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When 57-year-old architect and building contractor Adam Kushner began constructing a climbing wall atop his home in Manhattan, he wasn’t in it to break any records. He just wanted to make a rad climbing wall. In the process, he inadvertently made one of the tallest walls in America.
The 8 x 83-foot wall runs both inside and outside his home, featuring a traditional plywood lower section, covered by a retractable roof, and a freestanding upper portion (the last 43 feet) which is constructed from an uber-durable, transparent plexiglass. “Being up on the top part of the wall is pretty amazing,” Kushner said. “You’re hanging 60 or 70 feet off the deck, on top of a building, staring down 6th Avenue in New York City.”
Kushner, who was a regular Gunks climber back in the 1980s, built the wall with his 15-year-old son, an avid climber. While he and his son are currently running an auto belay on the lower portion of the wall and top-roping the upper section, Kushner’s next project is making the wall lead-able. This will require him to put bolt placements in the central metal supports, since the upper portion of the wall is mostly plexiglass. He dated himself by adding, “I’m old enough that I thought we had to get custom ropes to climb an 80-foot wall. No one really made ropes more than 50 meters back when I was climbing.”
While it might seem surprising that he was legally allowed to construct an 83-foot wall in a dense urban environment like Manhattan, the New York City Department of Buildings reportedly “couldn’t find any reason not to allow it,” Kushner said. It might have been difficult for the average individual to accomplish, but Kushner had the professional knowledge and savvy to get it done. “As an architect and contractor, I’m unique in the sense that I had the ability to get all the permits and titles required for this sort of thing,” he said. He’s also no newbie when it comes to building climbing walls in general. In the late 90s, he constructed for a client what was then the tallest climbing wall in NYC.
While Kushner admitted that he hasn’t gone to extensive lengths to dig up any possible competing walls, he’s fairly certain that his wall is the tallest artificial climbing wall east of Reno, Nevada (which hosts a 164-foot wall on the side of the Whitney Peak Hotel).
Owen Clarke is a writer currently based in Tennessee. He is a Contributing Digital Editor at Rock and Ice and Gym Climber. He enjoys Southern sandstone and fish tacos, and is afraid of heights.
Follow him on Instagram at @opops13.