Dreams of My Father – A Garage Wall is Born


A few months after my mom found out she was pregnant with me, my father stopped climbing. The “un”-official story is that my mom thought it was unsafe for him to continue trad climbing 5.11’s at Lover Leap with a baby on the way. While this may be part of the reason, I am convinced that it had more to do with the fact that my dad would spend all his spare time after long days on the construction site roping up. If you have gone through a pregnancy, I am sure you can imagine how that went.

Living in Tahoe, my parents spent their winter as ski instructors at places like Boreal and Squaw, and during the summers my father would roof and climb…. After 5 years of this, plus some college here and there, they decided that being ski bums and having children was not the best mix for the lifestyle they wanted so they moved to the Bay Area.

Only one at the time, I was never consulted on this move and have no memory of living in Tahoe. With the exception of frequent weekend trips during the ski season, it was not a place I called home. Still, the passion my father had for that lifestyle never left him and skiing remained a core activity of our lives from day one. Although far removed from climbing, my brothers and I were joining my parents on the slopes as soon as we could walk.

Oh how I miss those days living here in Southern California. The closest skiing to Ventura is about 3 hours away. But knowing the how the 405 gets during rush hour, I have no desire to compete with LA crowds at Big Bear. Which leaves Mammoth, a short 6 hours away.


Even with all the skiing and other activities we shared as a family, I know the climbing bug had never really left my father.  Looking back at it now, I can see the signs, like when my father would buy climbing holds, even if they sat in a pile behind his desk, or how he envisioned the slightly overhanging 40′ wall at our church plastered in holds. 

Shared with Instagram #climbing#pinnaclesnationalmonument#california

Eventually, my father was able to take me climbing on a short trip to Pinnacles National Park outside of Salinas, CA. I was 12 at the time and although climbing did not become a routine for us after this trip, a seed was planted, one that my father had from before I was born. It was not until I moved to Santa Barbara for college that my passion for climbing really took root. I was about the same age as my father when he first moved up to Tahoe.

Nearly 16 years after my first trip to the Pinnacles, I can now relate to the passion that lead my father to buy climbing holds with no intended use, or look at the edges on the side of a building and every rock formation off the side of the road in search of a route. In college, it was a routine for me to send the banister of my apartment on an almost daily basis. At the time, I wanted to build a climbing wall inside my room, using my bed as a pad, but that was a logistical nightmare, plus I was broke. And even though I purchased a set of 40 Metolius climbing holds, these, until recently, sat in my parents garage collecting dust.


So few months ago when my wife and I closed escrow on our first home in Ventura, CA; it was one of my immediate plans was to build a climbing wall in the garage. Not wanting this to turn into an unfulfilled dream, I preemptively set aside some time during my parents visit during my sons 2nd birthday to build the wall. We started first thing Friday morning, with a precisely calculated sketch and a short list of the materials we would use then went into action.

By that evening, we had a completely framed wall with 90% of the plywood cut and mounted. I was shocked at the progress we made in one day. I think this shows how well my father and I work together, even with all our bickering. Nearing the completion of the wall just a few weeks later, the dream has become a reality and will not only give me the opportunity to climb at home, but will enable me to pass that seed along to my 2 year old son who has already started roping up with me at the Santa Barbara Rock Gym.

Thanks Dad!

Here are some shots of the wall. I still have yet to paint it; otherwise, it is complete. (disclaimer: I did actually help, but someone needed to take the photos).




The boss finishing his inspections

Here are a few stats:

  • 6′ wide & 10′ tall
  • 17′ from tip to tip
  • 489 t-nuts (8″ grid on the vertical sheets and 6″ grid on the overhang)
  • 5 sheets of 3/4″ ply; 13 2×4’s; 8 2×6’s
  • 160 sq ft of climbing surface
  • 2 weekends of work and about $300-$400 in materials
  • 1 toddler amping to send
3 Responses to “Dreams of My Father – A Garage Wall is Born”
  1. Would love to hear how this has been working out for you! Nice building.

  2. Renee Smith says:

    Very cool to see you and Kurt building this together. So nice to see 3 generations of the boys. Keep climbing!

  3. Awesome. Home walls are the way forward when you have small children. Making maximum use of limited time and not losing too much form if gaps between actual cragging get too long.

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