Climb Like a Local: Central Park Bouldering

05/01/2017

Categories: Climb Like a Local

The battle-worn boulders in New York’s Central Park attract climbers from all over the Big Apple and beyond. The novelty of real outdoor bouldering in a forested oasis juxtaposed against its urban setting makes this defiant wilderness an easy-access escape. Plus, woodchip-lined landings eliminate the need for crash pads, so you won’t have the hassle of carrying one around the crowded city.

Sasha DiGiulian rock climbing some of the Central Park bouldering within Central Park, New York City

Photo courtesy of © Francois Lebeau

LOCAL VIBE: The boulders draw a crowd as diverse as the rest of the Big Apple. A few staples: professional dancers, graphic design students, an experimental mathematics PhD, outdoor retailer employees, a professional gardener who’s been bouldering here for 20 years, and, of course, out-of-town climbers just passing through. In this way, the Central Park boulders are really representative of the city itself —it’s without a doubt the most varied, multicultural melting pot of a crag.

AVOID THE CROWDS: Hey, it’s New York City—crowds are part of the equation. Still, if you’re looking for a crowd free climb, opt for Worthless Boulder, near 110th Street on the north end of the park. It doesn’t tend to be crowded even on weekends, and despite its name, it’s got some good problems. Bring a crash pad for this one.

LOCAL PET PEEVES: Claiming first ascents. People have been climbing in the NYC park system for more than a century, so it’s ridiculous to assume you’ve just become the first climber to send something. Instead, say the locals, embrace the adventure of anonymous slimy, lowball, make ‘em ups! Oh, and this should go without saying, but don’t bring a crash pad on the subway during rush hour.

WATCH OUT! The only official climbing locations in the park are the areas around Rat Rock, Cat Rock, and the Worthless Boulder. People climb in other areas, but be aware of your surroundings. Roped climbing and slacklines are strictly forbidden and could compromise access with the parks department.

WHERE TO FIND COMMUNITY: With so many people in NYC, it can be a challenge to find your climbing tribe. But you’re sure to find like-minded climbing peeps at Brooklyn Boulders (or BKB as the locals call it). They offer 250,000 square feet of climbing in the heart of Brooklyn. And if you’re interested in expanding into other types of adventure climbing, BKB offers some pretty amazing outdoor expeditions.

PRO TIP: "While NYC might not be a typical destination for a climbing trip, Central Park does provide a taste of outdoor bouldering to stay amused amidst the big city. Conditions are best during the autumn and the spring, and be ready to receive lots of questions about what the big square mattress is on your back." ~Sasha DiGiulian, pro climber and Central Park regular

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