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Spotlight: ClimbUp at The Cliffs

ClimbUp is The Cliffs’ outreach program and has been an important part of our community since LIC opened in 2013. Our mission is not just to introduce kids to climbing, but to welcome them into our space + our community for the long-term. Once kids enter ClimbUp at school age, we aim to keep them around—as youth team climbers, summer campers, and in many cases, as Cliffs staff members!—and see them through to college.

In the past year, we’ve partnered with over 15 non-profits and Title 1 schools to provide free climbing to 250 students from a variety of backgrounds, including at-risk and homeless youth. 


At DUMBO, we’re continuing to work with our partner Spring Creek Community School. Mary Kate, an eighth-grade teacher at Spring Creek, is a vocal supporter of the program The Cliffs (particularly Abby, our Youth Programming Director) created for her students:

“Through rock climbing, students are able to build not only strength, balance, and other physical attributes, but also the perseverance, creative thinking, and leadership that climbing fosters.

“Abby has worked tirelessly with us to help create programming with the guidance of The Cliffs’ staff at DUMBO…Many of our students have found something that they have grown to truly love and at which they are becoming quite good. Others have found it to be a fun and unique activity and a great chance to try something new with their friends. All have had a fantastic time, even if their hands and arms were sore afterward.

I have been consistently blown away by the commitment that The Cliffs has shown to youth outreach and truly grateful for the assistance that Abby and The Cliffs have given us in order to provide such rich experiences to our students.”

In addition to Spring Creek, we have also partnered with Dare2B, an organization that works with homeless youth, PS 307, and the Brooklyn Free School.

PS 307 kids after climbing at DUMBO Boulders

PS 307 kids after climbing at DUMBO Boulders


The Cliffs has a longstanding partnership with Information Technology High School, just down the block from us on 44th Drive. This partnership has been a great success: about 20 students (hand-picked by ITHS faculty for outstanding grades and attendance records) join us each semester for weekly climbing sessions and a handful of these students have gone on to join The Cliffs family as staff members!

We sat down with two of these students, Sol and Malik, who are both staff members at The Cliffs, to talk to them about their experiences climbing and being a part of the Cliffs community.

The Cliffs: How would you describe The Cliffs community and your role in it?

Sol: The Cliffs has a very welcoming and friendly environment. My role, not only as a climber but also as staff, is to make sure everyone feels the support. The climbing community is a non-judgemental place where you can always turn to anyone for any kind of support.

Malik: The Cliffs community is very positive. Everyone encourages each other to do better. I like this community better than anywhere else I go.

I am a member of The Cliffs’ competitive youth team, the Stealth Vikings. I try to make our youth team better and stronger by trying hard and making sure everyone else does too.

I also work as part of The Cliffs’ general staff. Here I get to work with kids and make sure they have fun.

The Cliffs: What inspired you to start climbing? What inspired you to stick with climbing?

Sol climbing in the high bay. Photo by  Joshua Pestka .

Sol climbing in the high bay. Photo by Joshua Pestka.

Sol: What inspired me to start climbing was the simple curiosity as to what it was really like. It was a great new experience that has helped me build confidence and have a different perspective on life. Not every project you work on is the same and everyone can climb a problem differently but still make it to the very top. I think that’s a great way to view life as well.

When I first started climbing, I thought, this is freaking awesome! Fast forward to almost a year later and it’s something I do more than three times a week. It’s still freaking awesome and there’s always something new to try. More importantly, it’s something I know makes me both physically and mentally stronger.

Malik: I started climbing through the ClimbUp partnership with my school. I joined when I was a freshman and thought it was a cool way to spend afternoons. As I got better at climbing, I found out there were climbing competitions. I fell in love with competing and stayed on the team. Now climbing is a day-to-day thing for me that I can’t imagine living without!

I think that competing is a fun way to push yourself and see how much you’ve improved. It’s also fun to support your teammates and other competitors and push everyone to do their best.

Malik in the 45. Photo by  Sasha Turrentine .

Malik in the 45. Photo by Sasha Turrentine.

The Cliffs: Do you think the skills you learned in rock climbing can be applied to other parts of your life?

Sol: Climbing has not only helped become more confident, but it has also shown me that there’s no need to feel to feel discouraged because someone can do something that you can’t.

The Cliffs: What has been the most fun part of climbing or working at The Cliffs?

Malik: The people you meet are all fun and enjoyable to be around. They are all there to support you, joke around, and climb. I also enjoy all the climbs at the gym. Our setters make some amazing projects!

The Cliffs: What would you say to other youth who are interested in trying climbing?

Sol: Not only youth, but anyone who is thinking about climbing should just go for it! Not only is it a new experience, but you never know what doors you could be opening for yourself or what people you could meet. It’s also a great way to become active while having fun at the same time.


We’re psyched to bring ClimbUp into Harlem and are actively looking for local schools and non-profits to partner with. If you have any suggestions for partnerships in Harlem, please let us know at youth [AT]


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Originally posted 2020-01-31 16:37:06.

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