Watching Nickelodeon’s many mid-’90s game shows was exquisite torture. We all longed to solve the “Legend of the Hidden Temple” and stick our hands inside the Gack-spattered ear on “Double Dare.” But most of all, we wanted to climb the Aggro Crag, the pinnacle of physical achievement for 12-year-olds on “Guts.”
Friends, that’s just what I did today (and you can too until 8 p.m. tonight at 76 Varick St. in SoHo).
How can you describe a childhood dream come true? I remember my brother and I, 8 and 10 respectively when the show premiered in September 1992, watching each episode raptly and wanting nothing more than to have our chance to show the contestantshow it’s supposed to be done. But when “Guts” ended in January 1996, so did our hopes of scaling that28-foot mountain that was, as far as we were concerned, the pinnacle of physical prowess.
Fast forward 20 years,and thanks to the similarly nostalgic marketing geniuses at Mtn Dew, the Crag is back.To promote its competition to bring back one oftwo classic flavors —Mtn Dew Baja Blast and Mtn Dew Pitch Black —the company recreated the best approximation of the Aggro Crag that 24 hours in an open SoHo lot could build,for one glorious day plucked straight out of the childhood memoriesof today’s30-somethings.
Here’s a tour of the site, including comments from “Guts” host Mike O’Malley and the climb:
This Crag is, obviously, not quite the actual Crag.The DEWggro Craghas two faces instead of three, and there are no glitter cannons, but otherwise it’s the sameconcept — sloping cliff faces, actuators to hit, falling rocks and smoke effects. Also, the original Cragtook a month and 20 workers to build, and Mtn Dew put this up in less than 24 hours.Props.
Each contestant starts out standing on a mat with their hand on the first rock. Just putting my hand on it hit me with a wave of nostalgia, remembering sitting on my living room floor and wishing so hard to be doing exactly this. The first rock is a tall one — you have to climb on top of it to start picking your way toward the foot of the Crag — and I felt like my tiny fifth-grade self again, sure that Mrs. Friedman would call on me just to prove I’d been daydreaming again. I forced myself to focus on Julie, the referee who was explaining how this would go down, while not quite believing any of it was real.
After the first rock, you have to jump/step along only other marked rocks to reach the foot of the Crag and the first actuator. Though the floor doesn’t give way like onthe original Crag, it is very uneven, so you’re staring at your feet pretty much the whole time. Which is fine, because anyfurther strategywould be impossible from the massive jolt of adrenaline that hits as soon as the starting alarm sounds. Step, step, hit the buzzer, step, hop, reach to get the buzzer, zig-zagging toward the near-vertical climb leading to the top.
There are a ton more actuators than the original Crag, and a helmet is actually necessary — the foam rocks they chuck at you from above are no joke. I don’t know if it’s the intense focus, the adrenaline rush or actual speed — the whole experience felt fast and incredibly slow at the same time — but suddenly you’re either at the top, or realizing that sound is the winning buzzer and cursing those last few handholds on the near-vertical summit as your opponent does his victory dance. Knowing I would’ve done the same, my husband-opponent is forgiven for gloating a little.
Back at the foot of the Crag, Mtn Dew had rustled up”Guts” host Mike O’Malley (you probably last saw him as Kurt’s dad on “Glee”) to reminisceabout the show. His big tips for the climb? Focus, take it one step at a time, and make sure to hit all the actuators. “Guts” viewers will also know that the tallest contestant, who would have the longest limbs, is also at a distinct advantage.
Shockingly though, at first O’Malleycouldn’t recall ever having made the climb himself, but then said he did it once while they were testing the mountain. Um, what?How did he not start every day on the set of “Guts” with an Aggro Crag climb, as would’ve been his right (and privilege) as host?
Of course, winning on the mountain wasn’t everything — you had to earn the most pointsacross all of the “Guts” obstacles to get the trophy:a glowing piece of the Crag itself. Winnersof theDEWggro Crag don’t go home empty-handed though: a foam replica of the trophy awaits them at the bottom. It’s no rock-shaped night light, butin the rush of fulfilling a childhood dream that you’d given up on two decades ago, it’s just as good.
Follow Eva Kis on Twitter@thisiskis