene like the one you see here in Tokyo’s fashion district. Instead of typical climbing holds made to mimic something on the rock, this gym chose to bring a stylish aesthetic to its sleek interior. Filling its white walls with design elements such as window frames, birdcages, flower vases, and antler heads, design company Nendo began the project with its brand concept, "Becoming beautiful through movement."
For the complete list of Outrageous Artificial Climbs, go to TheActiveTimes.com.