Update: I’ve since written a post comparing SBP Fremont and SBP Poplar. It’s not a secondary review, but it’s close.
Hello, friends, and welcome to a preliminary review of Seattle Bouldering Project’s new Fremont location. Why “preliminary?” Well, because I’ve only climbed there a few times and since I’m still injured I haven’t been able to push it too hard, PLUS I still haven’t climbed upstairs on the beautiful aretes and freestanding walls. But I have used most of the facilities. I’ve climbed downstairs. I’ve used the fitness area. I’ve used the hangboards. And so at this point I feel adequately qualified to give a preliminary review.
Let start with……location. The location of SBP Fremont is, in a word, spectacular. Right off Stone Way. Walking distance from downtown Fremont. Walking distance from Gasworks. And even closer walking distance to Upper Walls (SBP’s OG Fremont location that opened pre-pandemic). So, when you’ve sent all the hard blocs at SBP Fremont you can hop skip and toe cam over to Upper Walls and send all the hard blocs there. And then when you’ve sent ALL the hard blocs and ripped your shirt off and screamed at passerbyes you can walk to downtown Fremont and get a ridiculous matcha latte at Milstead, and then keep walking to get the best pizza in Seattle at PCC (bold claim I know but don’t fight me on this). Or, in the summer, you can project pinks till your fingers bleed and then go wash them off with a nice swim in Lake Union (provided you’re cool with getting typhus). In short, the location is good.
But who really cares about location, right???? I mean you want it to be easy to get to, but when it comes to a climbing gym what really matters is how are the blocs, right? How is the setting? What are the walls like, the holds like, the ground like, the movement like? You want to know all these things and more, because you’re a discerning boulderer.
Well, so far, the walls and setting and holds are pretty much exactly like SBP Poplar, just, like, newer. As I’ve said, I’ve only climbed downtairs, so I’ve yet to sample the roof upstairs or any of the spire-like aretes. Also since I’m injured I can’t just walk up to blues and huck my carcass at them; I basically stick to the reds and greens, the occasional purple, and today I even tried an orange. But so far I’m super stoked on the setting and the climbing in general (I mean, it’s exactly like SBP Poplar, which is amazing). Great movement. Interesting climbs. One thing I MIGHT say, and maybe this is crazy, is that at least in the downstairs of SBP Fremont things seem a LITTLE easier than SBP Poplar. Maybe that’s just because I’ve gotten better from watching so many bouldering vids while being injured, or maybe it’s because it’s actually easier. I tend to think it might be a little easier since right now I’m basically hucking myself at the wall like a one-legged bonobo. But I could be wrong. I could very easily be wrong.
Next we’ll talk about the fitness area and the hangboards and moonboards and the overall layout. Fitness area? Smaller than SBP Poplar. Hangboards? Less of those, too. Moonboards? Gorgeous and brand new and one day I’ll get on them but for now it’s like I got all these brand new blocs why am I going to go to a climbing gym and get on a moonboard?
One thing I love about the layout is the viewing area up above, since I like to go up there and just kind of watch people climb and snatch beta and just generally be around bouldering. And this viewing area is great for that. They have a viewing area at SBP Poplar, too, but the Fremont one is way better. I’ll be up there with my litte notebook writing down things like, “Right hand out to the tiny crimp, then bump to the better jug,” etc etc.
One question I do have: Are there no bathrooms downtairs??? Did I miss them? Because that might be a slight oversight. At SBP Poplar there are definitely bathrooms downstairs, and they definitely come in handy.
Lastly, what’s the VIBE like at SBP Fremont. What’s the AMBIENCE like. How do you feel when you walk through the doors? Well, if you’re me you feel pretty great, because you always feel pretty great when doing anything even tangentially related to bouldering. And the vibes in SBP Fremont are good. I can’t decide if there are more crushers there or at Poplar. I feel like it’s a wash. There are a lot of lower-level boulderes at SBP Fremont, but there are at Poplar, too. There’s a lot of sitting around, chilling, laughing, talking. For some reason SBP Fremont seems a little less familial, for lack of a better word. Like, it seems like people are kind of less homies at SBP Fremont. Maybe that’s because Poplar is the OG SBP or maybe it’s because Poplar has (had) the cafe or maybe it’s just because of the pandemic! Who knows. Doesn’t really matter.
In conclusion, SBP Fremont is awesome and I’m happy I renewed my SBP membership so now I have access to all of their wonderful locations. I do wish the hangboard area was a little bigger at Fremont and I do wish they had another warmup bike, but hey, small potatoes.
I mean, when you just wanna project polyurethane perfection it’s all pretty much small potatoes.