NYC Bouldering Guide

Worthless Boulder
Preface, Access and Natural History
History, Ethics, Ratings, Disclaimer and Acknowledgements
Rat Rock/North Face
Rat Rock/North Face 2
Rat Rock East Face
Rat Rock/East Face 2
Cat Rock
Cat Rock 2
Chess Rock
Ramble Rock
Bethesda Boulder
Naturalist Boulder
Vista Rock
Vista Rock 2
Riverside Park
Great Hill Cliffs
Worthless Boulder
Roadside Boulder
Fort Tryon Park
Inwood Park

While the vast majority of popular and high-quality boulder problems are found in the south part of Central Park, one small boulder near the very northern end of the park stands out as a worthwhile site.  Originally called Needle Rock due to the high number of the hypodermic needles discarded at the base of the boulder by heroin addicts in the 70s, this location was mostly talked about and rarely climbed for many years.  It was rediscovered by the author in 1992.  Even then, it was difficult to get other climbers to venture so far north and so close to sketchy neighborhoods.  New York City (along with Central Park) had yet to go through its extraordinary metamorphosis into the low-crime, tourist-friendly urban Disneyworld it has since become.  In 1992, there were no more needles littering the ground around the boulder, yet still, plenty of other human refuse was to be found here and throughout the Northwoods area where many homeless people lived and drug addicts congregated.  To be fair and accurate to the current state of the boulder in 1992 and also to encourage more climbers to visit the area, Needle Rock was renamed Rap Rock. 


Despite my repeated promises of high quality bouldering (and potential first ascents), I couldn't get a single friend, climber, spotter to join me.  Typically, few Central Park boulders require pads or spotters, but the landing beneath much of the overhanging face of Worthless is on a large tilted boulder.  Regardless, I knew I was leaving New York for the west coast in a few months.  I had only so many good climbing weather days with which to unlock the secrets of old Needle Rock.  With little hope of convincing another climber to join me, I simply just started working the vertical problems on my own without a spotter.  Everything was going well until a slip nearly caused me to peel off the top-out of Terrordome V4.  At that point, I decided to direct my focus on the traversing problems.  Which is when I realized I had been foolishly ignoring the best problem on the boulder ... the traverse of the overhanging face.   I left for California that winter with the good feeling of having completed one final contribution to New York climbing.  Even if no one would ever know about it.


 In 1995, the boulder was rediscovered yet again by Eric Lee and Richard Worth along with a strong contingent of friends such as Preston Lear, Josh Lowell and Ivan Greene.  Their new name for the boulder, Worthless, stuck.  The new route names are given along with the "original names" as the new names are generally the most familiar.  In short time, this amazing "discovery" of an untapped quality boulder in New York City wound up as an article in Climbing magazine and understandably, first ascent fever easily overwhelmed the basic tenet of this guide:  "Everything has already been climbed."

But again, as I wrote near the start of this guide, bouldering in Manhattan is an experience of discovery and re-discovery.  Despite the fact that, without the obvious tell-tale signs such as chalk, it is impossible to know if any particular problem was or was not previously climbed, one should not worry about calling a boulder or a route by whatever name they choose.  It's really all about community and consensus.

Despite the gentrification of Harlem (and all of New York City) since this guide was originally written, this area of the park still attracts unpleasant elements from time to time and climbers have been forced to deal with all sorts of human refuse that is left behind by various humans in this area of the park.  (As evidenced by the recent graffiti painting of the Bullet Train boulder in the Northwoods.)

That should not deter people from visiting Worthless or any of the climbing in this area.  The more climbers show up, the less chance there will be for others trashing the area.  This is exactly what happened with Cat Rock.  Originally, it was an extremely unpleasant place to climb.  But over the years, as climbers made a place of their own, others were encouraged to take their non-climbing activities elsewhere.  Worthless is located very close to a pathway and road and with consistent use, it should be able to remain a clean, pleasant place to boulder


1.  Arête  (aka Gumb Project)  V1

Start:  Sitting at the obvious arête on the left side of the overhanging face. 

Go:  Up the right side of the arête to the top.

Variation:  Do not use the arête for hands or feet.  Humb Project V2


2.  Four Buddies (In Da Cold)  V4   *

Start: Sit start just right of the arête with hands on good edge.

Go:  Up and slightly right via good undercling.

2/8  Project?    V?

Start:  Sit start in the middle of the dark, featureless face in between the starts of Four Buddies and Terrordome/ADD.

Go:  Up the face between Four Buddies and Terrordome/ADD.  An "impossible" move from the sit start gains the good left-hand undercling from Four Buddies and then move up using the nearest slopers from the same two problems.  A Yuki-hard static move or a scary dyno leads to the top-out.   Slightly contrived. 

3.   Privileged   V9    *

Start:  Sit start at the right side of the overhanging face, beneath a dark, blunt nose.

Go:  Up via tiny slopers and smears to the blunt nose, eventually joining Bring the Noise/Voodoo Bullshit to the top via good holds. 

Note:  Avoid the good starting holds for Bring The Noise/Voodoo Bullshit out left, including the undercling. 

4.  Family Values   V6   ***

Start:  On the small edges on the shorter north wall, found low at a dark streak.  Right-hand edge has been reinforced.

Go:  Up and left, traversing from the north wall, past the blunt nose and continuing across the overhanging northeast face until you reach the arête where you top-out. 

*Family Values is arguably the best boulder problem in Central Park.

5.  Sweat of the Rapist   V10   *

Start:  Match hands and heel hook a large edge on the right side of the short north wall.

Go:   Move left (crux) to gain the small starting edges of Family Values.  Continue Family Values traverse all the way to the end. 





6.  Terminator X   V6   **

Start:  On the low-angle face to the left of the obvious arête on the left side of the overhanging face.

Go:  Turn the arête and traverse right across the overhanging face.  Continue right and down until you reach the starting holds of Bring the Noise/Voodoo Bullshit, then climb this problem to the top.

 Note:  Despite being generously called the "mirror image" of Family Values in the Gaz Leah guide, this is not entirely accurate.  At the time, with the left-to-right direction of this traverse, a top-out on the right side seemed more natural and obvious a finish than anything else.  It never have occurred to me to continue the traverse across the blunt nose and down-climb to the start of Family Values.  Because this traverse does not tackle the hard transition from the short wall to the overhanging wall like Family Values does, it may indeed be somewhat easier. 

7.  Terrordome   V4    **

Start:  At the "starter" edge for Bring the Noise, below and slightly left of the blunt nose on the right side of the face.

Go:  Move left onto small slopers and then up to larger ones and top-out directly.

Variation:  A.D.D.  V6   Begin with a sit start below the first set of small slopers. 


8.  Bring the Noise   (aka Voodoo Bullshit)   V2    ***

Start:  At a thin edge on the top of a block of black rock, found beneath and slightly left of the blunt nose.

Go:  Up to the blunt, overhanging nose (using left-hand undercling or not), finding better holds as you go higher.

Note:  While relatively easy, the quality of this problem is very high.  Crux comes down to finding the right hand for the right hold by which to access the holds above the blunt nose.  The final hold for topping out is not easy to see when climbing. 


9.  Flavor Flav   (aka Mean Grean)   V4    *

Start:  On the same small edges as Family Values.

Go:  Up the dark green rock, to a darker area and the top.

Note:  Though all the holds from the start of Family Values are on, do not trend too far left and end up on the finish of Bring the Noise/Voodoo Bullshit.   

Note:  When originally climbed, there was a small tree very close to the short north wall and this problem.  With the tree removed, the problem is much more attractive and topping out is not as frustrating/scary as it used to be.  



The low-angle, knobby face on the southeast side of the boulder is home to a number of easy face problems.  Please reference Laz Geah's

The starting edge for Sweat of the Rapist. The next holds seem far away.

©  Copyright Nicolas Falacci 1988 - 2015