Gareth Leah is a UK climber currently working in New York City with PCI (Pro Climbers International), The Cliffs L.I.C (Long Island City), among other climbing related projects and he recently finished a bouldering guidebook for New York City. I chatted with Leah about the development and was also able to get a sneak peak of the inside the book. I don’t visit the Big Apple much but if I did or if I lived there, this seems like a logical idea and I am wondering why nothing has been printed in the past. There are a few online resources like, climbnyc.com and beta-boy.com but both seem incomplete and don’t look like they’ve been updated in years. Here is a little background on the guide and thoughts from Leah. Tell me about the guidebook and why you developed it? I came to New York City 12 months ago and was waiting for my visa to come through so I needed something to take up my time and I ventured down to Central Park to find out about climbing there. I hadn’t been able to find anything online and after a short while of talking to some locals it seemed like everyone knew a few boulder problems, but no one knew all of them. Nobody had ever spoken to each other, no one had talked about it, you know? All the knowledge was kept within small groups of people, so I got together with one of the guys that’s been climbing here for twenty years and decided to write a guidebook with a little bit of help from him. That led me down the track of exploring the city and finding new boulders that people had never found because no one had really ever thought about climbing in NYC that much. The guy that helped me, Bill Piehl, is a massage therapist and martial arts teacher and he’s been climbing down at Rat Rock, one of the most popular areas since the late 90’s. He was really helpful in making it happen and once we started writing it, we started doing some exploring, tracking geological maps to see if there were any common fault lines, and I found one. If you follow Manhattan directly up the middle, there’s a fault line where you could find a lot of rocks. We then began our quest to locate these rocks and after about five months we finally found every rock in Manhattan by walking or driving up and down the city. We began to document and climb them with the locals that were around. We’d arrange to go out, take a topo with us, and shoot the routes and document them. It has taken about 12 months to put it all together, a lot longer than anyone had anticipated. It went from 40 routes to over 300. So yeah, that’s kind of the area, more or less. Have you gotten any apprehension from anybody like ‘Oh, we want to keep this a secret’ or has everybody been pretty much open to the idea? Yeah, everyone’s been encouraging, and desperate to have the guide. I never realized there would be so much support just from our Facebook page that we started. There’s hundreds and hundreds of people that I’ve met that are really psyched on the guide and I have friends from eastern Europe and South America contacting them asking when the guide will be coming out because they’re visiting and they heard about it and the area. All the locals are supporting it as well as the local climbing gyms . So yeah, it’s all really good energy from people. Have there been any access issues at all? No, none at all. Climbing is allowed for the most part in NYC. There aren’t any rules that say you cannot climb. There are climbing events in the parks year round, with outdoor companies using the areas as a way to get people outside. So, all the rocks lay within Central Park, or are there other areas as well? No they’re all in Manhattan, only 20% in Central Park. Most of it is further uptown towards Fort Tryon, High Bridge Park, Morningside Park, St. Nicholas Park, Inwood Park and that area.
Sharp End Publishing website.The NYC Bouldering guidebook is at the printers and will be available at the end of the month. You can pre-purchase a copy and receive an ebook version for free a the
Click the images for full view. All photos by François Lebeau. How long does it usually take to get out to the actual boulders? The great thing about all these boulders is that they’re all very easily accessible by subway station. My place is in the east village and if I jump on the train, I can be at any of the places within 20 or 30 minutes. What’s the quality of rock like? The rock is extraordinarily solid. It’s all Manhattan Schist. A lot of these rocks are naturally there and were dropped from a glacier that passed through NY. Are there any open projects, or has everything pretty much been established? No, there are some open projects, some very, very hard ones. I’ve had Kevin Jorgenson, Daniel woods and a lot of other very strong climbers attempt to climb these lines and yet there’s still a few there that are unfinished . There are two extremely hard ones, roughly V13/14, though no one has done them yet, they’re just estimated grades. Kevin came down about a month back and tried Roadside Boulder. Brian Kim and Ivan Greene tried a project in Central Park as well. There’s also a bunch of projects higher up in Hepatitis Boulder area people have been trying, plus a lot of local projects so, yeah, full of good stuff waiting out there. So part of the proceeds are going to the Access Fund as well, how’d you set that up? I called the Access Fund and I let them know that I wanted to help them out. The idea of this guidebook is basically to bring the community together, it wasn’t just meant to be a guide, I had a bigger picture. I want the rocks in the area to be kept maintained, and so my thinking is that with the support of the Access Fund and us supporting them through the book, in the long run, they would continue to keep good access conditions for these areas so everyone can enjoy them for the long term. So do you expect to make a profit on the book at all? No, not really any profit. The amount of hours I’ve put into this is the only profit, if you know anyone that’s made a guidebook you don’t really make any money off it. If anything you lose money with all the time you spend ferrying people around to get to the photo shoots . [laughs] It’s definitely a negative income and I just did it because I had time. The NYC Bouldering Guidebook should be out this summer. For more information, check out their Facebook page and their website: http://www.nycbouldering.com