Saturday reviews: Hidden Gems in NYC: Steep Rock West

Vivien Sweet, Staff Writer

Steep Rock West

Location: 3225 Broadway

Subways nearby: 1, A, C, B, D 

Price: $$

Category: Rock climbing

Best for: 2-10 people

The truth is this: no one thinks bouldering is for them until they try it. However, Steep Rock West, a rock climbing gym featuring entirely glass walls and high ceilings, a minimalist structural design, and a friendly and helpful staff, makes the sport easy to jump—or rather climb—right into. 

When I first went to Steep Rock West with my church’s youth group, I was admittedly dubious that all 17 of us would be able to climb at the same time given that the gym is on the Upper West Side. To my surprise, the varied selection of walls, each with about ten different color-coded climbing paths, proved to withstand a handful of large groups. The difficulty of each climbing path is indicated by a system of neon labels, tagged from V0 to V9, placed on each climbing hold. The higher the number, the more challenging a given route is, which can be controlled by the size of the holds or the space between them. 

Steep Rock West offers a type of indoor bouldering called “free solo climbing,” meaning that participants climb the walls without ropes harnessing them in. Though this may seem daunting at first to a less adventurous bunch, the employees take all climbers through a comprehensive safety orientation to prevent falls from becoming dangerous. Besides, the mats beneath each climbing wall are surprisingly springy and stop any drops from resulting in bruises. 

Although you’re bound to see some bouldering regulars swing from hold to hold on V8 paths with unnatural ease and grace, the majority of the climbers at Steep Rock West are amateurs who came to race their friends up climbing paths. However, every climber, regardless of their experience level, must wear special bouldering shoes, which cost $6 to rent all day. A day pass costs $22 per person—$15 during the weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.—meaning that a climber can spend nearly all day (from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays) at Steep Rock West. 

I’m no Alex Honnold, but mastering V2 and V3 routes and reliving my elementary jungle gym memories through bouldering showed me that rock climbing isn’t just for middle-aged male gym rats. I encourage you and your friend group to take a break from Rumble and SoulCycle this weekend and opt for a more adventurous, less costly workout at Steep Rock West.