Conventionally, climbing gyms look alike. There are those with Moon Boards and there are those with coffee machines, but at the end of the day, a climbing facility is a warehouse-like building with a front desk and some routes. Though this type of facility is what we have come to love, the advent of outdoor climbing on indoor walls has changed what a climbing gym needs to look like. Nomad Walls has taken it even further.
We sat down with Babacar Daoust-Cissé, Sales Director at Nomad Walls to learn more about their unconventional approach to climbing walls. He said, “Our aim is to bring innovation to the climbing community.”
The Quebec-based company was built out of Nomad Bloc, Canada’s first outdoor climbing centre. Babacar said, “We first founded Nomad Bloc back in October of 2017. We built the design of our first mobile structure over the course of six months, we assembled it ourselves, and opened our gym in August of 2018.”
The team itself was originally composed of four engineers that had a passion for climbing. According to Babacar, “We realized that during the summer, with our busy schedules, we didn’t always have time to get out of the city and plan a trip to the crag. Being in Quebec, there wasn’t much in the way of outdoor climbing structures because of the winter and everything that comes with it. We thought we should brainstorm a structure that we could close or protect in winter, and that’s when the idea of the mobile bouldering gym came to my partner Fred. At first, he pitched it as a joke, but we dove into it and designed it from scratch. We wanted to make the modern high-quality bouldering gym mobile.”
This mobile structure would become the Nomad Summit: the world’s largest mobile climbing structure. Though the original Summit was designed specifically for Nomad Bloc, but they’re invention caught the attention of many in the climbing community.
Babacar said, “As soon as we opened Nomad Bloc, we received a bunch of requests for mobile projects, but we weren’t actually set up for being wall builders. This year we decided to create Nomad Walls and started delivering projects for clients.”
In a recent piece, Gripped covered the re-opening of the Richmond Oval in Metro-Vancouver. Along with their reopening came new climbing walls, many of which were built by Nomad Walls. According to Babacar, Nomad’s the Escalate, a modular wall design, came as a direct request from the Oval.
He said, “They reached out to us at first because they saw the Nomad Summit on Instagram and they were interested in having a mobile solution. They wanted, at first, to have a training wall that could be used for competition isolation, and they wanted a wall that they could split. They also wanted something that could be moved in case they wanted to use it outdoors on the plaza, so we actually designed it completely for them.”
For ease of installation, Babacar said, “It comes with an IKEA-like user-manual. We did the first installation at the Oval, but since then, they have been moving it around themselves. It’s so easy to use and assemble that we can uses it for events as well.”
As such, The Escalate joins their Summit and Rise products as ideal event-solutions. He said, “We are going to use it for a location rental also. We are going to use it for an event at the Olympic stadium in Montreal in two weeks.”
What makes these mobile walls even more amazing is the fact that products like the Summit and the Rise are electronically actuated. As such, installation is easy. You can even bring the boulder problems with you! Babacar said, “Some of our products you can move with the problems on the wall. You can set up a few comp sets, drive to the site, pop up and then you have an event. They all have their specific characteristics, but it gives you a lot of flexibility for what you can do and where you can bring high quality bouldering.”
One of the obvious issues with outdoor structures is how they might fair in the rain. To that end, Babacar said, “We design everything to withstand weather. We have mats that are covered with vinyl, the wood panels are all coated for outdoors, and everything is galvanized steel or powder coated.” As the structures come complete with awnings and squeegees, it is easy to remove water from the matts and keep the walls dry.
Each of the Nomad products are designed to be accessible to everyone. The Rise and Summit products come built on trailers, while the Escalate’s wall-angles are entirely adjustable. In reference to the Escalate, Babacar said, “We streamlined it to be the simplest structure. The manual is something that we have had good feedback on from the Oval. It has all the pictures, all of the steps, I think it is probably the simplest structure you can find. Any routesetter would feel very comfortable using a structure like this.”
Though Nomad does specialize in these mobile climbing wall designs, they are not limited to these structures. Babacar said, “We are also working on standard gym products. We like every aspect of climbing and are actually working on building regular climbing walls as well.”
With that said, Babacar and the Nomad team are excited by other engineering products they currently have in the works. They are expecting to produce a more household based structure that just might be the first of its kind.