Last Friday night, I was lucky enough to score a free ticket to the American Alpine Club’s Climber’s Gathering hosted at Brooklyn Boulders. After a panicked phone call to my climbing friend who helped me review how to tie a figure 8 follow through, I braved my way into the gym filled with climbing greats.
Kevin Jorgeson lounged in the corner, smiling for three hours straight and patiently signing photos of his Dawn Wall exploits. He had good company: Sasha DiGiulian, one of the best female rock climbers in the world, chatted with fans and give a brief speech about training in New York City.
On the walls, expert climbers gracefully mingled with beginners like me. I picked up some useful climbing tips from a climbing guide from the Gunks. After I fell off of a V1 for the second time, the President of the American Alpine Club in Iran offered me his bag of chalk and pointed out a foothold that I had missed.
Taking a break from the climbing myself, I watched climbers who had scaled Everest relay-race up the gym walls. A carnival sense of excitement prevailed, with an aerial rope demonstration and food and wine. I had to wade through the crowds of urban climbers, some seasoned pros, some beginners looking to connect with other outdoor-minded New Yorkers and exercise in a more adventurous way.
“Climbing is my break,” a young Brooklynite explained while he planned his next route. “You don’t have time to worry about your e-mails, your work, your iPhone because you have to figure out where your next hand-hold will be.” He can’t wait to try climbing outside when the weather warms up. In the meantime, he’s practicing four days at week, stoked to have stumbled into this climbing community.
Standing next to him with chalk all over my face, I realized how incredible it was to climb with such a diverse and enthusiastic group of people. Sherpas from Nepal bouldered next to Brooklyn high school teachers, an Iranian mountaineer, and a Long Island programmer. “Only in New York,” I thought.
-Audrey Larkin attends Barnard College and is an aspiring raft guide, poet, and paddler.