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Earth Treks Rockville vs Crystal City

Original Post
Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 951

To those of you who have climbed at both the Rockville and Crystal City locations of Earth Treks, how would you compare them in terms of quality of route setting, stiffness/softness of the grades, crack routes, atmosphere (e.g., temperature, noise level), parking availability, etc.? I've climbed at Rockville but not Crystal City. Thanks.

Peter Brown-Whale · · Randallstown, MD · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 20

Just go and check it out, if you are a member at any other Earth Treks you get one free day at Crystal City before the end of the year.

BrianWS · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 790

Rockville: Awesome steep terrain, taller walls, consistent but stiffer grades (usually by a letter grade or two once you get above 5.11a, generally softer for routes 5.10 and below). Generally very shoulder intensive movement on routes 5.11+ and up, and tend to be much more sustained compared to routes of comparable grades at 'nearby' sport climbing (NRG, RRG). Route setters regularly spray paint older holds to match color based routes, and this is by far the only real non-subjective beef I would have about the gym.
The cracks at Rockville are really good, and offer great practice at hands to fingers. No wider stuff.
Temperature and humidity can be a problem in the spring and summer.

Crystal City: can't offer firsthand experience due to a current medically induced climbing hiatus, but I belay partners regularly here who frequent both facilities. Shorter walls, but really cool terrain of all angles, which Rockville lacks. Lead only areas are rarely crowded. Route setting looks much better than Rockville, though grades are wildly inconsistent. I hear frequent complaints about poor/extremely difficult clipping stances at the grade (5.11 and up). Movement seems to be less shoulder intensive and injurious than Rockville at harder grades, an all holds and volumes are brand new - no spray painting as of yet.

Temps are consistently cool and dry, due to the underground nature of the facility. Cracks look to be consistently sized, with one straight in perfect hands (~ #2 cam), one wider hands (~ #3-4), and a perfect hands with a slight budge and dogleg.

Parking at CC has never been an issue unless you have a larger vehicle. Rockville parking makes me want to cry tears of blood, but it may be less of an issue now that the CC facility has diverted lots of customers.

Also, hi Fan. I taught you and your wife's intro classes. Really psyched to see youve come so far since then!

Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 951

Hey Brian! First, really sorry to hear about your injury/climbing hiatus. Second, thanks for the detailed feedback. Just what I was looking for. Many of your comments about Rockville ring true for me. I love the steep, sustained routes there. My wife and I are both currently dealing with climbing induced shoulder issues and probably should dial it back for a while to let things heal. Climbing at Rockville ET has been a little unpleasant this summer due to the heat and humidity, but there has definitely been a noticeable thinning of the crowds, likely due to CC opening, especially on Friday nights and Sunday mornings. Parking can still be a pain though, especially if there's a Friday night home game at the high school across the street. I'm really looking forward to checking out ET Crystal City before the end of the year. Do you know if the cracks there can be lead or are TR only? I've heard conflicting reports.

BrianWS · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 790

TR only for CC cracks. I think the structure behind may allow for draws to be installed at some point, but it would be unlikely for them to do so. Check with the management, they might give you a better informed answer.

Both of my partners have complained less about shoulder and finger injuries since switching gyms. The harder bouldering at Rockville is very easy to get hurt on (high cruxes, large dynamic movement between small holds, people missing pads, etc). This doesn't seem to be the case so far at CC, which is comparable to Timonium's setting (allegedly), which was by far superior to the rockville gym's setting on routes and boulders (my opinion, definitely not the gospel).

Also parking is not free if you arrive before 4pm on weekdays. All other times and weekends are free.

NCD · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 55

hey fan, think we may have climbed once at rockville. yes cracks are tr only from what i heard. there is a review and comparison of cracks at the local gyms on the patc-ms group right now. go check it out! i stay away from cracks due to my shoulders so never even looked at them.

i've only been back to rockville once since crystal city opened. i like the new gym a lot, its just fun and fresh in a way the rockville lacks to me now. i dont have any real complaints. only thing i'll say about lead climbing is seems like there is a lot more draws on routes and it breaks up the flow of climbing to be constantly clipping. the grades are a little inconsistent right now but it seems to get corrected in some cases.

Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 951

Thanks again, Brian. I'll ask about the cracks when I visit. Looking forward to the fresh route setting.

Hey, Nic, I remember you. Good to know you've enjoyed the switch to CC so far. Too bad about the dense bolting, though. I can understand safety concerns possibly motivating that decision, but people who learn to lead there and then go outdoors might be in for a surprise.

I look forward to checking out the CC gym soon, but since Rockville is closer for me, I'll probably continue to primarily go to Rockville.

Zeffe · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 0

I have led the hank crack at Rockville lots of times (5.9ish). The draws are there and protect it well. I can understanding they'd have a policy against it, perhaps, because I could imagine getting your feet stuck and taking a weird inverted fall.

BrianWS · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 790

The cracks in question are CC, not Rockville. The Rockville draws were up there from the day that the new walls were opened to the public. CC is still and will likely remain TR only.

Regarding the Rockville cracks, there is little to no risk of taking inverted backstepped falls on any of the lines, with the exception of the final dihedral of the right-angling crack on the right margin of the reactor (well, more like cooling tower...) wall. All other cracks are perfectly safe unless you really screw up your footwork.

Regarding grades, the straight-in hand crack feels like Valley 5.7/8, the pinscar crack 5.10/11-. the left dogleg handcrack about 5.8/9, and the tight hands/traverse/right dogleg is about 5.10+/11-.

BrianWS · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 790

Having done all the crystal city cracks, here's the breakdown:

Leftmost crack: #3 - #4 cam size the whole way, with some narrowing at the very top. Depending on handsize, 5.9. Fists and cups for average male hands.

Middle crack: perfect #2 hands until the final headwall, where it narrows to tight #1. Depends on hand size, most likely 5.9+, 10-. Guys with larger hands will have to work hard at the top.

Rightmost crack: More solid #2 hands until the dogleg, where it widens a bit thru the top. 5.8 most likely, again, handsize dependent.

Overall, I like the Rockville cracks better, due to the variety (hands, tight hands, fingers, pinscars, etc). Cc cracks are very good for training too, but too uniform in comparison.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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