Nomad Walls: Reimagining Climbing Experiences

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Nomad Walls' work at Riki Bloc
Nomad Walls’ work at the new Riki Bloc gym in Rimouski, Québec. Repurposing an old church with an architectural roof meant the team had to get creative to fit this much climbing inside the building, while keeping an open feel and preserving the natural light. (Photo courtesy of Nomad Walls)

Nomad Walls, a wall builder based in Montreal, has been striving to redefine climbing experiences from its early start. The team’s first brainchild, Nomad Bloc, was a completely mobile outdoor bouldering gym assembled on a massive trailer, which unfolds like a climbing-style Transformer using electric actuators. This seasonal gym, now located at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, was their way of offering new climbing experiences to the community. “We wanted to sling modern-quality climbing out in the open, right in the heart of the city,” says Babacar Daoust-Cissé, CEO and co-founder of Nomad Walls.

Nomad bouldering wall at Montreal's Olympic Stadium
Nomad has partnered with the Olympic Stadium in Montreal to raise climbing experiences in the city to another level. (Photo courtesy of Nomad Walls)

Breaking the Mold

For the experts at Nomad Walls, innovation isn’t just a buzzword; it’s at the core of everything they do. The team of professional engineers and designers at the company are constantly seeking to push the boundaries of what’s possible in climbing wall construction. Soon after developing their first colossal mobile wall, they moved on to designing a custom, self-standing modular bouldering solution for another Olympic venue with a space optimization challenge: the Richmond OVAL. The crew at the OVAL needed a bouldering wall they could partition and move around whenever a big event for another climbing discipline was taking place.

To materialize all these wishes, Nomad Walls came up with the Nomad Escalate: a fully modular solution made of standardized bouldering wall units that can be stacked one after another. This self-supporting solution can be built up to any wall size required by simply combining as many units as desired.

Nomad Escalate at the Richmond OVAL
Nomad Escalate walls in the background at the Richmond OVAL, the official National Training Center for Canadian athletes. (Photo courtesy of CEC)

The modularity means clients can split their Nomad Escalate walls into fully functioning, separate comp or training walls. It also means they can expand those walls over time, without needing to pay for additional design fees, by simply ordering new units.

Each Nomad Escalate unit can be partially disassembled and moved manually, but Nomad Walls also designed a specific tool to move multiple units at the same time. (Video courtesy of Nomad Walls)

“We were outside the box from day one and never really felt the urge to step in it,” laughs Nomad Walls Director of Engineering and co-founder Frédérik Coallier. The professionals at Nomad Walls are not just experts at bringing dreams to life; they’re tearing up the rulebook. The team believes that, through creativity, the popularity of climbing will only keep on growing and the hype for the sport will continuously renew itself.

Climbing for Everyone, Everywhere

The team quickly realized that a solution like the Nomad Escalate had the potential to bring climbing practically anywhere and unlock amazing climbing experiences. So, they distilled the design with the aim of making the installation as simple as it could be. The result was a bouldering wall that can be put in a box and shipped anywhere, one that comes with an easy, step-by-step, Ikea-like user’s manual.

This creation allowed Nomad to bring modern-quality climbing to the Cree First Nation of Waskaganish in Northern Quebec. Previously, the cost of sending a team to remote places to build a climbing wall was often enough to hinder any project. But with an assemble-yourself free-standing solution, Nomad Walls has been helping break down those barriers and seeing climbing communities grow to their full potential.

Eeyou Bouldering gym
The Eeyou bouldering gym in Waskaganish, QC. (Photo courtesy of Eeyou Bouldering)

This solution not only tailors to remote area needs. Nomad Walls also worked with a client team in a larger city who long wanted to introduce their community to climbing but simply couldn’t find a building where they could permanently install a wall. The Nomad Escalate allowed them to finally bring climbing action to the residents of the municipality, with the capability of periodically moving the wall from the school gymnasium to the local Curling Club.

Since its debut, Nomad Walls has identified urban outdoor artificial climbing as arguably the best marketing tool to get newcomers into climbing, believing it to be an incredible way to showcase the sport to non-climbers. People who have never before thought about climbing can walk by an outdoor climbing wall and simply be drawn to it. These structures can be operated on their own, but they can also be great expansion assets for existing indoor facilities, provided those facilities have land or even a parking lot available nearby. It’s no news to any gym owner that check-ins usually dwindle during the summer months as climbers seek ways to enjoy the warmer weather outdoors. One of Nomad’s clients recently added an outdoor bouldering wall to their infrastructure and quickly saw this common dip flatten out.

Canyon Escalade walls
Canyon Escalade’s new outdoor bouldering wall expansion, featuring the signature roof. (Photo courtesy of Canyon Escalade)

Climbers at Heart, Builders by Design

Nomad Walls is deeply rooted in the climbing community. “We started as climbers; we designed our first walls for ourselves, which we have been operating for over five years. Everything we have learned, we have put it back into the development of products that benefit our community,” says Maude Pelland, Chief of Operations and co-founder of Nomad Walls.

The team at Nomad first created their outdoor bouldering gym with the goal of contributing something fresh to Montreal’s vibrant climbing community. That objective quickly led to new reflections on how to keep the beloved sport of climbing relevant and exciting.

“What sets Nomad Walls apart is not just our commitment to innovation and quality but also our passion for the climbing community,” explains Daoust-Cissé. “We understand the thrill, the camaraderie of a climbing gym, and the joy of conquering a challenging route. It’s this understanding that drives us to create climbing walls that enhance the overall experience for both beginners and seasoned climbers alike.”

In their desire to see the climbing community flourish, Nomad Walls joined forces with Climbing Escalade Canada (CEC), the national governing body for competition climbing in the country, as the organization’s official wall builder and flooring supplier partner for 2022-2024. Nomad supplied the bouldering walls for the first-ever Canadian National Training Center, which helps further growth and excellence in climbing.

The Nomad Way

The experts at Nomad Walls understand that every client is unique and deserves a bespoke design, one that encompasses all elements of the vision. Furthermore, they know firsthand how overwhelming starting a new gym can be, so they make it their mission to accompany clients from the ideation of a project to its completion.

“More than manufacturers, they felt like true partners during the whole conception and installation process. We were so impressed by their attention to every detail, leaving nothing to chance,” shares François Genin, Director of the Riki Bloc gym, about working with Nomad.

Community at Riki Bloc
Community members showing up in full force at the launch of Riki Bloc’s new location. (Photo courtesy of Riki Bloc)

Coallier likes to describe their approach as “supportive elevation” that’s always in service of the client: “We have so many funky design ideas, but we don’t feel our role is to push our ideas onto our clients. We prefer to act as a sounding board and ultimately come up with an aesthetic visual that truly reflects your desires. Your vision, our expertise!” explains Coallier.

Fresh bouldering walls at Bloc 9.81
The Bloc 9.81 team wanted a clean, classic design with one bold element that would create a bang. (Photo courtesy of Nomad Walls)

Nomad Walls believes that every climb should be an experience worth remembering. That’s why the professionals at Nomad are committed to delivering not only innovative designs but also unmatched quality. “Our climbing walls are crafted with precision and built to withstand the test of time,” states Daoust-Cissé. Whether it’s a sleek indoor bouldering wall or a towering outdoor climbing structure, Nomad Walls’ staff ensure that every project is a testament to their commitment to excellence.

Making the move into the already competitive indoor walls market, Nomad knew they had to bring their A-game. “We have incorporated feedback from countless end-users as well as gym operators,’’ says Daoust-Cissé. Gathering this feedback has allowed Nomad to develop new wall and mat features which improve the safety and durability of their clients’ assets.

Creating a unique, elegant visual design and carefully selecting the wall geometry to give routesetters more freedom with their craft is only the beginning. There is much more to factor into the equation to truly shape a memorable experience, such as the general flow of customer traffic through the facility, the ergonomics of the furniture, the lighting, etc. Nomad seeks to guide its clients through a thoughtful, holistic approach so that from the moment one of their customers walks through the door, they are simply blown away by how seamlessly everything functions.

The team also strongly believes in sharing knowledge. “When it comes to outdoor climbing structures, we have so many lessons learned and best practices to share with our clients to make their life as smooth as possible,” says Pelland. Many of these countless insights have also been valuable for future indoor gym operators.

Aerial view of Canyon Escalade
Whether indoors or outdoors, Nomad Walls has the expertise to bring just about any gym project dream to life. (Photo courtesy of Canyon Escalade)

The company being owned by three engineers means the team doesn’t shy away from design time, either. “You can be sure we will go the extra mile to make sure your project has the ‘wow factor’ that will leave your clients wanting more!’’ says Coallier. The team’s engineering expertise also translates into what they believe to be some of the best space optimization in the industry. “With rents being one of the biggest expenses of most commercial gyms, we understand that every inch counts,” says Pelland.

Despite being relatively new on the scene, the Nomad crew is confident they can measure up to any wall builder out there. “For us, being a small company simply equates to amazing customer service and seamless delivery on all fronts,” says Daoust-Cissé.

What’s Next?

The team at Nomad Walls thrives on dreams and wild ideas, and they’re hoping the next one will come from a client who is wondering what’s possible. In the meantime, their next venture is a smaller, fully adjustable bouldering wall that’s towable with a pickup truck, set to hit the streets in Spring 2024. They feel this solution will be an ideal tool to bring climbing to all kinds of events.

“We are also very excited about a new wall technology idea we have had for a while now that we feel would push routesetting to new levels,” shares Coallier. While keeping the details under wraps, this teaser hints at Nomad Walls’ continuous pursuit of elevating the climbing experience.

 


This story was paid for by the sponsor and does not necessarily represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.

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