Yes, as we raised our five sons—The Day Hiker and I—we did place a good strong emphasis on going outside to play. Plenty of hikes and bikes, paddles and skis, camping and running (well, everybody at least tried the last one).
But going out to the McAfee lot on 311, say, and just walking in to those early boulders instead of going up to the knob itself? Uh, why would you do that?
Well, because you’ve now spent enough time at River Rock Climbing—at the River House in Roanoke—to be ready, able and wanting to go do that.
And so it has been a bit of a pleasant surprise as two of the sons and some of their kids do go out to McAfee for that purpose. Or take off for the Grayson Highlands not for the hiking or the scenery or the rhododendron or the ponies, but for some daggone big rocks.
Plus, you know, it just kind of looks funny to see somebody walking away from you with a big rectangle of a pad hiding everything but the lower half of the legs.
And maybe it’s my age that makes bouldering seem a little weird. While people have been climbing rocks forever, things like mats and constructed climbing walls did not come along until the 1980s, and it was not until the early 2000s that the advent of YouTube videos of the sport helped spawn competitions.
Son Eric, the prime force behind the family bouldering faction and a rookie-class first-place finisher in his first competition, has gently cajoled the old man to try it—I’ve so far gently avoided—and is also the excursion leader. He and his niece Lily, along with some friends, took off to the Grayson Highlands a few weeks back, and came back raving about not only the territory as a climbing area, but also the abilities of the 9-year-old girl.
It’s in that kind of context that this issue’s cover story comes to us from Aaron Parlier, climber extraordinaire, and author of the guide to Grayson Highlands climbing, “Grayson Highlands Bouldering,” the 160-page book of “problems” (as boulder climbs are called), to which he adds new ones via his website, graysonhighlandsbouldering.com/about.
See page 14 for Aaron’s list of 10 great problems in the Virginia mountains, along with a list of even more difficult climbs from Grant Price, head of Blue Ridge Mountain Guides up in Nellysford: blueridgemtnguides.com.
As I write this, I am perhaps but a few days from having to overcome the problem of the hesitations of a first-timer and take on a dang problem or two.