San Francisco is a fractious city—there are Marina-ites and Mission-ites, Ritual devotees and those who swear by Blue Bottle. Rock climbers in the city are similarly divided—there are Mission Cliffs people and there are Planet Granite people. And while they each have their loyalists, both gyms are solid spots to learn and advance.
Mission Cliffs is a little scrappier—some of the machines (it’s also a traditional gym) are a bit retro, it’s dusty, and a Yelper or two has been known to complain of the omnipresent body odor. In other words, the place has got character. You’ll find tight-jean-clad hipsters pondering problems (that’s climbing-speak for bouldering routes) and shirtless diehards hanging from five-story holds. There’s a main wall, an impressive network of arches and a bouldering area upstairs that general manager Donna Dunlap says they’re hoping to expand into the adjacent building.. Its proximity to Mission taquerias is an added plus—few things rival the climb/burrito combo.
The view from the top at Planet Granite is worth the climb—the gym’s housed in a Presidio warehouse that overlooks Crissy Field and the Bay. The space is a bit more spruced up and family-oriented than MC’s, but you’ll still find climbing-gym rats tackling any one of their 115 problems. PG just launched its Singles and Swingers night (the second Thursday of every month)—finally, the opportunity to chat up the chiseled climber you’ve been admiring from below.
WHERE TO BOULDER AL FRESCO
Gyms are all fine and good, but sooner or later you’re going to want to get out
of Dodge. Check out climbing site supertopo.com to look up detailed climb information on more than 700 boulder problems within a 1.5 hour drive of San Francisco. The boulders at Goat Rock on the Sonoma Coast feature the lulling sounds of the Pacific in the near background, much like Stud Ladder at the Dillon Beach bouldering area in Tomales Bay. Closer to home, Indian Rock in the North Berkeley hills has beautiful views and is a perfect spot for beginners. In the North Bay, take on Turtle Rock and Split Rock on Tiburon’s Ring Mountain, which boasts 25 problems, ranging in difficulty from V0-V7 (read: pretty easy to “maybe you’re a spider”). If you’re looking for more of a road trip, Bishop is pretty much bouldering paradise, with more than 2,000 problems spread across Mammoth Lakes National Park, including the Happy and Sad Boulders and the giant eggs of the more exposed Buttermilks.
Though you can rent everything you’ll need at the gyms (shoes are $4 at both PG and MC), it’s worth investing in your own gear once you graduate from the newbie stage.
1. Turn to Acopa—a local company—for shoes, which you can find at Marmot Mountain Works in Berkeley.
2. You’ll need a chalk bag. We like the offerings from trusted outdoor company Arcteryx.
3. For crash pads, Asana offers a Timbuk2-style color customization option to bring some flair to your falls.