History of Crashpads


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Boulder climber
Vienna, Austria
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 18, 2009 - 11:35am PT
Hi, im a student and im writing my bachelor thesis about Crashpads.
One Point is the History of crashpads.
As far as I know the first crashpads were sold in the US.
Does anybody have more information about this topic? Producer, year, maybe some pictures?
I would be very happy if you could help me!

Thanks in advance


may the friction be with you
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 18, 2009 - 11:47am PT
Fish Pads were pretty early.

I seem to remember Kauk using a mattress to work Dominator.

The sketch pad, Metoloius all seemed early.

My history is hazy at best, but you have remember that pads spelled doom for the previous technology- the piece of carpet.

Sherman had an article about carpet way back.
adam d

closer to waves than rock
Sep 18, 2009 - 11:47am PT
Sounds like some rather "padded" course work.

mule city
Sep 18, 2009 - 11:49am PT
As far as I can recall, BD put out the Spot in the early 90's. Clark Shelk started making what eventually became the Cordless pad soon thereafter in his brother's garage in Bend . Contact BD for more specifics, and try to conger up Clark somehow, he'll have more info.
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 18, 2009 - 11:50am PT
What was that other pad- kinnaloa?

Trad climber
Sep 18, 2009 - 12:07pm PT
Pierre Allain and his crew began using strawmats-- like thick doormats --at 'Bleau in the late 1930s. Probably other folks occasionally used whatever was at hand. By the 1970s, carpet squares had become common for difficult problems in major US bouldering areas to help keep shoes clean, but didn't provide much padding.

So far as I know, Neal Kaptain was the first person to actually make a dedicated pad for bouldering. Neal was a top boulderer in the Front Range and founder of Rock and Ice magazine. Frequent partner of Holloway. He built pads by sewing layers of ensolite and carpet foam between carpet. The pads were briefcase sized, with a middle hinge, and nylon carrying handles. I have one in my basement.

Neal was also buds with John Sherman, and when Sherman started hanging out seriously in Bishop, I gather that he was the one who pushed Bruce Pottenger (of Kinnaloa, a garage co. that did T-shirts and chalk bags), to make a commercial version, called a "sketchpad."

Metolius quickly picked up the idea. But it wasn't until Hueco Tanks State Park banned bolting that bouldering-- and pads--really took off in the US.

Now send me a check for $50.00

Trad climber
Sep 18, 2009 - 12:09pm PT
'padded' course work is right....

Is it too late to change it to the history of cams? There's a much richer history there and at least its more than a piece of foam....

On the carpet being replaced... I carry a carpet patch as well as a pad to clean grit/dirt off of my shoes. To expect it to do more would seem silly.

You old timers must be remembering patches of that thick ass shag carpeting! ;)

Trad climber
santa fe
Sep 18, 2009 - 01:00pm PT
The first recorded use of crash pads was an early attempt by the Duc D'Abruzzi on the Cannolli Wall due north of Aviano, Italy. He had his most stalwart men track his progress from the base of this long and wandering route while carrying mattresses filled with straw and horse hair. It caused quite a stink with the CAI (Club Alpino d'Italia) who accused him of gross ethical violations that foreshadowed today's modern ethical debates.

Social climber
Newport, OR
Sep 18, 2009 - 01:03pm PT
I remember the old mattress we used that was parked under Bachar Cracker for so long in the '70's...I also remember cruising the campground in Joshua Tree with JB, trying to borrow everyone's ensolite pads to put under a new Highball that he wanted to do that became, "Are we having fun yet?" He stacked them all at the base and proceeded to fire the thing (lucky he never had to check out their cushioning properties as the crux of the thing was like doing the crux face move on Stem Gem about 25' up...)

Sep 18, 2009 - 01:14pm PT
NO no

Crraaassssh pad was born from the spotter getting tired of being used as a crash pad.

After being flattened a few times someone started thinking .....

Boulder climber
Vienna, Austria
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 18, 2009 - 01:22pm PT
Thanks guys for your information.
@ Rokjox: The history-part is only a small part of the thesis! The main part is about foams, damping, chemical background...
Im really keen on bouldering and therefore Im very happy to be able to link my hobby with my studies.
Besides Carpets are still used by some of the old "Bleausards" in Fontainbleau! And they are still able to give lessons to the young and strong boys with their tripple pads ;-)
@ klk: thanks for your detailed information! Whenever Ill get rich with it ill remember and reward you :-)

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Sep 18, 2009 - 01:22pm PT
What Watusi said about Bachar Cracker.

also research 'blotter is my spotter'

Sneaking up behind you...
Sep 18, 2009 - 01:24pm PT
The Pusher Spot was the first "fold into a pack" pad....wasn't it?


Social climber
Sep 18, 2009 - 04:19pm PT
About twenty years ago Jeff Johnson showed up at Stoney Point with a small (approximately 2'x 1.5') homemade crash pad made by a non-climber friend. Most people at Stoney would bring a small piece of old carpet to wipe their soles off before bouldering. This was a major improvement over the carpet scrap and resulted in many new homemade variations on Jeff's design. Gone are the days when Stoney looked like a haggard carpet remnant store.

Jeff's crash pad was amazingly similar to modern crash pads. It was made of ripstop nylon on the bottom and sides. It had a sewn in carpet on top to wipe the soles of your shoes. The padding was layers of carpet padding. It had a zipper on the side. The crash pad was about 4 inches thick. The small footprint required careful placement or jumping to it.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Sep 18, 2009 - 05:06pm PT
a more important question is 'why did it take so long for crash pads to gain such wide spread acceptance?'

Could Evilution have been sent over 30 years ago had we started using more and more deliberate cushioning?

Was it the rise of gym climbing and leading any crag that has bolts on it that gave rise to a culture of leading rather than top roping, that bent bouldering to a higher and more difficult is better approach that required padding rather than top ropes?

What if low impact practices had overshadowed the 80s and 90s bolting fests and ultra long top ropes had become the norm?

Watch Moving Over Stone 1, they are working that stuff on top rope.


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 18, 2009 - 05:31pm PT
Best and only crashpad I ever had was my spotter especially the distaff ones. Hope that helps.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Sep 18, 2009 - 05:36pm PT
Why did crash pads fall out or favor?

Big Wall climber
Sep 18, 2009 - 05:47pm PT
And all this time I'd have guessed that a girl created the crash pad...

Arkansas, I suppose
Sep 18, 2009 - 05:55pm PT
It was me.

I invented them.

Please forward all royalties to my address.

Thank you.

Gym climber
JackAssVille, Wyoming
Sep 18, 2009 - 06:32pm PT
Never had one. We just took it. On the ass mainly. I should use one now though. Will someone send me one?

I lied not Posting Todd.

Trad climber
Tempe, AZ
Sep 18, 2009 - 07:03pm PT
Urban Climber ran an article in December 2006 about the history of the crashpad (written by John Sherman). Pretty interesting!

Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Sep 18, 2009 - 07:21pm PT
We just guessed that those folks were tired & headed to
favorite napping spots.
Maybe they were? Hey, they're the mattress people. I dunno.

Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Sep 18, 2009 - 08:01pm PT
Crashpads started out as squares of carpet, mostly for cleaning off the shoes prior to making a move on the rock.

Gradually, folks stopped bouldering due to ankle injury.

Someone got the bright idea to add foam padding to the carpet, and the crashpad was invented.

Hope this helps

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Sep 18, 2009 - 08:06pm PT
They burn real good
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 18, 2009 - 08:43pm PT
munge asks a good question. Why not earlier? All I can guess is that bouldering was seen as just practice for real climbs back in the day.

I remember a friend that only bouldered back in the day. We called him crazy, as a nick name, we still call him crazy, but I now see where he was coming from.

Taped up couch cushions beat carpet. Pads beat taped up couch cushions, and so the sport goes.

Gym climber
A survey where 68% preferred this Fuca over others
Sep 18, 2009 - 09:15pm PT
Beware! When you wear a crashpad on your back you are unwittingly inviting impromptu bondage sex.

When they boulder, sport climbers and other prancers have historically been known for intentionally giving a poor spot so they can bugger their defenseless partners, so it was only a matter of time before they and their partners got fed up with the constant carpet burns.

Crashpads became popular because they allow such boulderers to push their partners over, or tortoise them, even on the hike in 'n out.


Sep 18, 2009 - 09:36pm PT
Along the lines of but not an answer to the original question, the term "spotting" has interesting origins:

In 1930, a new gymnastics coach at the University of Illinois, Hartley Price, painted 4' diameter white circles on the gymnasium walls, calling them "spots". Gymnasts seeing the "spots" were supposed to think safety and look for those who could assist them through one element or another. Such assistance became known as "spotting".

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 18, 2009 - 09:43pm PT
Thanks tons John. Solid.

As far as my original haunt, Indian Rock, we began to use vendors' carpet samples and similar stuff down in the pit back in the late sixties. They were just to so you could get your shoes really clean to do all the nasty micro-edging on the rhyolite.

Peter Haan
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Sep 18, 2009 - 10:02pm PT
Tortoise! WooHoo!!!

Social climber
east L.A. vato...
Sep 18, 2009 - 11:35pm PT
What watusi said,

The first practical use "crash pad" I was aware of
Was a decaying mattress called "yabo's mattress"
Underneath Bachar cracker near C4.

Each year it got more rotten and hideous, along with
Varying build up of other ghetto related material.

In the mid 90's retailers were not so sure about
Crash pads, by the late 90's they were "on".

Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Sep 19, 2009 - 01:10am PT
Don't Tortoise, dude.

Gym climber
A survey where 68% preferred this Fuca over others
Sep 19, 2009 - 02:33am PT
Watch out Pad People . . .

Don't get Tortoised!

Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Sep 19, 2009 - 02:36am PT
Ye've got me tortoised, JimLad.
Ya scurvy Dog.
Neal Kaptain

Boulder climber
Sep 22, 2009 - 01:32am PT
I was not the first to make sketch pads. John Sherman and others at Hueco Tanks were using them first. I'll send you John's email off-list if you would like.

Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Sep 22, 2009 - 01:51am PT
Hey Neal,

Good to see you here. How are things? Please send me an email or PM.


Trad climber
Sep 22, 2009 - 08:05pm PT
Neal K: I was not the first to make sketch pads. John Sherman and others at Hueco Tanks were using them first.

So much for my memories. Heh.
paul roehl

Boulder climber
Sep 22, 2009 - 08:13pm PT

Crash pads were no doubt invented at Stony Point where initially we experimented with water bottles, Volkswagen Beetles and small horses as a means of breaking falls.

Boulder climber
May 5, 2012 - 12:43pm PT

May 6, 2012 - 01:08pm PT
lol boudlering is so gay and lame lol too bad mattress people can't climb sick 5.10a on trad gear like we can. amirite?


Social climber
Los Angeles currently St. Antonin, France
May 6, 2012 - 04:56pm PT
I had one of those Jeff Johnson pads back in like 89 perhaps? Earliest ones I can remember that were made specifically for bouldering. It was maybe 2 feet square but it made such a difference...if you were lucky enough to land on it!

Trad climber
Newcastle UK
May 6, 2012 - 06:39pm PT

Here in the UK, at least one climber padded out highballs with bed mattresses back in the late 70s.

In the late 80s/early 90s we moved from bits of towel, to small sections of judo mat. Then someone, somewhere thought, hang on.............

And the rest is - history!

Messages 1 - 41 of total 41 in this topic
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