The Philadelphia Theory

I have this theory about climbing and Philadelphia.  My studies for my MBA tell me that my analysis is biased because I am looking for a certain result, but go with me on this:

There are a lot of climbers in Philadelphia.  More than I think any of us realize.

This is how I came to formulate this theory: follow the money.  There are, within about 1 hour of Center City, at least 6 climbing gyms.  There are 2 REIs, and 5 Eastern Mountain Sports stores.  While it can be argued that the retail end is making its money off of cycling and clothing more (and they are), someone, somewhere, is spending money on climbing and climbing equipment.

My time at Philadelphia Rock Gym as a coach and as the shop manager, I can tell you that most gyms out here are operating at pretty thin margins; yet these 6 gyms have all been in business for at least 10 years.  That means that each of these locations, just to stay in business, has to have at least 160 paying members (and that is being really conservative…most of these gyms probably need to see that kind of growth every year just to keep up with expenses).  So it is safe to say that there are well over 1,000 climbers living in the Philadelphia Metro Area.

That being said, wouldn’t it be nice to have some real rock to climb near by?  I mean, the Gunks are only 3 hours away, so we have that.  There’s Stover (overrated, polished and meh), there’s the Water Gap (decent climbing counteracted by the worst approach on the planet), there’s Birdsboro (a nice approach tempered by fair to middling climbing), Livezy

As I mentioned in previous posts, there is more climbing to be had, should we decide to look for it.  I stumbled across some rocks at Pennypack back in May, and I developed a corollary to the Philadelphia Theorem called the Pennypack Corollary: if there is some rock, there must be more rock.  Geologically speaking, it is unlikely that if the forces of erosion of have revealed climbable rock in that area, that it is the only climbable rock in the area.

So far, my theory has been proven correct.

G-RockI went back to the rock that I scouted the other day (which I am calling G-Rock) to put some problems up, and I was 2/3 successful.  That is to say, I was able to put up 2 out of the 3 lines that I found.

G-Rock has some nice features.  Of the three exposed sides, one is very overhanging, one is completely vertical, and the third is a steep slab.  It has a little something for everybody.

Philly-Theory-001The first problem I completed today was on the slab.  The most obvious line started in the dead center and went straight up.  There were a couple of very small ledges and tiny features that I was able to get purchase on and eventually scramble up to a juggy point at the top of the thin seam that I followed.  After climbing it a few times, I think that The Philadelphia Thoery goes down as a V1/1+.

Philly-Theory-002(I have been finding myself really erring on the side of underrating the problems…I am so afraid that I am going to call it a certain grade, only to have someone else climb it and feel that it is much easier than the grade I give it.  I think that would possibly be the most embarrassing thing.  Granted, grades are highly subjective and generally judged via community consensus, and thus are likely to change.  Still…I don’t want to be “that guy”, the one who claims a hard ascent when in reality, it wasn’t that hard.)

backscratcher-001I worked a project on the opposite side at the overhanging section and put together a nice bendy problem.  It starts on the left side, traverses right, then moves upward and tops out to the left.  The bottom section has big hand holds but keeps you very close to the ground; in fact, part of the fun is trying to complete the traverse while staying off of the ground and squeezing between the boulder and some rocks sitting right behind you.  The top section is a little crimpier, and the final move requires you to feel around blindly for a small gouge so you have something to use in the top out.

backscratcher-002The first time I attempted the bottom traverse, my foot actually slipped out of a heel hook and I fell onto the aforementioned rock behind me, hence the name Backstratcher. It goes at V2-.  (And as it turns out, there is no need for a heel hook there.  Lesson learned.)

The large vertical section in the middle is going to require some more work.  I need to have better grip strength to grab the minuscule holds above the start hold, and better flexibility and core strength to even get on to the start holds and off of the ground.  Guess it’s time to get back into the yoga routine.

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1 comment so far

  1. Joanne on

    Try harder NOT to fall. 🙂


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