26 May Gym Guide – Carabiners Climbing – New Bedford, MA
The final stop on my epic road trip across the country, was Carabiner’s Climbing and Fitness in New Bedford, Massachusetts. I won’t lie, by the time I made it to Carabiner’s, I was not in the best mood! Poor weather had put a stop to most of the trip’s outdoor activities and I was frustrated about yet another day of climbing indoors. So the fact that I left Carabiner’s actually feeling grateful for the snowstorm, is really saying a lot! I had SUCH a great time at this gym!
Getting Started: After signing waivers and buying a day pass, we were given the usual quick tour of the gym. New climbers, or those without a partner, were then able to boulder or use autobelays, while those who wished to lead or top rope had to pass the standard belay tests. At Carabiner’s a Grigri is required for belaying, both lead and top rope. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of this policy. I’ve actually witnessed more accidents and unsafe behavior with Grigris then ATCs, and I generally think it’s safer for belayers to use whichever device they are most comfortable with. However, this is only a semi-complaint, as I understand every gym has different insurance policies so it’s a good idea for belayers to become comfortable with either device.
Facility: Carabiner’s is an incredibly cool facility! From the moment I walked into this gym, I was in awe! As you can see from the picture above, Carabiner’s is just full of unique features and terrain. The lead and top rope walls are about 60 feet high and sport just about every type of feature imaginable, from cracks of all sizes, to overhangs, ledges, tunnels, pillars, shark fins, etc. There are also several bouldering areas comprised of steep overhangs, caves, slabs, vertical walls, highballs, and even an overhanging crack. Besides climbing, the gym offers a great campus board/training area, fitness equipment and studio, birthday party room, and a climbers shop at the front desk.
Climbing: Due to the featured nature of the walls, I found the routes at Carabiner’s to be really fun, and honestly quite challenging! As I mentioned in my post about the big road trip, the setters here did a terrific job integrating the features of the gym into the routes. It wasn’t uncommon to run out of holds half way up a route and find yourself forced to hand jam, stem a chimney, side pull an arete, or otherwise use features to finish the climb. This was such a different style of gym climbing for me that I got stumped on nearly every route, finding myself staring at a blank wall and wondering what I was supposed to do now?! Being forced to think outside the box and contemplate each movement was so fun though and I just had the best time puzzling out these routes.
Because of how challenging I found everything, to me, the grades at Carabiner’s felt a bit sand bagged. I almost never struggle on anything below an 11b/c in the gym, but here, I was working hard on 10s, and even got stuck on an 8 when the holds completely disappeared and I didn’t realize I was supposed to finish the route using a crack! In general, I felt like every route should have been about two letter grades higher. However, if I was more familiar with the setting, maybe that wouldn’t be the case.
The grades did nothing to detract from my enjoyment of climbing here though. In fact, I had so much fun lead climbing that I didn’t even make it to the bouldering section by the time my partner and I had to leave for the day. Oops! So about bouldering, I’ll just say that it looked great, encompassed a wide variety of terrain, and that I’d love to go back someday and try that overhanging crack!
Overall I had a fantastic time at Carabiner’s and would definitely recommend this gym to visitors and locals alike. The route setting was great, the features and the terrain were very conducive to good technical climbing, and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful.
If you’d like to know more about this gym, check them out here.