11

I have very little experience with climbing and so I would like to get an idea of how realistic a ceiling crawl or just a cling actually is with the existing gear available. For clarity:

This is a ceiling crawl:

enter image description here

This is a ceiling cling:

enter image description here

I would imagine that these two would be a combination of body conditioning and the gear available, so would be interested in exactly how much training/experience would be involved? I have definitely found images of climbing upside down although again I would love your thoughts on how realistic this is:

enter image description here

For example, does it require only a specific surface, specific shoes or other gear and also is there any way it could be done on an inside ceiling? Please let me know if I need to add any additional details that are missing.

7
  • 8
    While not impossible, that ceiling crawl picture is fake. A) the guy is wearing shoes that would make this feat borderline impossible (running sneakers). B) you can see this girlfriend "standing on the ceiling" in the left of the image. ;)
    – fgysin
    Dec 9, 2021 at 14:35
  • 2
    Even the most realistic image you show (3rd) is photoshopped to remove the rope. Fully horizontal overhangs in climbing are very difficult and require high levels of strength and skill. Find any bouldering gym near you with an overhung route and pick the easiest route. Without any practice you probably can't even do the first couple moves. And that is not fully horizontal and with much better holds than you would find in most urban settings.
    – noah
    Dec 9, 2021 at 18:34
  • 6
    That second picture is Simon's SISTER. It is River Tam in the impeccable TV series Firefly, escaping from a government lab if I recall River has never mentioned being the Spider-Man from that universe, but if River had, or turned up in "Into the Spider-Verse", not one person would be slightly surprised. Dec 10, 2021 at 7:36
  • 1
    I'm not fully convinced the 3rd image is real either. To me it looks like the foreground is simply rotated 90 degrees and composited onto another image (note there's no visible connection between foreground and background - the colors don't even match), and he was climbing up a near-vertical wall, not underneath an overhang. The pack at his hip appears to be hanging down, but that's easy enough to fake. Dec 10, 2021 at 18:20
  • 5
    @noah Do you have any reason to believe the third shot has to be photoshopped? The rock seems quite craggy and the person seems quite low down. There's definitely people that could and would climb at least that far free solo. I mean there's been a free solo of El Capitan. Now it's definitely possible a rope has been photoshopped out, but there is no essential reason for it. As to the 2nd picture that seems just possible if very unlikely. The first one is pure fantasy of course.
    – DRF
    Dec 10, 2021 at 19:06

7 Answers 7

22

The first is clearly fake - look at the person standing on the ceiling to the left. Not a problem as it illustrates what you're looking for. I have a photo of my daughter in a similar upside-down room. To do it for real you'd need holds on the ceiling or something as smooth as glass for suction cups. What I thought might be holds are probably just footprints.

The 2nd pic is apparently a still from the movie Serenity so probably not 100% real either. The legs on that angle would need incredible strength in muscles that aren't normally so strong, especially as her left foot is relying purely on friction (the right is supported on a pipe, but her hip adductors would still be holding much of her weight). *

In the 3rd, on the other hand, there's a grippy surface with holds, so a suitably accomplished climber could do it.

Very few ceilings would have enough to get hold of. Some industrial or industrial-styled locations might, hanging under a catwalk or utility trays. If you can find a big enough set, you could get in some initial practice on some monkey bars. Even I can just about do an inverted crawl on those, and the fact they're good holds means you can fall safely feet-first. It's not the end goal, but to give you a feel of where you need to build strength.


* Summer Glau, the actress in that 2nd shot, is apparently a ballerina by training, so will be strong and flexible. I still reckon she had technical help and a clip of that scene shows her in statically in place, not helping see how it's done. See the discussion over at scifi.se: How was this shot of River Tam on the ceiling managed in Serenity? for further discussion. The answer there implies a combination of undoubted physical ability and trickery.

6
  • The second she's holding onto what looks like a sprinkler head to me. Those aren't strong enough to support a human's weight. The "don't hang clothes here" warning on hotel sprinkler heads is because an idiot tried using one as a suspension point for adult recreation and tore it free flooding part of the hotel. Dec 9, 2021 at 19:13
  • 7
    @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight it's from a movie so even if the stunt was real, the sprinkler could be fake. Look carefully (easier if you find a bigger version) and there's something on the ceiling behind her shoulders. That could be an attachment point disguised as something you'd expect to see there. Probably easier than faking all the effects of gravity on clothes, hair, etc.
    – Chris H
    Dec 9, 2021 at 21:26
  • @ChrisH thanks for your thoughts; I found better pictures of fictional ceiling crawling but they were from horror movies and so didn't want to freak anyone out! I'm not sure if any light fixtures exist that could be strong enough to act as a hold?
    – FrontEnd
    Dec 10, 2021 at 1:04
  • 1
    @FrontEnd you won't find anything rated for it, as it's a rare demand. Light fixtures are usually made of rather thin metal both for reasons of cost and for ease of fitting when working above your head. Possible starting points involve heavy duty chandelier mounts with smaller lights, some industrial-style fittings if they really are made of scaffolding parts rather than thin-wall fakes, and exposed ceiling beams, but you'd be taking on a major project. For attachment, diy.se has questions on hanging heavy chandeliers which might be worth a read. Shock loads in movement need extra strength
    – Chris H
    Dec 10, 2021 at 7:11
  • 1
    @ChrisH I know, I was pointing out real ones not being strong enough as additional evidence that it was fake. Dec 10, 2021 at 12:02
16

The picture of Summer Glau is real. From an interview with Sci-Fi-Online:

SFO: Was there anything they told you to do and you thought 'no way'?

SG: [Laughs] The split on the ceiling, but we got up there and we did it. When I was up there it didn't hurt. There was a guy who was helping me, and they had to rebuild the hallway three times because they had to measure my legs. If it's off an inch I can't hold my leg up. So I would get in a split and get situated and I stood up there between takes. It was easier than I thought.

3
  • 2
    Would love to see a video of that!
    – FrontEnd
    Dec 10, 2021 at 11:10
  • That does describe her being up there, indicating she did not climb up there by herself.
    – Willeke
    Dec 10, 2021 at 17:45
  • 3
    In scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/257047/… there is mention of a hidden harness to help hold her up in place; so... real, but with assistance. Dec 11, 2021 at 12:36
5

Climbing typical indoor ceilings is impossible without destructive gear (i.e. something that essentially punches holes, for some kind of holds that get anchored in the ceiling). A usual ceiling won't be smooth and non-porous enough for suction grips and there is no way to hold on otherwise. Also note that you need leg holds to keep your body up at the ceiling unless you just want to campus it with your legs hanging down.

As for the pictures, the first is obvious nonsense (bad shoes, no holds, nonsense body position). The second seems to be just at the edge of possibility. The climbing approach @Spratty suggested in the comments to a different answer might just be theoretically possible but seem to be very much on the edge. Though I wouldn't put it past some of the super talented climbers. We're talking the top olympic class climbers would be my guess. The third picture is quite realistic. Whether or not it's photoshopped (hard to tell) it's definitely completely feasible. The rock is very coarse with what seem to be decent holds. It's far from easy, but definitely possible and might even have been climbed to that point without belaying for the photo. The one argument for why it sill might be photoshopped, is that if you want a photo without a rope you likely also want it without a harness.

To get some idea what the top people can climb, with only shoes for gear Silence by Adam Ondra is currently the top rated (i.e. hardest) red pointed (i.e. climbed without aid, in one go, without resting on rope) route. Adam took about 4 years projecting it, I believe, and he's widely believed to be in at least the top 5 best outdoor climbers on the planet if not the best. Silence is pretty good for your question since a large part of it is overhanging and the holds are stupid small, though still completely huge compared to what you would get on a typical ceiling.

Just to clarify stupid small, a novice climber might not be able to use many of those holds to climb on a vertical wall, and this one is close to horizontal in places.

1
  • As for the third photo, it seems that the ground is not too far away, so it wouldn't be too dangerous for an experienced climber to be without a rope in this location. He probably just practiced first moves, maybe even posed for a photo without a rope.
    – IMil
    Dec 20, 2021 at 3:09
3

how realistic a ceiling crawl or just a cling actually is with the existing gear available..

It is indeed very realistic, however, it is as dangerous as anything done without proper gear. Standard crashpads that you see in climbing/bouldering gym are just fine for this.

I would imagine that these two would be a combination of body conditioning and the gear available

Correct! Add experience and practice/technique to that list. For some it takes years to get to this point, for some it is just a matter of a few weeks. But, to be honest, I haven't come across people who managed to climb roofs and overhangs in a matter of a weeks. Months - yes. Not to undermine anything but I touch-based this topic about time-spent because of your explicit admittance about having limited climbing experience. A lot of effort goes into developing technique to climb as well as to fall safely. It is one of the trickiest learning curves.

so would be interested in exactly how much training/experience would be involved?

The only possible answer is 'adequate effort/experience'. This can not be generalized as it may (in fact, will) vary from person to person depending upon a lot of aspects.

does it require only a specific surface, specific shoes or other gear and also is there any way it could be done on an inside ceiling?

An overall advice: I'd start with attempting various climbing routes in a nearby climbing gym. At a certain point, I'll figure out that my shoes aren't good enough, and thats when I'd invest into a good pair of shoes. Eventually, under the proper guidance, when I'll attempt tougher routes involving dynamic moves, overhangs, roof sections - I'd precisely know what gear I need and how to use it with proper technique.

Now if I try to quantify this for my case, it would take years, and still I may not get to the point where I can cling/crawl on to roofs! But, what I would have gathered over this period would be experience and technique.

Speaking of climbing, what I might be able to achieve in an year, I have seen others to that in months.

4
  • Is there a particular style/technique of climbing that focuses on indoor climbing surfaces? I'm not planning on attempting it it's more for research. I have been looking online but haven't found much except these two videos: youtube.com/watch?v=tlPk9Ykvz4w , youtube.com/watch?v=0NIrW_07tr4
    – FrontEnd
    Dec 9, 2021 at 11:32
  • With the term indoor, do you also include indoor climbing/bouldering gyms? Most people would! And then the answer would be yes!
    – WedaPashi
    Dec 9, 2021 at 12:45
  • Sorry no not gyms, normal indoor surfaces. I suppose it is close to parkour except only climbing. Please see the first video I linked above for what I mean.
    – FrontEnd
    Dec 9, 2021 at 13:49
  • @FrontEnd the guy on the first video uses normal climbing techniques which are used for ordinary rock climbing. The second just attached climbing holds to his walls and ceiling. Nothing specific :) For even more impressive video of climbing on man-made surfaces (though outdoors this time), see youtu.be/JPsWEr_v_ak
    – IMil
    Dec 20, 2021 at 12:26
2

The 3rd image is likely real. Using a reverse search with google lens it comes up in many photos including stock photos and is not overly high off the ground.

It could still be photoshopped but appears to be climbable.

For those curious, it seems to be in Mallorca Spain.

enter image description here

enter image description here

1

The third finals stage of Sasuke (a.k.a. Ninja Warrior) has featured a not-quite-horizontal hanging climb for at least the last few seasons. This obstacle (which competitors traverse without ropes, but over water to keep them safe when, not if, they fall) is pretty similar to your third picture. So... it's definitely possible, but even S/NW competitors struggle on this obstacle, and they're the best of the best.

To be fair, S/NW competitors have to be well rounded, not just good at climbing... but it's still not something I'd recommend for a casual activity.

As far as "what's required"... hand and foot holds that you can grip despite being upside down. The rest of the surface shouldn't matter (aside from needing to be sturdy enough to support your weight), but you're basically supporting your weight by your fingers and toes. You're obviously not going to be doing that on a typical ceiling.

If you're really dead-set on trying this sort of thing...

  1. Start with (almost) any ceiling that will support your weight. You probably want a surface that isn't going to give you splinters or such, however.
  2. Install something that will keep you safe when you fall off.
  3. Install a bunch of climbing grips. Make sure you know how to do this properly so they can support your weight hanging from them in the orientation in which they will be installed.
  4. Have fun?

That said... you mention you "have very little experience with climbing". If you can't climb a vertical wall, you absolutely are not going to be able to manage an upside-down horizontal climb. Start with vertical and work your way up to greater and greater inverted angles. And you probably should be doing this at a proper climbing gym first.

1
  • It's worth noting that while many S/NW competitors are definitely competent climbers, even the very best are generally a couple steps down from top world climbers. NW is about a lot more than climbing skills and some things you need for NW are in competition with what you need for climbing. Checking out some of Magnus Mitdbo's videos on youtube where he competes in NW and trains with Anton Fomenko, gives you some comparative idea. Note that while Magnus is still a world class climber he's very likely no longer in even the top 20.
    – DRF
    Dec 10, 2021 at 20:13
0

The second shot can't actually be done. Assuming enough strength it might just be possible to be in that position, but how do you get there? Without both feet pressing against the wall she will fall. Thus as she's trying to get into that position she falls off.

4
  • Good point. But I think she’s holding a water sprinkler with one hand. It might just be possible to jump up, grab the sprinkler with one or both hands and then position the legs (basically doing a back lever or something like that).
    – Michael
    Dec 10, 2021 at 16:10
  • I wouldn't expect this to work in real life, but... Stand in the middle of the hall, facing one wall. Raise one foot behind you and lean forward at the same time; you should be able to have that foot on one wall and your hands on the other. Press out with hands and foot, raise the other foot and press that onto the wall; you are now face-down, suspended above the floor; "walk" your hands and feet upwards (an extreme version of chimneystacking and you'd better have some good friction going on). When you reach the top, shift one hand to the sprinkler and grip on; kick your right leg...
    – Spratty
    Dec 10, 2021 at 16:59
  • over to the other wall, rotating your body into the "splits" position as you go (you'd better be quick). At all times apart from the fraction of a second of the rotation you will have some pressure on both walls. If you time the splits right you might (might) just about make it, and if anyone can, it's Summer Glau. Disclaimer: this does not mean I think she really did it, just that I would never bet against her. I've seen Serenity; I know what she can do to people who displease her.
    – Spratty
    Dec 10, 2021 at 17:02
  • It's film. You cut to the actor already in position. :) For real, you certainly do have a problem though. Bridging up needs bent knees, so theoretically possible if the hallway was as little as 6" narrower (although I doubt many people would want to bridge up in something close to a split). Make it a foot narrower and you're basically looking at a Ninja Warrior chimney climb, which of course is perfectly doable with training.
    – Graham
    Dec 11, 2021 at 10:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.