I don’t know about you, but I get sick of the gym. Same old same old, and so I look for alternative things to do for exercise. I’d heard about a place called “Brooklyn Boulders” that supposedly housed the biggest and best rock climbing facility in the city, and so yesterday I decided I’d go climb me some rocks. Located in a former Daily News truck garage in Gowanus, this 22,000 square foot complex is an unquestionably amazing sight. The cavernous interior has been fitted with 20+ foot high climbing surfaces at various angles and shapes, and it’s dotted with thousands of oddly shaped and brightly colored “boulders” for climbers to grapple.I learned there are lots of different kinds of climbing techniques, but for simplicity the two I readily comprehended were belaying and bouldering. Belaying is the thing where the climber is harnessed while climbing a sheer wall, and the rope is fixed at the summit on a sort of pulley, with a second person at the bottom holding the end in case the climber gets into trouble. Hmmmm, I thought, seems like a lot of technique. Maybe not for my first time out. So I went for bouldering, because that was advertised as “if you can climb a ladder, you can boulder.” Being fairly adept at ladder climbing, I thought I should be able to master bouldering pretty quickly. I got my weird pointy climbing shoes on and was ready to try it. How hard could it be?
This shit is hard. No joke, it’s really hard! The grips are murder on your hands, you need serious hand strength. And it’s also like doing tons of pull ups. But the most challenging aspect is you can’t just shimmy up a wall because you get two steps in and realize you don’t know where to put your damn hands. You see, all those rainbow contusions on the wall are coded for different climbs of varying difficulty. For instance, let’s say you spy a purple beginner’s handhold near the ground, labeled zero (for difficulty.) All the subsequent hand and footholds to the top would be purple, and those are the only ones you can use. So with little more thought I just jumped right in. I got halfway up, about six feet… and fell back down to the mat. BAM! I tried to affect an air of “I meant to do that.” Undeterred, I tried again. I made it to the same place but my hands got slippery, and BAM! Dusting myself off, I began to feel a little salty. Climb a ladder, my ass! I never fell off a damn a ladder. And to add insult to injury, there are kids there scampering up these inverted walls like rhesus monkeys. I’m talking 8 year olds, man. So I felt truly humbled, and honestly started to think maybe I should cut my losses and go. Not wanting to be hasty, I sat down over to the side to enjoy the 90‘s grunge rock being piped in and I observed folks bouldering who actually knew what they were doing.Turns out, there is a Miyagi-like science to bouldering. The climber stands and studies the wall first, plotting where their hands and feet should go depending on efficiency. As they climb, they take a moment once they have a new hold… they become still and focused and then there’s an explosion of energy as they propel themselves to the next hold. It’s a very graceful thing to watch. So I tried again. I figured out where my hands and feet should go all the way up to the top, I tried to copy their zen, and dammit if it didn’t work! It felt great getting to the top, though I had no idea how to get down. (You go half way, then drop.) After several successful climbs, I felt I had conquered level zero on that one section. How humbling (once again) to discover there are like 15 higher levels of difficulty, and they change the routes constantly.But in the end, I really did enjoy it. It’s an exciting and fun way to exercise. I would suggest to you: learn from my hubris! Brooklyn Boulders offers some really affordable basic bouldering and top rope classes. There’s no need to suffer through the learning curve. Although, I will say that learning it my way will certainly enable you to perfect the art of the casual plummet.