• Bouldering: Grayson Highlands, VA

    Note: This post is a compilation of 3 posts about bouldering in Grayson Highlands State Park, VA. They are compiled from frixtion.net and first appeared in the summer and fall of 2010.

    If this picture doesn’t make you get psyched, check your pulse!
    photo by Aaron Parlier

    If you’ve been looking for a nearby summer adventure climbing destination, and you wanna escape these crazy record high temps, head for the high elevations of the Virginia mountains in Grayson Highland SP. According to Mountainproject.com, the elevation there is 5,089 feet. If I’m not mistaken, that is higher than Grandmother mountain (the standard NC summer bouldering escape), which is at about 4,603 feet according to Wikipedia. Aaron Parlier, who has been doing a lot of development at GHSP and posting about the area, said evening temps are in the 50s. Yep, the 50s! Pretty good temps for sending, eh? Two of my friends are going bouldering there this week to check it out and I’m pretty much crazed with envy that I can’t make it…so I’ll just look at the pictures and share the online beta for now. (When Brad from Upstatebouldering.blogspot.com gets back I’m sure he’ll have a full report for everyone….so stay tuned to his blog).

    Here’s what Aaron has to say about the boulders on the GHSP page on Mountian Project.com:

    “Grayson Highlands State Park holds a gigantic pool of bouldering opportunity. A large amount of the bouldering here has yet to be discovered or developed, but the amount of currently established problems and boulders is huge, awesome, and growing monthly. There is everything from easygoing v-0′s to completely horizontal v-9′s with harder projects pending.The rock type found here is Rhyolite and possibly Tillite. Rhyolite is a sharp, geometric volcanic stone so you can be sure to find crimptastic hands and picturesque, angular features.”

    Check out the Mountain Project page for more beta about the 10 or so developed areas.

    I was able to get a quick “interview” with Aaron via Facebook and ask him a few questions, which I’ll add to this post a bit later. He’s been developing the bouldering area since 2008 and is working on a full-color guidebook. Sounds like this place is about ready to blow up!

    Here are few amazing pics from the area to get you more psyched (from the Mountain Project page):

    Travis Melin on “Horizon Line” (v5/6)
    photo by Aaron Parlier
    The Crests at Grayson Highlands State Park VA
    photo by Aaron Parlier
    Shane Messer on “True Grit” (V-5+)
    photo by Aaron Parlier

    A map from Asheville (but check out the Mountain Project page for more detailed directions):
    View Larger Map


    Now that the contest has settled down I’ve gotten the chance to revisit the short Facebook interview I had with Aaron Parlier, who has been developing the boulders at Grayson Highlands State Park. (For my original post, click here.)

    Frixtion: What’s the rock like at GHSP?

    Aaron: The GHSP boulders are Volcanic Rhyolite, which is completely unique in my experience, but several friends of mine have frequented Hounds Ears and say that its very comparable to the stone there. Most people say that Grayson is sharp at first, and then you tend to learn how to climb on the edges and it feels much better.

    F: Where should a visitor go on their first day?

    A: For someone’s first day I would recommend the Listening Rock Trail area if it’s during the summer, as well as the Contact Station Bouldering area since they’re at a higher altitude and since the LRT is closed in the winter. Also, if they want the full value experience, I would recommend the Highlands Area during the summer (or anytime for that matter) because not only is there a constant breeze, but its exposed bouldering with wild ponies running around, and its epic up there. The Boneyard bouldering area is phenomenal but there isn’t a developed trail (yet, but it’s in the works) through its sub areas and it can be grown up in some places in the summer. In the fall and winter you can see all the boulders and then it’s great and I would recommend it first. The AVP boulders great year long and is fully developed with a trail.

    F: Have you been one of the primary developers of the boulders?

    A: Yes, I’ve bouldered in GHSP for about 4 years now, but didn’t fully realize its full potential until 2008 and that is when I started developing the area. I’ve been the only developer there and have established the large majority of the 220 boulder problems since ’08. In the recent few months there has been a huge influx of interest in the park and I’ve seen a welcomed amount of boulderers there repeating the lines I’ve cleaned and sent. It’s really helpful to have a consensus on the grades. I’ve had help from my climbing partner Steve Lovelace in cleaning recently as well. I know James Litz climbed in the AVP area a long time ago while he lived in Jonson City, TN but he’s declined to claim FAs since he can’t remember the exact locations… I’ve documented the FAs on everything to the best of my knowledge and it seems to be pretty accurate.

    F: Anything you want people to know before they come for a visit?

    A: I would like people to know that dogs are allowed in the park. Also I am in the process of writing a full color guidebook on the park, so be looking forward to that.

    Also, here’s a video by Matt Bielejeski, who recently visited highlands and put together this nice look at some of the boulders (thanks, Matt).


    Post #2. September 2010.

    Highlands was a blast. I always love checking out new areas and this place was really different and fun. It doesn’t compare size-wise to someplace like Horsepens 40, but it makes for a fun visit nonetheless. In fact, I debated with myself about posting these images. One thing I really liked about Highlands was that it’s still so pristine around the boulders (especially in the lower elevations not up in the Highlands area). If you visit, please tread lightly and keep gear sprawl to a minimum. This place is beautiful and we should work to keep it that way. Especially beautiful is the Highlands area itself…you hike for about 15 minutes uphill into terrain that looks like it belongs out west somewhere. It’s above the treeline and you can see forever, and there are rock outcroppings popping out all over the horizon. I’m looking forward to going back with just a light daypack and shoes to do some exploring.

    The climbing is reminiscent of Hound Ears in many places, but not as sharp. I’m climbing around V2-V3 right now and I had a blast in that grade range. But there’s certainly harder stuff I was tempted to get on (but restrained myself so I could avoid more injury). There are some really classic highballs that lend to the adventure climbing feel of the place. My favorite was Highlands Highball, a fin that is maybe V2 and about 20 feet tall. (see the slideshow for pics of it.)

    Here are about 30 pics from our day:


    Post #3: October 2010.

    Went back to Highlands in October of 2010. Here are a bunch of pictures:

    [Gallery not found]

    Matt Paden

    Matt currently lives in Boone, NC, where he’s attending graduate school at Appalachian State. In a foolish gamble, he assumed he’d have more time to climb by going back to school instead of working a full time job. He sorely lost that bet. Still, he finds some time to climb and is slowly but surely bouncing back from a shoulder injury that buggered him in 2009. Matt has been climbing since 1995 and he is one of the founders of Cruxn.com.

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