I went to Planet Granite yesterday for a change of scenery from my usual gym, City Beach. It's my third time there and I have to say it's probably my favorite climbing gym I've been to so far. We climb for a long time when we go to PG since it's only a once in awhile thing. Yesterday we did five hours and the time before that we did six and I'm pretty sore from climbing so long.
PG has taller walls and I really like long walls. According to their websites, PG walls go up to 60 feet while CB walls go up to 40 feet. I think every wall at PG is 40 feet or higher so that's really nice. PG also has a lot of nice features and different shapes and textures. They did a great job in designing the walls there.
The grades at PG seem much easier than at CB, I think they're trying to accommodate the length of the climb into the difficulty rating but the grades just seem two grades lower than what CB would have. At CB, I would hesitate to try 5.11a+ but at Planet Granite I seem to be able to climb up to 5.11c decently. I even tried doing a 5.12b, which I would never try at CB and got up pretty far on the climb; I didn't finish it though, unfortunately. It's kind of a nice confidence booster which may help with enjoyability even though I'm not really climbing better. The climbs at PG are also more my style, more footwork and less difficult pulls because one of my biggest weaknesses is strength. A lot of their hand holds are great and I find myself able to rest most of the way. The only other gym I can compare difficulty with is The Studio in San Jose and it seems like the grades there are similar to PG so maybe CB just grades things harder. We tried a little bit of bouldering and the grades seem about the same for both gyms. PG has a soft floor though, while CB uses crash pads.
PG seems to have more young working professionals while CB has more families and younger kids. The routes at CB are more catered towards beginners with a lot of routes below 5.10. They also have a fair number of 5.10 routes and few 5.11+. PG has almost all 5.10+ routes with lots of routes above 5.11. I saw maybe 5 routes below 5.10. It's a great place for intermediate to advance climbers which is around the level I'm at now so I really like that. My climbing partner likes the atmosphere at CB better because he thinks people are nicer there but I'm pretty sure people are pretty nice at PG too, we just haven't talked to anyone there. The staff at CB does seem friendlier though. Another problem with CB is they don't put up enough climbs. The Studio is much smaller than CB but they manage to cram in as many or maybe even more climbs than CB does.
CB has the advantage of being significantly cheaper than PG. When I signed up at CB my rate was $40/month but it looks like it's been increased to $45/month. At the time PG was charging $72/month but now they're up to $73/month. If you do the math CB is about 60% the cost of PG. However, PG has more locations and includes a mini gym with weights, treadmills, classes, etc.
If I lived closer to PG, I would probably get a membership there instead. CB is great as a starter gym but they're lacking when it comes to the intermediate to advance climbs, at least for top rope. I don't boulder much but the bouldering problems seem plenty challenging for more advanced climbers. I wish CB would squeeze more climbs onto their walls because I find myself running out of new climbs to try. Maybe I'll put that on their comment card. I feel like I'm totally bashing City Beach but it's a great gym with great people and I'm proud to be part of their community.