New interactive climbing wall at Ascent Studios is the first of its kind

Matt Smith

man climbs rock wall
Adrian Zdrobis, a rock climber of 25 years, tries out the rock climbing wall guided with lasers. The lasers determine which grips can be used, with the different colors denoting different things.With a duplicate rock wall around the world, there are an infinite combination of laser patterns that the climber can try, and patterns can be created and shared through an app. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

For the first time since its inception nearly two centuries ago, the rock climbing sport of bouldering has received a major update.

It’s called the Tension Board, and Ascent Studios in south Fort Collins is the first in the world to put it to commercial use. What looks like a dense grid of mismatched holds is actually an interactive practicing tool with unlimited possible climbing routes.

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Through the official app, climbers can sync with the board and create their own boulder problems. Multicolored LEDs light up the route’s holds, green corresponding to the start, blue to hand and foot holds, pink to holds just for feet and red for the finish.

After making a problem, climbers can upload them to the app on which they can rate and play other problems.

Andrew Lee, a coach with the CSU Climbing Team, sees the Tension Board as a useful tool for climbers of any skill level.

“It’s a lot more accessible, so you don’t have to be a V5, V6 climber to train on the Tension Board,” Lee said.

The Tension Board is proving to be a popular addition among Ascent’s members. In a sport that in all other instances requires hours of route adjustment with power tools, climbers at Ascent are finding new ways to practice.

“It’s like really useful because you can tell your weaknesses,” Tyler Crumps, a freshman electrical engineering student, said. “You can set the same movements that you’re struggling with to train on, like specific movements.

man climbs rock wallAs for first impressions, the most noticeable difference with the Tension Board is the sanded wooden holds, an uncommon sight in indoor bouldering. Ascent employee Matt Robbin sees a benefit with the softer material.

“I definitely like climbing on the wood holds it doesn’t tear your hands up,” Robbin said. “If you’re gonna climb outside on the weekend you don’t destroy your skin.”

However, less grip requires a lot more from the climber. More attention needs to be put towards weight placement and balance as friction is less of a factor.

“It does require you to be a lot more precise and use your core,” Lee said. “If you don’t you’re going to slip off the holds.”

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Most climbers at Ascent have not tried out this new technology, but as they do there are sure to be more new and interesting routes popping up on the app. Already problems include workouts, daunting V10s and games like “race yo friends da sequel (slightly harder).” 

Ascent Studios is located at 2150 Joseph Allen Drive. The Tension Board is located on the second floor. 

Collegian reporter Matthew Smith can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @latvatalo.