BOULDERING: A SPORT OF ITS OWN

Written for:  The Gainesville Times

By: Michael Crowder

     Bouldering is a term used to describe a specific type of rock climbing. As its name implies, this sport is conducted on boulders and small cliffs usually in the 6 to 20 foot range. When bouldering a person only climbs as high above the ground as they are willing to fall. Ropes and anchors are not a part of this sport.

     The fact that you do not need a lot of expensive equipment to start bouldering is also a big attraction to younger climbers. Most high school and college kids find it difficult to buy all the gear required for roped climbing. All you really need to get started is a pair of climbing shoes.

     One of the biggest attractions to bouldering is the ability to go out and push your technical limits without the need for gear or partners. It is amazing how challenging a 10-foot section of rock devoid of obvious handholds can be.

     Bouldering is for many climbers a way to learn difficult moves close to the ground. The ability to practice a hard move over and over again without being exposed to a long fall allows one to push their technical limits with a minimal chance of getting hurt. Not that you canít get hurt bouldering, it is just that most injuries tend to be minor. After a long day of roped climbing there is nothing better than getting together with some fellow climbers to work a few problems.

     For others it is the only form of climbing they care to participate in. Roped climbing doesnít appeal to them. Many climbers have built their careers around bouldering. These "boulder toads" form a subculture within the sport of climbing. Bouldering is probably the fastest growing group within in the sport of climbing today.

     Perhaps the most famous boulderer of all time is John Gill who went to school in Atlanta. As a student at Georgia Tech during the late 50's he was the first climber to become famous just for his bouldering skills.  Many of the problems he established over 20 years ago have yet to be repeated by anyone else. With the technological advancements in climbing shoes and training techniques in recent years this is amazing.

     Dr. Gill has actually authored un-scientific papers on levitation and the ability to use your mind and spirit to reduce the pull of gravity on the human body. The only people that scoff at this idea are people that have not tried to repeat his ascents. There are many strong climbers that have spent their entire careers failing to repeat some of Johnís climbs.

     Some of the finest bouldering in the country is located here in the south. Rock Town located in the Crockford-Pigeon Mtn. Wildlife Management Area near Lafayette, Georgia has become one of the more famous bouldering areas in the country. The bouldering areas in Boone, N.C. and some new areas being developed in northern Alabama are going to keep the southeast at the forefront of the nation's bouldering scene.

     There is also enough bouldering local to Gainesville to keep your skills sharp. A few problems can be found at Wilshire Trails and Chicopee Woods here in the city. There are a several boulder fields located on private property in north Hall where permission to climb has been granted in the past. Curahee Mtn. near Toccoa and Yonah Mtn. just north of Cleveland both have ample bouldering resource.

     If you ever thought that rock climbing may be fun then bouldering is a great way to introduce yourself to the sport of climbing without spending a lot of money or time learning rope and protection systems. For further information on bouldering in the south try these web sites:

www.seclimbers.org, www.southernslopers.com, www.boulderdashmag.com

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