A Hidden Gem amidst the Suburban Sprawl

Posted: February 13, 2012 by None Smith in English, Training
Tags: , , , , , ,

As Ben and Natalia traverse their way through busy Sao Paolo streets, I find myself in a wintry suburban setting in northern New Jersey. Needless to say, it’s quite a different atmosphere and lifestyle than what they are experiencing in the Southern Hemisphere. The chaos that ensues during their commute everyday is palpable in their writing and pictures.

A Snow-less Winter

For those of you who have been around the northeast of the United States this winter, you know how mild it’s been. If we’ve gotten snow, it’s stuck to the ground for a day before temperatures shoot past freezing and melt it all away. It’s a bit unfortunate as this was the winter I really wanted to practice winter backpacking, camping and snow travel skills. As a result I’ve been spending a tremendous amount of time at the climbing gym either working or training and climbing.

The Gravity Vault Bouldering Wall

Tucked away on a small highway in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, the Gravity Vault is a hidden gem among rock climbing gyms. Most people who enter for the first time end up telling me, “I’ve lived here my whole life and never knew this existed!” They are even more surprised when I tell them it’s been in business for about seven years. A couple years ago the owners opened a second location further south. I can only hope that they are looking for a third and that rock climbing is taking off in New Jersey.

For the past 4 years I’ve been in and out of my current home, a place where suburbia seems to go on forever, to various places around the world, though Peru and India in particular. Each time I arrived home I would walk into my familiar kitchen with its familiar red chairs and look out the same window to see my neighbors familiar expensive cars in their driveway. It was always then that that culture shock hit me the hardest. As if seeing all this luxury and easy living for the first time. Almost as if I didn’t want to believe suburbia existed. Yet, it does.

If I keep typing about suburbia, I will without a doubt start to sound overly negative. I’m still unsure what it is about this place that leaves me yearning to see the rest of the world. Finding my climbing gym and my new job however, eases that yearning into something manageable. The Gravity Vault has been a little oasis amidst all the culture shock. Through the Gravity Vault I’ve met people like Todd Asher Bergstein, an athlete for Endure to Cure, who is currently on the ridges of Aconcagua looking to summit the mountain in support of pediatric cancer.

Bouldering Support

I’ve also met a community of climbers so supportive it scares me. On-lookers yell beta to the climber as he or she crimps to the wall looking for the next move on that hard V5 problem. The setters at the gym are coaches as well and say “Hi!” to everyone they see. The coaches just sent a bunch of their youth climbers to national climbing championships. The assistant manager of the gym came in first in the last competition. The staff regularly takes walks around the gym to talk with clients about beta, bouldering problems and routes, outdoor climbing spots and any trips people are taking. The Gravity Vault is also the psuedo-home to the Torne Climbers Coalition, a group of young and old local climbers fighting for access at a nearby crag.

The influence and enthusiasm of this place is inspiring, and while I haven’t dropped the news on the climbing community at this gym yet, I can only hope for their support as I train more seriously for 360Extremes. In all this, for those of you who struggle with your own home life and surroundings: keep the faith. In the suburban sprawl of expensive cars, huge mansions, and designer brands, I am elated to know that I have a diamond in the rough and a community to boot. You will find yours too. Keep searching.

A Climber

  1. Ben Weber says:

    Reblogged this on BW fotografia and commented:

    Norm on life in the suburbs and how even there you can find fantastic sources of inspiration

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