When Gareth Leah first arrived in New York he was broke. He had developed a passion for climbing while in college back in his homeland of the UK, but memberships for New York City’s climbing gyms were expensive. Instead, he went to Rat Rock in Central Park and was immediately struck by the sense of camaraderie amongst the people bouldering there. Wanting to find more places like this, he began exploring.
He’d walk, scouring the city, zigzagging bottom to top. “As I went I would create my own little map of things to do and places that interested me,” he says. “It really opened up my eyes to what you could do here that was off the beaten track.” Sometimes he’d find new bouldering spots, sometimes he’d wander into museums, sometimes he’d just wander different parks looking for hidden secrets.
Gareth, also known as ‘Gaz’ to his friends, had heard rumors of bouldering spots he hadn’t yet found, and that’s when he decided there needed to be a guidebook of the city’s bouldering locations. He spent a year and a half methodically searching city parks and roadsides. The result is his book, NYC Bouldering, which has inspired numerous climbers and even climbing events throughout the city. “It was really rewarding seeing so many people finding joy out of something I’d created,” he says.
For Gareth, the parks of New York City are a sanity-saver, necessary for escaping the constant movement of life in the city. “You can find a sense of nature,” he says. “You just have to look a little further … It’s not as hard as it seems, but to most people it’s hard to take the time. You have to make it an important part of your life.”