Walltopia Climbing Center

Sophia, Bulgaria

Rating

2/5

Summary

An experimental playground for Walltopia to test their technology, it’s a unique architectural integration of climbing gym and workspace that primarily serves their own employee’s and experimental gym technologies, to some sacrifice of the outside user.

Pros

-Roof garden (not- public)

-Tall (62’ / 19m)

-not too many overhangs

-Pretty (at first glance) and unique

-Fairly good Autobelay selection

Cons

-Small

-Smelly

-Harmonized wall system not a good experience

-No TR

Sketch

sketch….

Images

(link to more images)

Data:

Architecture

The gym is part of the new Walltopia headquarters, which was the result of a winning competition entry by MARS Architects back in 2013. It’s a 6-ish story angular quadrilateral form with offices around the exterior, and a climbing gym carved out of the center. The gym itself is made of 3 interior towers with skylights, one of these volumes containing the only exterior wall of the climbing gym portion. The towers are connected by a single-story low-ceiling’d bouldering tunnel on the ground level. The bathrooms and training area are hidden through small doors and/or stairways, and that’s about it – no shop, barley a front desk, no yoga room.

The exterior of the entire building is clad with a slightly larger gauge of the steel members and connections Walltopia typically manufactures and uses for their climbing wall builds, to a somewhat crude but nice effect. The exterior roller coaster thing hasn’t been constructed yet.

PHOTOS!!!

Walls

All Walltopia (obviously), also all with the ‘harmonized wall system’ which imho a useful and brave step into integrating technology to modernize climbing wall technology, but this iteration seems to fail. Every T-nut is paired with an LED, which are programmed during setting, and controlled by users through an APP. Sounds (and looks) cool, but in practice doesn’t provide a great user experience.

You have to download an app to turn the routes on and off, and to find them (because there’s no names or grade signs on anything). The only way to know which route your doing is to turn it on and off in the app, but if someone else is climbing it at the time, well… oops. The holds are all a white/yellow sweat color when not lit up, and when lit up are not always easy to tell apart – some due to their size or placement dont light that well (or at all). Due to the translucent hold color, it’s hard to read the size, texture, and slope of a hold until you touch it, making the climbing a bit harder. They can’t really set with volumes because the t-nuts on volumes don’t have built-in LED’s. Some colors look quite similar (also a problem with hold colors), but no one and wipe all the hold colors blank on you while you’re halfway up a route. I could complain for days….

But the walls seemed good – not too many slabs, just many slight overhangs, but not too much steep terrain like many gyms, which seems to live mostly unclimbed.

Setting

Bouldering setting seemed very competition-oriented, with strange/tweaky and long moves, often a bit dangerous for the padding and lack of lighting provided. Moderately tricky, but overall uncomfortable and not so fun or strength-reliant (like say, outside).

Ropes seemed generally consistent with their difficulties throughout the routes, with cruxes and rests, but I didn’t perform or observe any highly creative movements and/or setting.

Features

The most obvious is their use of the Harmonized Wall System on almost all ropes and bouldering walls (LINK).

Comments

Overall a cool integration of a gym and an office of a company that designs gyms, but more of a walltopia lab then a profitable client-oriented climbing gym. Definitely worth a visit to see the lights if you’re in the area, and try to sneak onto the roof, but I wouldn’t model my own gym after this…

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