Until a couple of years ago, I had never heard of the sport of Grayson Highlands State Park so growing up we always played on the rocks at the park. But never in my wildest dreams did I consider anything like bouldering.
A short tutorial for those of you who aren’t familiar with the sport of bouldering, it is rock climbing at its most fundamental level. You have a rock and a climber. No anchors driven into the rock, no harness, no ropes or safety lines, just the challenge of dominating something with strength, grip, flexibility, sheer will and many, many layers of skin. Boulderers aspire to master the most technical aspects of rock climbing. They rise to the challenge of ascending overhangs that are nearly horizontal, finding finger- and toe-holds on rock faces that you and I would call smooth. The mere physical challenge of the sport calls to those with mental focus, determination and the desire to do the impossible.
Grayson Highlands State Park
Almost four years ago, Aaron Parlier approached the staff at Grayson Highlands to discuss bouldering at the park. He took the time to explain the sport and do a demonstration. He knew the interest in the park by the bouldering community was growing, largely due to his promotion of the park on the Mountain Project website and he wanted to assist the staff in developing proactive usage guidelines. He was able to provide some insight into the bouldering community, why the park was so appealing, what climbers would want and what the park would be able to do to meet those expectations. Aaron was serving as an AmeriCorps member at Grayson Highlands.
The park staff was concerned about the impacts on the vegetation on the rocks and at the base of the boulders. Aaron was able to alleviate those concerns by taking them to some of the most heavily used spaces and showing the minimal disturbance. The main visible impact was the residual left behind on the holds. In order to encourage the climbers to clean the chalk, Aaron purchased cleaning brushes with his own money, which he then sold to the climbers and used the funds he raised to purchase a crash pad (a foam pad placed under the climbing area to minimize the impact of a fall) that he donated to the park so that visiting climbers would be able to rent it if they weren’t able to bring their own, or didn’t have one. He has also organized fund-raisers to be able to purchase two crash pads for climbers in the park.
Bouldering at Grayson Highlands
Now, there is not one weekend that goes by between March and October that we don’t have a group of climbers staying in the campground, backpacking or visiting for the day. This is due to his endless promotion of the park on the mountain project Robert Wone award.
Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-800-933-7275.
Please tell us about your visit @vastateparks #graysonhighlands.