brooklyn boulders somerville entrance

Brooklyn Boulders is a rock climbing gym (to put it lightly) located in Somerville, MA. It’s also known as “BKBS” for short.

Going by the name, it sounds like it would be a rock climbing gym. And it is. But that’s misleading. It’s so much more than that. Let’s start at the beginning…

The first Brooklyn Boulders opened in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. It was started by a fellow Babson College alum, so I thought it was cool, but I was never in New York to check it out. Well, things changed when they opened a second location in Somerville, MA, which happens to be my favorite part of the entire Boston area!

I was actually in town when they were getting ready for the grand opening ceremony, but had to leave before I could see the inside. However, just from peeking in the window, I knew it was going to be epic!

The timing worked out in my favor, because I began to take bouldering more seriously, and after months of training at The Climbing Wall in Pittsburgh, and with my Five Ten Rogue shoes, Gramicci pants, and Two Ogres chalk bag, I was ready to return to Somerville!

The place exceeded my wildest expectations! First of all, I walked up to the building and saw bike parking outside – a nice touch. Well, then you walk inside and go through a hallway of indoor bike parking before even getting to the front desk!

bkbs front hallway bike rack

I checked in, filled out my waiver on their touchscreen tablets, and paid my entry fee.

As I recall, the total cost was $27. That breaks down to a $22 day pass plus the obligatory $5 orientation fee (learn to fall class, tour, and got an AutoBelay certification.) None of that should be new to you – if you know how to fall off a bike, most of the same principles apply to falling off a wall!

The tour was very helpful because this place is gigantic!! It’s far from a typical rock climbing gym. Even a top-notch rock climbing gym will be limited to awesome climbing areas, a weight room, and showers. BKBS is all that and then some!

bkbs main bouldering wall

There are tons of climbing walls and workout areas, and then on one side of the second floor, there is a conference table and individual workstations, for homework or launching your startup.

To me, that’s so awesome, because it means you can do so much stuff, all in one building. But I can understand your concern that these people would get in the way of climbing. (It’s like when I’d ride my BMX bike at the skatepark, and there would be people sitting on the ramps like they are picnic tables.)

Well, at BKBS, this could not be further from the truth. Allow me to give you an example. During my orientation, I met a fine gentleman named Tim, who found BKBS due to the collaborative work areas, and decided to purchase a membership because of how fun it looked to climb. All he knew was that it looked fun, and from watching him climb, I have a good feeling that he’s going to enjoy it!

The facility is actually inspiring more people to take up the sport of rock climbing!

After the orientation, I was on my own to do pretty much whatever I wanted. It wasn’t crowded, despite all the college kids being in town, so whatever I wanted to do, within my ability level, was fair game.

Since I had my harness on already, I did a little rope climbing (there were four AutoBelay stations available.) One of them was right next to the super awesome, yet very daunting, overhanging lead wall. I did a 5.9 climb there, and it must have been at least 60′ tall, because I was sweating profusely when I made it to the top!

As I was strolling around, eyeing up the bouldering walls, a voice came over the loudspeaker and announced that there was free ice cream outside! Many confused looks were exchanged, then a swarm of hungry climbers exited the building!

Turns out there was an ice cream truck parked outside giving away free ice cream to anyone that walked by! And by pure luck, I was in the right place at the right time!

levi starts v4 heel hook bouldering problem

Fueled up by a TMNT ice cream bar, it was time for some bouldering! I started on the super long, tall, mostly overhanging wall on the ground floor. It had everything from V0 to V12 problems – there was a V12 that finished at what looked like 20+ feet high, about 5 feet beyond anything else! Then I checked out the upstairs bouldering wall, which was small by comparison, but still fairly large. This one wasn’t quite as tall, and it was mostly vertical – there was only a small overhanging section – so it was far less taxing.

It was on this upstairs wall where I completed my first ever V4 rated problem! It was a super fun traverse that seemed tailor-made for my strengths!

That was all the strength I had left in my hands, so I did a cool down with some inversion poses and called it a day! And I left with a smile on my face!

coach levi practices forearm stand at bkbs

Getting to Brooklyn Boulders Somerville

To see how much fun it really is, you have to experience it yourself! Here’s how.

Address:

Brooklyn Boulders Somerville
12A Tyler Street
Somerville, MA 02143

Phone: 617-623-6700

Website: BrooklynBoulders.com/Somerville/

Parking

Free parking is available at:

30 Dane Street
Somerville, MA 02143

This parking lot is just a quick walk down the street. (If you park here, just go over the railroad tracks then make a left.) I usually see lots of cars, but I never saw the lot completely full.

There is also some street parking available along Tyler Street and Properzi Way.

Hours

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 7:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Every Other Day: 10 AM – 11:30 PM

*Check their website or Facebook page for current hours.

What You Can Do at BKBS

So much stuff!

Check out this quick video tour:

Bouldering Walls

There are two bouldering walls, one on each floor.

The one on the first floor (pictured earlier) stretches so far! It’s like six walls in one!

The upstairs wall is a little more tame, but still offers quite a bit of space.

bkbs upper level bouldering wall

The walls themselves might surprise you – they are smooth, lacquered walls. It’s like climbing a vertical dance floor! You don’t have any texture or features.

The crash pads are pretty big, about 18″ tall, and very firm. I did a lot more down climbing than I’m used to, because I got sick of landing on the firm surface! It’s a lot like a crash pad you’d carry outdoors, but it’s one gigantic pad (fortunately with no pointy rocks underneath.)

levi climbs fun v4 bouldering problem

As for the bouldering problems, there is a good variety of different types of holds and different moves required, but there are obvious similarities. They all go up, and they are all based on using the holds. There are no volumes, and very few corners and aretes. It’s rare to come across any type of feature or any other non-hold to use. Worst of all, there are no caves for you to go along the roof.

Props to the route setters though. The bouldering walls here were home to the smoothest setting I’ve ever experienced. Everything flowed really well, consistently. And they don’t use tape to mark the routes; instead, they base it on matching hold colors!

Top Roping and Lead Climbing

There are even more walls for rope climbing than you have for bouldering! And they’re much, much taller!

Unfortunately, the walls use the same smooth surface as the bouldering walls. It’s a bummer because it’s so unlike outdoor rock climbing where you would smear often.

bkbs top roping and lead walls

For top roping, they supply the ropes, GriGri, and locking biner. For lead climbing, quickdraws are already attached to the wall, but you have to supply your own rope.

I would love to lead there because of the sick overhang/roof at the very top of the one wall, dubbed “the tongue.”

If you don’t have a climbing partner, you can still hop on some of the walls thanks to the AutoBelays. The whole point is for you to be able to climb on your own, with no other person for belaying you like on a top-rope set up. It’s basically a coiled up nylon webbing at the ceiling. You hook the other end to your belay loop via a locking carabiner (I believe it was the Black Diamond Rocklock Twistlock) and you’re set to climb.

As you ascend, the unit takes up slack. When you fall off the wall, or simply let go at the top, the unit brakes and lowers you to the ground slowly. It’s definitely different than using a rope.

The good:

  • You don’t need a climbing partner.
  • You don’t have to tie any knots.

The bad:

  • You can’t communicate with the AutoBelay device.
  • You can’t “take” to stop and rest, and start again.
  • You’re taking falls on your single belay loop.
  • You can’t rappel; you have to fall or downclimb to get back down.

For me, had there not been this option, I would have been limited to bouldering, so that was cool. But I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this style of climbing.

Yoga Classes

There are usually a few classes per day. There are all different types of classes with different instructors.

bkbs yoga studio

There’s even something called “Broga” yoga. I guess it’s designed for guys so they don’t have to worry about fitting in at a regular yoga class.

Exercise and Training

They have a weight room with a bench, squat rack, etc.

There’s a separate workout area with foam roller, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, etc.

bkbs training and warmup room

Then there’s a warm-up and training room, which is my personal favorite. It has campus rungs of all types, a huge Moon board, pull up bars, rice buckets for hand and finger exercises, gymnastic rings, and all that fun stuff!

Amongst the top rope walls, there are other neat training stations, to help you train for obstacle course races or your TV debut on American Ninja Warrior! They even have freestanding slacklines.

So you can go for an intense workout as well as some relaxing slacklining, ping pong, etc.

The Amenities

Brooklyn Boulders is like a luxury hotel. They do everything they can to make your stay comfortable!

Along with the climbing and training areas, there’s a ping pong table, coffee shop, and a lounge with TV, magazines, and Nintendo 64.

Then there are locker rooms, showers, bathrooms, and even a sauna!

Even the basic stuff, they do it better than anyone else.

There’s a great water fountain where you can get a drink or easily refill your bottle.

bkbs water fountains

There are hand washing stations right there in the bouldering area.

bkbs sinks for hand washing

The only thing missing is a small craft brewery for after a long day of climbing. Oh wait, that’s right next door! It’s called Aeronaut Brewing Company.

Brooklyn Boulders Somerville Pricing

All this stuff comes at a price. It’s an expensive place (even if you have a Groupon.)

Last time I checked, these are the rates:

Day pass: $25
($30 if it’s your first visit)

Rentals:
Shoes – $6
Harness – $6
Chalk Bag – $2
Full Gear Kit – $11

At least the gear is still new and in good shape! The rental shoes look to be Evolv Shaman shoes, which are quite nice, and would cost you $150 to buy!

Your other option is a 12-month prepaid membership for $849. That’s not bad – all access to this place for what breaks down to $70 per month.

It’s just steep compared to my local gym in Pittsburgh, where an annual membership is half that price! But hey, this is the big city here. Around NYC and Boston, everything is so much more expensive than Pittsburgh.

And, this is not just a climbing gym! If you’re going to use everything, it’s a great deal. Weight room, cardio equipment, etc. Office space. Rock climbing. Yoga classes. If you had to pay 4 monthly memberships to get all that, it would add up!

(Just want to climb? Then yeah, bummer about the price.)

Try to find a Groupon.

You can get a great deal if you can find a Brooklyn Boulders Somerville groupon!

The one I purchased before my first visit was $29, and that included two full-day facility passes and two gear rentals (for shoes, harness, and chalk bag.)

Compared to MetroRock, Central Rock Gym, and Boston Rock Gym

BKBS was not the first climbing gym in the Boston area. In fact, there were already three gyms! The thing is, two of the three are about 30 minutes north of the city!

BKBS is much more convenient, especially if you’re using public transit. So even though it’s the most expensive, your total spend probably evens out.

If you’re willing to drive north, Boston Rock Gym is only $16 for a day pass, and the gym is a true rock climber’s gym. It’s set up to be a lot like climbing outdoors. In other words, it’s a whole different world compared to BKBS!

MetroRock Boston is also rather far north of the city, and the day pass is $20.

You might want to check out Central Rock Gym, because that’s right in Cambridge (which is next to Somerville,) so it’s not far out of the way. If you’re into textured walls and different types of climbs, and don’t care about the treadmills and sauna, this gym is probably the better option for you.

 

Coach Levi’s Final Verdict on BKBS

What do I think? I think Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville is an awesome place and the expense is warranted for everything it includes. I think if I climbed there daily, I would certainly crave some textured walls and a bouldering cave, so I’d have to make visits to Central Rock and the BRG, but that’s personal preference. Overall, it’s a great option for anyone in Boston, Cambridge, or Somerville. Try it out once and see what you think.

 

Have you been here? What did you think?

More articles you will probably enjoy:

Leave a Reply