SEE IT: Intrepid reporter, scared of heights, scales tall rock wall and walks tightrope at biggest climbing gym on East Coast

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The Cliffs at Long Island City is the largest climbing gym on the East Coast and one of the largest in the country with 30,000 square feet of climbing walls. It opened on Oct. 5 and PIX11 Morning News Anchor Dan Mannarino decided to check it out and get hands on. Here’s his first-person account:

LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens (PIX11) — I will admit, I felt a bit overwhelmed when I first walked into this massive rock climbing gym since I have never attempted to climb.

It is rather funny since one of my best friends, Eddie, has been trying to get me to climb with him for about a year and I kept coming up with excuses as to why I couldn’t.

Here is a secret I will let you in on: I am scared of heights.  It’s not a big deal, but this particular gym has 45-foot rock-climbing walls and a tightrope exercise that is 30 feet in the air – which is a bit overwhelming.

We arrived at the gym at 6 a.m. and Cliff Simanksi, who is the head trainer, immediately calmed my nerves.

Cliff taught me a few easy maneuvers and prepared me for the big climb up the wall.  The gym offers a range of routes,  with varying degrees of difficulty.  Since I am a beginner, I opted for the easier route, which was still challenging. Even though I am wore a harness, the idea of falling was always in the back of my mind.

The climb itself is a combination of mind and physical energy.   As Cliff showed me it’s all in the technique of where you place your foot and really concentrating on finding the next move to make.

I will say, there is a huge sense of accomplishment when getting to the top of a route.   I fell a few times off air, and that is OK – just made me want to get up and try harder.

As for the tightrope walk, I would say that was the real challenge mentally.  The reason is simple: Cliff and I climbed this tiny ladder to the top and suddenly I am standing 30 feet in the air, on a tiny platform, attached to a safety harness.   Bill, who was working my harness below, kept it simple and told me to stare directly ahead and not look down .   With much help from Bill, I made it across.

The gym is awesome and is open seven days a week.

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