Rock climbing gyms of San Francisco


To climb outside, or not to climb at all. That was the question that used to haunt rock climbers across the globe, but thankfully it has been solved. Solved, thanks in no small part to indoor rock gyms. San Francisco is full of them I learned, and luckily for me my Cousin was able to help me out by taking me to two of her favorite gyms in the city; Twisters and Mission Cliffs.

We headed to Twisters on Wednesday, enacting a rather impressively complex dance of cars and bikes in order to get everyone to the gym on time. Emma had to meet a friend and pick up some shelving units using his truck. Remy needed to be there at a certain time so he could meet a friend. I had to meet Remy at his place, and needed to bring Emma’s bike with me so that she could get into work the next day. Someone needed to pick up dinner for us all. And to top it off, the Ox couldn’t go in the same car as the fox, unless the police officer was with them. Props if you got that last part.

No matter the odds though, you cannot keep a climber for their climb once their minds are set, and we somehow were able to get everyone where they needed to be, every bike and every shelf. And once that was all settled, we ate some food and rocked the bouldering problems at Twisters. Its an interesting gym, in the fact that its pretty small and simple. While that could be a downside for some gyms, here it fit perfectly… there weren’t too many people, and the climbs themselves were amazingly set; giving rise to interesting problems and unique moves. The “terrain” varied a bit too, although there were really only one or two climbs per section of the gym. There was a nice cave, a real tricky slab, some light overhangs and stems, and one short wall with a few strenuous traverses. My favorite part was the high-ball section though, with a pad nearly four feet thick underneath, just waiting to be jumped down to from the top of the boulder.

We spent the rest of the night in the gym, hanging out and chatting, bouldering and snacking. I’m sure that there was an official “closing time”, but the upside of a small attendance combined with being friends with the folks running it meant that there wasn’t an actual closing time. Through some creepy telepathic consensus we picked 11:00 to be our “chalk down” time though, and almost as soon as that hour hand hit the eleven people started leaving. At that point I was nearly useless on the rock anyways, so I helped Remy move Emma’s new shelving unit into his car and we started the long ride home. THAT was the real downside of Twisters… its pretty far away from San Francisco proper, and the ride home took us just about 45min. But once we were back at Remy’s place we reaped the reward of a tough workout – most excellent sleep.

Mission Cliffs, unlike Twisters, is right in the city itself. Friday night saw me walk down to the gym from Emma’s place, after realizing that the buss would only save me 10min or so. It was a three mile walk, give or take, but in my mind this was just another excuse for me to explore the city and get to know the feel of the neighborhoods. The only downside to the walk was that the rain hadn’t decided to hold off anymore; my rain jacket did a very good job of keeping me and my gear dry but I’m sure I cut a rather ridiculous sight walking down the street, in the rain, with my raincoat bulging around me from the satchel stuffed inside.

I actually made the walk a good bit quicker than I expected (upside to rain – you can push yourself harder since you effectively have a water-cooling system keeping you from overheating), and after helping a random lost guy out with directions I went inside. After the usual paperwork and “have you climbed before? Have you climbed here before?” I took a bit of time to explore the gym before meeting Emma and Remy and Co in the bouldering area. Just… wow. This gym was HUGE.

Mission Cliffs wasn’t as large, square footage wise, as Metro Rock back in Boston. But I am of the opinion that it more than made up for that size difference in a height difference; Mission Cliffs has a good 20 feet or so more vertical climbing than anywhere I’ve seen, and their roped climbing terrain is rather epic on its own. Needless to say, I am coming back once I have my harness and rope and a belayer 🙂

Ignoring the roped portion I bouldered with Emma and Remy and a few of their friends for the night, trying to keep up with the guys. Remy’s good (So is Eric, but he’s annoyingly TALL, so its hard to learn from him), and I had a lot of fun watching how he tackled certain problems that I couldn’t do. Seriously, I need to just buckle down while I’m in New Zealand and get good again… this “I’m not as strong as I used to be” thing I have going on is unacceptable. Honestly, its just frustrating because I can see the moves I need to make, can visualize myself going through it, and can’t actually get my body to follow through with the moves. Growl. But the upside – its just training and working out, and those are things I can work on.

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