One evening as I was planning the next day, I realized the boys didn’t have school. I decided I wanted to take them somewhere different, to have an experience they hadn’t had. I recalled a recent suggestion from a friend at a birthday party about the New Orleans Boulder Lounge (NOBL). Climbing is most definitely a direct contrast to our city’s landscape. My sons, ages 5 and 7, are certainly comfortable with climbing and often try to climb anything and everything they can regardless of the danger involved, so to have a place to go to where it’s the main event is a special occasion.
Upon entering and registering, we were greeted by several very chill young men who oversee the facility. They immediately fit the boys with the appropriate footwear in their size and we went straight to the mat for a personal orientation. I realized that the walls weren’t as high as I expected, because they’re pitched inwards and in directions that make it extremely challenging to hold on. This type of climbing is a free climb, with literally no strings attached; there are no harnesses or belaying – the most common climbing technique. With belay climbing, there’s a partner applying tension on the rope when the climber isn’t moving and releasing slack when the climber wants to move, which keeps a falling climber from going too far. NOBL is void of this safety feature, and in the orientation, they explained to the boys that the mats below are there in order to absorb the shock of a fall, so they should tuck their knees and roll when they do need to let go to make the fall safer. In addition, the boys had to stay off the mats in case other climbers needed to fall.
The rules were reviewed twice and the boys were set free. They suggested a certain area of the wall that was perfectly vertical, which is the least challenging portion of the wall on which to begin. Neither of the boys got all the way to the top; I think being that high was a bit too ominous. The instructor was always nearby and gave the boys tips, such as which color pegs to choose for their routes to the top. Certain pegs are color coded to be easier than others. The most fun part of the climb was seemingly when they got to let go and fall onto the mats.
As all of this was occurring, I got to sit and enjoy the lounge part of the NOBL experience. I sat on cozy sofas and drank a local kombucha that they sell. Halfway through our stay the boys took a break for a snack and got re-energized to continue their climb.
In the words of NOBL: “Why Climbing? Why New Orleans? Why Now? Climbing requires focus, patience and dedication. The lessons we learn while climbing can teach us a great deal about ourselves and the challenges we face on the wall help us develop important life skills. Through climbing, we hope to facilitate positive change in ourselves, our community, and our world.”
I would also add that NOBL is a family friendly experience, everyone who enters no matter age or physiology is encouraged to climb. NOBL has recently acquired the building next door and plans to expand the facility into a true kids’ zone, where the walls are specifically engineered for smaller bodies in mind. We will certainly be back to check that out!
Just the Facts:
New Orleans Boulder Lounge
1746 Tchoupitoulas St.
Open Mondays-Fridays noon-10 p.m.
Saturdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sundays noon-7 p.m.
Tuesdays-Thursdays 8 a.m.-noon
Kids Hours: Sundays 10 a.m.-noon
Membership includes rental shoes, 2 guest passes per month, 10% off all retail and access to members-only hours and special events. (Recurring/EFT & Family memberships also available.)
1 Month – $75 (students/kids $70)
3 Months – $210 (students/kids $195)
6 Months – $390 (students/kids $360)