Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Dream Holds review

My friend Scott emailed recently looking for some pictures for a brochure he was putting together for his new range of holds. He already runs a business making climbing walls but this is his first venture into the area of manufacturing climbing holds.

I mentioned I might buy some holds from him for my soon to be finished board and he offered to give me a load to try out! I told him I’d get a review up on here to share my thoughts on his range, since they are a bit different to what you are probably used to pulling on ‘down the wall’.

Scott has done what many people have attempted over the years, right back to the earliest climbing walls - mimic real rock. The reason? Well, there are two separate reasons really. Firstly, real rock formations are clearly more varied and aesthetic both in the shapes they form and the movements that result from them. The other quite obvious reason is that if you are training to climb real rock, training on something as close to it as possible is a rather good idea.

But so many hold manufacturers have moved away from ‘rock-like’ shapes and gone for highly synthetic smooth shapes in recent years. I guess this reflects how indoor climbing has separated a little more from outdoor climbing for an ever greater proportion of climbing wall users - perhaps mimicking real rock hasn’t seemed so important as indoor climbing has become so much more of an activity in it’s own right?

All fair enough of course, but where there is a lot of ying, some yang often makes a pleasant change. Scott’s Dream Holds are definitely full strength yang.

There is another fine reason why hold manufacturers have gone down the smooth and sleek route with rounded blobs in abundance; they are kind on the skin and body. Smooth, rounded and fine grained holds are definitely easier to train on for a long time before sore skin sets in. But this comes at a cost. The movements these holds lend themselves to are predictable, often fast, and basic (in certain aspects of the movement at least). Ever noticed that your grade indoors is waay higher than outdoors? This is the most common reason.

So, Scott has gone fully the opposite way and provided an alternative, making no compromises and taken moulds directly from our finest rock types, from chunks hand picked for their loveliness/evilness (these may be interchangeable terms for lovers of training for rock climbing).

What has come out is a range of holds with a true variety in every aspect, just like you’d get visiting a different rock venue on a road trip. There is glassy smooth, there is Gabbro cheese-grater rough, there is spiky sharp, massive, tiny and just plain weird. Exactly what you find on the crag.

To climb on, you have to slow down a bit overall because it’s not obvious at all how to take the hold on first acquaintance. There is much more udging, adjusting and matching hands than you normally find on indoors, exactly the types of moves indoor climbers often fail to spot when climbing outside. These minor adjustments, you could call them ‘components’ of whole moves that you get so commonly on real rock are what provides much of the pleasure in rock movement; the feeling that a small adjustment made such a huge difference. For sure this will be good for those who climb indoors for the purpose of training for outdoors. 

But even for those who don’t, these will be a very welcome break from the mundane blob pulling experience that is rather too common these days. Every climbing centre should have at least a few routes of these I think. In fact I think these holds will be at their best on F6 to low F7 graded routes on more friendly angles that make up the bulk of what climbing walls must set.

My personal experience is a little different from most, given that my indoor training is purely strength training since I get a fair bit of time on real rock. My requirements are very much something skin friendly enough to pound away for hours on a 45 degree overhang and be limited only by muscle fatigue. But even though Dream Holds are sometimes a little hard on the skin for high end training sessions, I’d still have many of them on my board as it’s just not possible to source manufactured holds with certain grip positions these provide. 

Good work overall by Scott and I’d expect to see them in most climbing walls in a year or two. The range still needs a bit of expanding - more pockets and super incuts please! But these are only just off the first moulds so plenty of time to develop more.

Scott has made a couple of neat patents with some technology to stop the holds spinning or breaking, but I’ll let him explain these on the Dream Holds site. Currently available in Gabbro, Torridonian Sandstone, Gritstone, and Gneiss, with Dumbarton Basalt, Mica Schist and granite on the way. 

Dream Holds are here.


  1. Having climbed on a few of these myself now Dave I find myself heartily agreeing with you! They'll make an excellent addition to any climbing walls range of holds :-)

  2. Interestingly, my leading grade has always been much higher outdoors than indoors, despite the amount of time I spend "training" (ha ha) indoors.

    I tried a couple of these holds last week, and I like them (more than the route they had been set as, anyway!). I can live with sore skin for the benefit of the "real" shape.

  3. Anonymous01 July, 2009

    These look very rapey