It’s the holiday season! While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, it’s getting a bit chilly for outdoor activities in New York. Luckily, there’s no shortage of fun ways to stay active indoors. The Trapeze team (myself, Albert, and Peidi) wanted to do a weekend activity together. We want to try something new that none of us had done before. Our team mission is to get people out exploring the world of possibilities around them, and we strive to apply this to our own lives as well. This was a good opportunity to use our app, Trapeze, even if not a date in the traditional sense.
To figure out what we were doing, Albert swiped through a few recommendations on Trapeze after filtering for activities. We passed on a spa option—we’re all friends, but we’ll save that one for a more romantic scenario. In short time, we landed on the idea of going to a rock climbing gym, The Cliffs at LIC, which fit what we were looking for.
I should mention here—I have an acute fear of heights. Sometimes I get that gut-clenching sensation just walking down a long flight of stairs, and I’ll have to compulsively cling to the railing to ward off the uncontrollable anxiety. On top of that, I have no prior climbing experience of any kind. I think like many people, I find it intimidating to take the plunge into something new. Life’s no fun without a bit of thrill though, right? I was game to give it a shot and hopefully emerge unscathed from the experience. Plus, the gym is located in my neighborhood, and I know people move here just to be close to it. I figured I was overdue to see what the hype is all about.
We arrive at the climbing gym on a Sunday afternoon. Outside, the weather is dreary and drizzly, and there’s barely anyone walking around on the streets. Inside, we’re confronted by an explosion of color and activity. Bold colors splash over the canvases of lofty, crazily angled walls, splattered with the drips of brightly colored handholds and footholds. All over this tableau, experienced climbers are scaling the walls and belaying down with seemingly little effort. For every climber on the walls, there are several more on the ground, belaying or chatting or looking for their next climb. A couple of super chill dogs are lounging around, completely unfazed by all the activity going on around them.
Having never set foot in a rock climbing gym before, I have no idea where to start and feel like a fish out of water. Luckily, we signed up for an introductory class. The class is 90 minutes long and costs $49 per person, which includes gear rental and a pass for the rest of the day.
At first, it feels like there’s a lot to take in. The instructor shows us how to use the Grigri belay device, how to tie figure-eight follow-through and double fisherman’s knots to secure our harnesses, and how the climber and belayer should communicate with each other for top rope belaying. Our first knot attempts seem to invariably have the wrong number of loops, and we keep mixing up which person should say “on belay!” and which should say “belay on!” But surprisingly soon, after some practice and instruction, we’re all getting the hang of it. Just when I’m starting to feel reasonably confident that I’ve grasped everything, the instructor asks for a first volunteer to climb the wall. I feel a familiar slightly queasy sensation in the pit of my stomach, which suggests maybe I’m not as confident as I thought.
Albert steps up, and I’m belaying for him. No pressure, I think—just Albert’s life in my hands. But he’s up in a flash, and all the belaying practice I’ve just done has translated into muscle memory, so no problems on my end either. He’s soon back on the ground, and it’s my turn to go up.
We’re climbing a section of wall that must be around 30 feet tall. After tying in, I walk up to the wall, palms sweaty (knees weak, arms heavy, mom’s spaghetti?), and I take a deep breath.
One more deep breath for the road.
And I’m off! I focus on one limb at a time, trying to obtain a secure hold before moving onto the next limb. The route is rated at a 5.5 difficulty, which is the easiest rating available at The Cliffs (rating scale), so good holds are always within fairly easy reach. In no time, I’m somehow at the top. I call down to my belayer to tell him I’m ready to be lowered, then instantly regret looking back down. But the worst is over at this point, and gravity does most of the remaining work. I’m sweating more profusely than I would have expected, and it’s primarily not from physical effort at this point.
We’ve officially finished the introductory class, so we go explore the rest of the facility. We try some of the more difficult routes; Peidi impressively manages to slay a 5.9 route after just one failed attempt. He sets his eyes on a 5.10 route, but after a few hours of exertion, it’s too tall of an order. Part of the fun of rock climbing is figuring out how to tackle routes. Sometimes, it can seem like there’s no logical way to get past a certain point. At The Cliffs, there’s no shortage of experienced climbers who can give you some tips and info on a route (which I later learned is called “beta”).
One wall of the gym has auto belays routes, where climbers can tie in and climb without a person belaying. We see a good number of kids throughout the day on the auto belays, and also on the regular belays. It’s great that they have the opportunity to climb at a young age; maybe if I had the same, I wouldn’t be so nervous about heights! It’s also good motivation for me to see kids climbing—don’t want a 10 year old to show me up…
There’s a lot more that The Cliffs offers, beyond dozens of top rope routes. Some of the most impressive climbers are on the bouldering walls, where even the easiest routes are more challenging the hardest top rope routes we attempted. We watch a few make progress up walls that slope sharply outward as you climb higher, all without ropes. There’s also a slackline nearby. Many people can balance just a few seconds, but one guy dances on the wobbly rope for minutes without problem. The facility has a more typical gym area with free weights and machines too. If you have a regular monthly membership, you might not need another gym membership.
After a few hours at the gym we’re pretty tired out. Time for dinner—where to go? We used Trapeze again, this time filtering for nearby restaurants. We picked from the first three recommendations the app gave. I had been to two of the three before, one being our local Michelin star Mexican restaurant (Casa Enrique) and the other being one of my favorite ramen places in New York (Mu Ramen), so we went with the third option: Jora, a Peruvian restaurant.
I ended up very satisfied with our choice to take the untrod path; the food was delicious, the portions were generous, and the service was warm. They accommodated our group quickly, even though it was busy and we had no reservation. Before our entrees came, we stuffed ourselves on appetizers: plantain chips with aji verde sauce, fresh ceviche, and jalea (a mix of fried seafood). Now I know another great local restaurant for future dates and outings. A perfect way to refuel and recover after a tiring day!
Overall, trying out rock climbing was a great experience, and I would love to do it again sometime. It had always seemed intimidating, but I was surprised at how accessible and fun it was even as a complete beginner. We’ll be planning more adventures in the future with Trapeze; give it a try yourself! We’d love to hear your stories, as well as any feedback you have for us, so let us know how it goes!