It’s hard to imagine that in the middle of New York City’s concrete jungle of skyscrapers and traffic, there’s a thriving community of rock climbers. I recently ventured out with the Outside Television crew to do a little bouldering across Central Park’s natural jungle gyms.
So what the hell is bouldering, you ask? Bouldering is free-style climbing without a rope, usually no more than six feet above the ground. It’s becoming more popular both on rocks and in indoor climbing gyms because it’s accessible, affordable and fun. Rock climbers who are interested in testing their vertical skills need travel no farther than the city’s famous Central Park.
I met up with Ivan Green, a bouldering pioneer and climbing expert who introduced me to the scene. Born and raised in NYC, Ivan admits that Central Park is not the first place that comes to mind for serious climbing but, local climbers have used this space since back in the 1960’s and continue to do so today.
Armed with crash pads that look like little mattresses to cushion a climber’s fall, Ivan walked me through Bouldering For Dummies. First step was to slip on a pair of climbing shoes. Much like ballerina slippers, they ‘point’ at the toe, arch the foot and are terribly uncomfortable to walk in. Their strange shape, however, sure comes in handy when trying to climb!
There are six bouldering areas in Central Park, with grades ranging from V0 to V11 (being the most technically complicated). One of the most popular and easiest for beginners is Rat Rock, in the center of the park. Other climbing spots include “Chess Rock,” “Cat Rock” and “Worthless Boulder” in the northernmost part of the park.
Dunking my hands into a bag of ground chalk (used by rock climbers to dry slippery fingers before tackling the rock face), I assessed the rock in front of me. With fissures and crevices galore it was hard to know where to put my hands and feet, but with Ivan’s help we were able to solve these “problems.” After a series of calculated moves and a little upper body strength on my part, I climbed my way up the boulder like a clumsy Spiderman, jamming my fingers and toes into cracks in the rock until I made it to the top.
For more on the ins and outs of bouldering or to try it yourself, reach out to Ivan through http://brooklynboulders.com/