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No mountain? No problem: This Googler DIYed a rock wall

Photo showing a climbing wall in the hallway of a home.

As a communications manager, Milan-based Googler Andrea Cristallini knows the importance of connecting with others through shared experiences. So when his partner Silvia suggested they start a sport together, he was excited to bond over something new. In December 2019, they went rock climbing together at a local gym for the first time and then climbed a real mountain soon after. 

“I fell in love with it,” Andrea says. “The movements are similar to a dance. I enjoy the concentration it requires, how it feels when you touch the stone, and the idea of ascending to see what’s up there — and take in the landscape around you.”

Then, two months later, Italy went into lockdown. “We had this new passion and no chance to practice it,” Andrea says. 

Thrilled with their new hobby, they decided to build their own climbing wall at home. “If you can’t go to the mountain, bring the mountain to you,” Andrea says. “I thought why not? It may not work, but we have several weekends ahead and nowhere to go.” 

Like so many others who found ways to pass the extra time at home, Andrea and Silvia turned to Search and YouTube. They read blog posts and watched videos on how to build a DIY training wall. 

They started small, with just one oriented panel leaning against a wall in their apartment and a few climbing holds scattered across it. But as time passed and the end of the pandemic was nowhere in sight, they added a second panel to the first, reinforcing them with support beams. They drilled in more climbing holds in different shapes and sizes. Then they connected the panels with a winch system that allows you to rotate the whole structure in order to increase difficulty and overhang. 

“The biggest challenge was designing it from scratch without experience,” Andrea says. “But I had the passion and the time.” 

Since then, Andrea and Silvia have used the climbing wall nearly every day. “Climbing helps us detach from screens; it’s a great mental break,” Andrea says. “I’m really motivated to get better at climbing, and it also makes me excited about spending more time outside soon.” 

Even after the pandemic is over, Andrea has no plans to take down the wall. "It's part of the house now, and it's very effective for training," he says. "On the contrary, I'll start inviting friends at home to practice!" 

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