"Hope you brought your workout clothes :) , " Lenny An writes to me in an email.
Oh, I'm climbing too?
I meet Lenny at Brooklyn Boulders indoor rock climbing gym and rent special climbing shoes, which are tighter around your feet for extra grippy-ness (he had his own), and we go on a walk-through of the space. The gym features both boulders, which are shorter and climbed without a rope, and a top-roping rock climbing section, which is twice as high and meant to be weighted by another person or the auto-belay, a machine that counterbalances you so you can come down safely.
Lenny has been climbing since last September, in his off-hours from being a Product Associate in Advisory Services at advertising management company FreeWheel; a lead mentor with Minds Matter, a volunteer organization that “empowers young people from low-income families to achieve college readiness and success;” and president of his college alma mater’s New York alumni chapter. He’s also been teaching himself guitar and photography.
On the V Scale, the boulder climbing gradation system, Lenny can climb about a V4, and has been attempting V5s. That day I, a mere novice, climb a V0. On the top-roping walls, which are graded on the Yosemite Decimal System, he climbs a 5.10A (I climb a 5.5 that day, equivalent to a V0). I watch him climb upside down inside the gym’s faux boulder cave, floating from rock to rock in what almost looks like choreography. A lot of climbing is actually in your legs and your brain: you have to solve puzzles as they happen, trusting yourself and rejecting your fight or flight instinct to come up with an answer that gets you to the end. It’s this part and the social aspect that Lenny loves. While we are by the boulders, several people cheer each other on or offer helpful suggestions on how to maneuver difficult climbs.
The rock climbing wall is next and Lenny, who is belay certified—meaning he can safely control a climbing partner’s ropes—ties a perfect figure eight knot to connect my harness. I actually get up pretty high, but soon it is Lenny’s turn to try. He uses the auto-belay and gets all the way to the top, then safely makes his way down.
Post-climb, Lenny stops for a smoothie and we head back to Manhattan. It's time for a lunch of homemade dumplings. Lenny’s aunt taught him to how to make them. He’s been experimenting with different flavors and one day he hopes to have a dumpling house of his own. Today’s flavor is a pork and shrimp mixture. We fill dumpling wrappers with a spoonful of mixture, line them with egg, delicately folding the wrapper then its edges. Well, Lenny does that. Mine are…much less delicate. Soon we have made a trayful, and Lenny pops some into boiling water and some into a pan to fry them. They're juicy, sweet and savory, and they taste even better because we've made them ourselves.
Follow Lenny on Instagram.