Alpine Training Gym Part 1: Building a Crack Machine

Mike and I have been dreaming of building the ultimate training gym for alpine climbing. A couple months ago, Mike put our plan into action. Here we will show you how Mike built an alpine training gym in his bedroom, complete with crack machines, a hangboard system, gymnastic rings, and parallel bars.Ward SunriseMike lives in a beautiful mountain home at 9000 feet. He often sees stunning sunrises like this from his front yard. His room has a 14 foot vaulted ceiling which is ideally suited for building a home training gym, and the elevation allows for training at altitude. It turns out that Mike’s home makes for a perfect alpine training facility. We will introduce you to his off-the-grid, solar-powered home in a later post.

Mike and I had been talking about building a crack machine for a while, and finally got the OK to build from his landlord. We did some reading and found that Rock & Ice contributor Anthony Johnson built a crack machine bed loft. This got us thinking. We didn’t just want a hand crack on the crack machine bed, we wanted multiple sizes…

BlueprintOver the course of the next month, Mike worked diligently to build his crack machine. During this time, Mike hurt his ankle when gear pulled during a lead fall on Foxtrot in Eldo, giving him more time to focus on building.Crack ConstructionMike’s room became a woodshop for the next few weeks.FrameFirst, a frame was mounted to studs in the wall with deck screws.Initial Cracks on FrameCracks with spacers were added to the frame.All Roof CracksThe loft has fingers, tight hands, hands, cups, and a few flavors of fists. We learned it is very difficult to find the right spacers for the perfect crack size.

Hangboard LoftThe loft also incorporates a hangboard.Adjustable Finger CrackMike wasn’t satisfied with just roof cracks – he wanted to build an adjustable angle fingers, rattly fingers, and thin hands crack.All the CracksWe now have quite a few sizes of cracks to train.Finger Crack PulleyWe hung the adjustable finger crack on webbing, a rope, and pulleys.Autolock SystemThe rope tied to the adjustable crack is locked off with an ATC in guide mode.Training SetupThe training gym is ready to use.
Stay tuned for our next post to see it in action!

Next post: Alpine Training Gym Part 2: Crack Attack

3 Replies to “Alpine Training Gym Part 1: Building a Crack Machine”

  1. Pingback: Alpine Training Gym Part 2: Crack Attack – The Aspiring Alpinist

    • For the spacers on the finger crack I used a 1″X3″ (nominal width 0.75″) which comes out to be perfect fingers. For each progressive size I added a piece of 1/8″ thick compressed cardboard. The 0.5 Cam size is 0.75″ + 0.125″. The next size up is 0.75″ + 0.25″ which is about the size of a very tight red metolius. The next size up is 0.75″ + 0.375″ which is a 0.75 Cam. Then the tight hands size is two 5/8″ pieces of plywood. I’m not sure what the nominal width is, but I know it is slightly smaller than one peice of 2X4.
      For the roof cracks I made a super tight fingers crack using one piece of 5/8″ plywood (hey I can dream can’t I?). That one is so tight that all you really have to do is get your fingers into it and it clamps down on them. Getting your fingers back out is another problem, so it’s not super useful for fitness as it is for getting used to taking the pain… The tight hands crack is one 2X4 which is a nominal width of 1.5″. For the hands I used a 2X4 and 3/8″ piece of plywood which I think has a nominal width just over a 0.25″, so 1.5″ + 0.3″ ~ 1.8″ for perfect hands. For Cups I used a 2X4 plus a 3/4″ piece of plywood. For fists I found that 2 2X4s was just barely too big so I made another fist size with 1 2X4 and 2 1X4s. The nominal width of 2 1X4s is just under the nominal width of 1 2X4 by about an 1/8″. This is still not a great fist size, but it does make you work for it, which is what we want for training.

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