Pimp My Wall!

It all started six months ago, post-pump at Fellini’s Pizza with the usual climbing crew. We got to thinking about our old buddy Greg Kottkamp.

One of the most talented and understated rock climbers the South has seen, Greg was in medical school at the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta. The closest climbable surface from there is one of the Atlanta gyms, 2.5 hours away. In the last few months Greg was making that insane day trip just to session with his friends for an evening study break, but now things had changed.

Word was that Greg’s wife Katy, also a great climber, was doing her veterinary externship in Wisconsin, and Greg was dug in deep, diligently studying o-chem solo in his Augusta lair, with no time to flip through the latest Rock & Ice Magazine, much less get his climbing fix.

Now, Greg’s a dedicated guy, and puts just as much focus on the books as on a sick redpoint, but everyone needs a break sometime. So after a couple Sweetwater 420s, we hatched a brilliant plan. Greg needed a climbing wall. A pimp wall, fit for a climber who can onsight 5.13 trad FAs off-the-couch, but also one that would integrate into his new lifestyle as a monkish med school gunner. And – the best part – it would be a total surprise.

Katy provided us with some pics of Greg’s home office and the rough dimensions.

Greg’s Lair in Augusta, pre-Pimped. photo by Katy Kottkamp
We knew we wouldn’t have much time to install the wall once we got there, so we fabricated as much of the wall as possible, knowing we would have to be flexible with how it would attach to the structure of the room.
Chris Sierzant, owner of the Escalade Climbing Gym was our point man for the wall. Chris assembled the wood panels, which make up the climbing surface, pre-drilled and T-nutted to accept interchangable climbing holds. Kenneth McGinnis, an electrical contractor and veteran climber, also helped with the design, and would do the actual install, as well as any rewiring we would need since we would have to relocate some electrical outlets and lighting.
We chose climbing holds from Illinois-based So Ill. These guys make some of the best holds out there for training, and have some outrageous designs, including lots of anatomically-themed shapes that would be perfect for keeping Greg’s mind on his studies, and body on the wall. Cooper Roberts of Big Up Productions donated some new films, and we would reconfigure the office complete with a Sony iPhone Deck to keep the psyche up. Josh Fowler was set to film the whole thing.
As the word got around, tons of people chipped in to help out. In the end, the biggest challenge was figuring out how to get Greg out of the house on a day when our crew could spend a day in Augusta for the install. Six months later, it all came together!
Below, The Crew: Clockwise from upper left: Danny Paulete, industrial sculptor and hardman, champion climber Kate McGinnis, her husband and longtime Southern strongman Kenneth, your’s truly, climbing rep and idea machine Charlie Maddox, and her lesser half, Josh Fowler – a Nat Geo cameraman who can do pinchgrip pullups on a two-by-four.

We met early on a Sunday with a rental truck full of climbing goodness, with Greg safely out of town with the dogs. Greg and Katy were due back that evening, so we relied on Katy to stay in text-message contact with us during the install.

Left to right: Josh, Charlie, Danny, Kenneth, Kate.

We got to Greg’s house around noon, and got right to work. Moved all the furniture out and cleaned the space. Danny started crawling around in the ceiling looking for structural beams. The big question was, should we make it free-standing or could we attach it to the structure? Luckily, the room was perfect for the latter, and Kenneth and Danny were able to design an elegant, bombproof design with the panels Chris had prepped that would give us an 8′ x 11′ wall that overhung slightly more than 45 degrees – a perfect home training wall – and still leave space for the stereo and shelving on either side.


Early that afternoon it poured rain, so we had to continue construction inside. Meanwhile Charlie and Kate planned the post-wall layout of the new office, and we made a couple trips to the local hardware store, for a new fan, lights, a curtain to keep chalk dust contained, and other odds and ends.


Wall up, we were way ahead of schedule, with time to think about the details that would make life more bearable inside four walls (make that five now): pimp iphone deck, shelving behind the wall, new lighting, new outlets, new fan, efficient re-org…


We hit Waffle House while we waited for the increasingly shortened text messages from Katy: eta 2 hours… 1 hour… half hour… Would Greg confront Katy about all this secret texting and blow the suprise? Would the dogs come in before them and tear us apart? Would there be any beer left? Stay tuned for the video to see the conclusion to Pimp My Wall…


That’s bad ass. I’m sure Greg will appreciate the stress relief.

posted by Todd Combs on 09.02.09 at 4:46 pm

very impressive – both vision and stills
just bought a D300s and playing / we do mainly Transportation / Aviation/ Ships / Big trucks/ Trains
You should have a very ready market with a MAJOR library
worth exploring – miles of rubbish being supplied very few winners
I do have a long and good relationship with Corbis for what it is worth !!!

posted by Steve Bowman on 10.12.09 at 2:04 am

Thanks Steve – I’ve had a long and great relationship with Aurora Photos, which also distributes through Corbis and Getty worldwide.

posted by akornylak on 10.12.09 at 2:18 am

Good job guys! Are you expensive? I have friends who may hire you 🙂

posted by Constantin on 02.18.10 at 7:46 am

Constantin- Thanks – probably not the most cost-effective thing to hire us to build a woody. But if you wanted to hire us to do another episode (episode 1 coming soon on video) let us know!

posted by akornylak on 02.19.10 at 10:05 am

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