Imagine a world where a route setter could set a problem in a gym in Paris, upload the route to a phone app, and then a setter in Dallas could download the problem and replicate it. The benefits would be many. Climbers around the world could test themselves on problems set by World Cup route setters, you could hold national or international competitions without having the climbers travel, gyms could share routes, saving them most of the downtime and cost associated with route setting, and you could share a problem you set with your buddy 10 or a thousand miles away.
This is the reality of the Harmonized System unveiled by the hold and wall manufacturer Walltopia, at the Climbing Wall Association Summit conference held this May in Loveland, Colorado. We sat down with Walltopia U.S.A. president Adam Koberna to learn more.
Whose idea was the Harmonized Wall and how long did it take to develop?
The cofounder of Walltopia, Ivaylo Penchev, thought it up. Six years ago I was in Sofia, Bulgaria [Walltopia’s headquarters] and Ivaylo was able to change the colors of problems on the wall using just his phone. I was like, “whoa, this is a thing!” It’s been a work in progress, and we now have it ready to install in gyms.
What exactly is the Harmonized System?
The Harmonized System uses five modules, or modules/boulders/wall features about 15 feet high and 40 to 60 feet wide. Each module is unique, and can be assembled together or scattered throughout a gym. The holds are translucent and lit with LED lights. A route setter sets a route, and enters the hold locations and orientation in an app on his phone. A gym with the same wall module can then use the app to tell them where to put the holds. Basically you push a button, the T-nut locations where the holds should go light up in red or blue or whatever color the setter chose, and you put the holds there.
Has the Harmonized System been used in comps?
The World Cup finals in Innsbruck, Austria, used the #2 module for the bouldering competition, but those panels didn’t have the LEDs. So far four gyms have the Harmonized System, and five gyms are in the process of getting them.
Can gyms set the problems from Innsbruck?
No, but that is one of the goals of the System—in the near future you might be able to download the problems from the World Cup and set them in your gym.
Is the System practical for home gyms?
I don’t believe so because most people don’t have the space necessary for the modules. Home gyms are better suited to Moon Boards or Grasshopper frames. What Walltopia wants to do is bring the System to commercial gyms.
Is the Harmonized System like a bigger MoonBoard?
MoonBoards are smaller and fixed at one angle, and are more for training. Harmonized Systems have various fixed angles, a lower hold density, and are for setting routes rather than training problems.
The Harmonized System is only for bouldering?
Can a gym retrofit with the Harmonized System?
Yes, but it has to be a Walltopia wall because the panels are only compatible with Walltopia framing.
What is the goal for the System?
We want to create a community. Strava, for example, has an app where runners and bikers can share data, including distances and times, and compete or just compare how they are doing relative to other users. The Harmonized System can basically do the same thing for bouldering.
What are the benefits to the gym?
The Harmonized System will let
a gym constantly set new problems without the downtime of stripping all or part of the gym.
What about cost?
Walltopia has standardized costs for its walls. The Harmonized System has the additional expense of the LEDs and a subscription service for the app. But, the cost of the system will typically be less than hiring route setters to come in and reset routes.
Do route setters get a cut?
They can. Route setters can charge to download their problems.
Where do you imagine this will all go?
Gyms all over the world can hold competitions on the same walls, on the same problems. This will make climbing comps more inclusive, and bring the community together by sharing each others’ problems.