Crashpad: A Dirtbag Journal

Stashing my crashpad in the hallway
Friday was a great day to be a climber and an actor in New York City. I made it to SITI Company early enough to get a slot in their Equity Chorus Call style audition. The atmosphere in the waiting room was so much more congenial than many audition waiting rooms, the advisory given to us being to stretch out thoroughly–not the advice usually given to actors who don’t go in for dance calls! Moving our bodies seemed to loosen us up. I got a few questions about the pad on my back as soon as I showed up, “Nice pack. What do you keep in there?”

The audition itself was a delight. Three wonderful artists of the company held the audition, Ellen Lauren, Akiko Aizawa, and Leon Ingulsrud. It was an audition that felt more like a rehearsal. We began with a conversation–about art, of all things, in an audition, who would have thought. Then we practiced 15 minutes of Suzuki, one of the disciplines of SITI’S theatrical praxis. We finished that and began 15 minutes of Viewpoints, the other pillar of the company. All in all, it was a freeing, engaged experience. Would that all auditions felt like that. I wonder what I can do to make that so.

Susanna’s Instagram picture
I went downstairs and met up with a friend who was getting ready for rehearsal in the same building in which SITI makes its home. We sat at Gregory’s and ran her lines. She made fun of me for my crash pad, for sure.

We finished with a few hours of sunlight left. The temperature was hovering right around freezing. I hopped an A train and then a C to 103rd. Right outside the station the Westside Outcrops stare down over Central Park West. I have to think there are interesting, moderate lines all over these rocks, not just on the southwest corner. So that’ll have to be a major exploratory operation sometime in the future. To begin with, I warmed up a little on the V0 terrain around the corner from what Mountain Project calls The Fridge. Then I worked The Fridge (V2). The beta isn’t the most obvious, so I took a few attempts to do the problem, but it was a good intro to the style of this particular boulder. I like it because its edges are flat and strong. Unlike so many of the boulders in the park which have epoxied holds, I don’t think the holds on this boulder will ever snap off, and this also means the holds don’t have that schist sharpness that so many of the tiny flakes in the park do.

The south face of the Westside Outcrops
It took awhile to send the very fun Squeedge (V4). The start is on a soft sloping side pull, very core-powered, all about the body position. Through the course of a million tries I found easier ways of achieving the right hand triangular ledge, discovered good feet, the order in which to use them, and only after the million and first try did I see that it was so much easier to go to the juggy left hand near the top before advancing my right hand off the triangular ledge. The foot beta still held me back for a few more tries before I finally achieved the top, with a bit of a desperate throw in which my knuckles found an unintended finger lock. Not the way I’ll attempt to do it the next time, but it worked! Great fun with smiles at people walking their children home from school in the golden hour.


Then I set off to explore the so called Worthless Boulder. On the way, on the north side of the Great Hill I discovered so many other possibilities! 

Chalk all over…except on one big overhanging prow covered with vines…looks like it is out of my league, but damn does it look fun…I mean look at that.


So now might be a good time to lay out what I’m doing here. I got to New York a few months ago, and I want to climb. I quickly discovered that Manhattan has a lot of great bouldering. So I tried to figure out where exactly to find it. Sure, there’s plenty of beta for Rat Rock and Cat Rock, and the other obvious boulders. But there are so many more possibilities than those, and most people who write about bouldering say just that, “There are many more boulders out there.” OK, so why can I find so little about them online? Sure I find a blurb about the slopey top outs right by the stone bridge in the Ramble, and a reference to Shit Rock, though nothing about either in Mountain Project and in the recently published guidebook that everyone talks about it says ___________. So I thought, sounds like a fun project. While I’m in New York, I’ll seek out all the outdoor rock I can, and compile the notes into one spot. What brings me to New York is that I’m a dirtbag actor, so I’m going to use that as my framing device. And here’s how I’m going to do it:

Pretty much anytime you talk to me, I would rather be climbing–but my career has brought me here.

So I’m going to write a blog as I explore New York City’s outdoor climbing while also making my way as an actor here.

I’m a moderate boulderer, having topped a couple V5s in my time and gotten so close on a V6 or two, so that’s the perspective you’ll get (until I get crushers to go bouldering with me).

I’m tired of getting spat off of Polish Traverse, so I’m going to attempt to document as much variety as possible.

As I go, I’ll put together a stand-alone guide (something I’ve never done, so I’m going to be learning as I go). I’ll shunt the things I find lacking on Mountain Project over there, too.

So back to Friday. I wandered my way down to Worthless Boulder, where I went once last fall. I started on the arete off to the left of the overhanging face, called Gumb Project (V1). It’s surprisingly moderate for how overhung and difficult it looks. Still, it’s not the shortest problem, so I had to lock the beta in over a couple burns before I sent.  


Then on to the myriad other possibilities of this overhanging face. Clearly, there are endless possibilities here for eliminates, linking lines, and other ways of making the boulder exactly as difficult as you desire. I got up on Voodoo Bullshit / Bring the Noise (V2) next. Fun problem that, really, I thought was going to be harder. I’d probably call it V1 with that stand start. And the top out didn’t feel tenuous at all.


After messing about on Mean Green / Flava Flav (V4), which I found really hard, I went up the line of good holds just to the right of the arete, probably another V1, though shorter as a stand start. I finished just as the temperature was dropping with the sun, and hopped on an overcrowded 2 train downtown, on which everyone hated me and my big pad. Good day.


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