Concordia student gives new meaning to 'climbing the walls' with homemade gym

Eli Dannenbaum, a mechanical engineering student in Montreal, finished building the new indoor climbing wall in his condo, just one month before Quebec's new red zone rules kicked in.

Stuck at home ‘climbing the walls,’ took on a new meaning.

“It was perfect timing for us, keeps us sane, gives us something to do - yeah, it was fantastic.”

The fourth-year Concordia student says he now has a lot of very jealous and restless climbing friends who wish they’d had the same idea sooner.

Dannenbaum decided to start building climbing walls after purchasing one from a friend about a year ago.

“My love for building and climbing combined and - this happened,” he explains, gesturing to the two blue wood walls and ceiling that now securely nestle inside a previously common space, linking the living area with the kitchen.

Since then, he’s built six climbing zones himself - all of them installed inside the homes of friends and relatives.

The interlocking walls are appropriate for residential spaces because the structures are free-standing; and are unlikely to harm the dwelling's walls, the 23-year-old says.

“That way they work for renters - lots of students,” because they can just be dismantled and potentially adapted to new digs.

Bolted to the climbing walls are dozens of colourful holds. Some the budding engineer purchased, others he made himself, using six different methods, involving moulds, resin and sometimes old plastic bags.

There are no limits to the way the boards can be configured, the university student says. The holds can be spun around or repositioned, and that always guarantees a new inventive workout.

“Everytime you move the holds you have a whole new set, and everything is different. Endless fun,” he says with a grin.

A framed-in net covered with a mattress and pillows hangs above the kitchen table and is lowered when the wall is used to catch a climber who takes a tumble.

It also conveniently doubles as a loft where he can lounge and play cards with his roommate.

Dannenbaum said when it came to design and construction, he didn’t scrimp on safety and put his mechanical engineering education to work.

“We did the math, and we could fit 285 people on it before the bolts break.”

They certainly won’t be testing that out any time soon - or ever - but it’s a reassuring thought as Dannenbaum dangles upside down, eight feet above the floor within reach of his kitchen appliances.

The future engineer has co-created a company with a friend called BreadHouse Climbing that sells training equipment. The company's name is a nod to his roommate Nico, a baker - also a handy skill to have during a pandemic, Dannenbaum points out.

On their website are tips to help you build you a basic wall yourself.

“We’re just happy to just help people learn how to make it because we want everyone to build one.”

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