Bouldering in Grayson Highlands State Park

One of our goals for 2019 was to climb outside at least once a month, or at least 12 different climbing trips throughout the year. January in the southeast heartbreakingly panned out incredibly wet, cold, and snowy, and it wasn’t until the first weekend of February that we were faced with a promising forecast. We were stoked!

On Friday morning, I booked a campsite and Dustin and I drove the 5 or so hours down to Grayson Highlands State Park. Grayson, in my opinion, is a jewel among Virginia’s state parks. It is most famous for its open craggy meadows, occupied by several herds of wild ponies. The backpacking/hiking in Grayson itself is fantastic as the Appalachian Trail also cuts through the highlands as well. However, last weekend, we came with the main objective to try hard on some of Grayson’s boulders.

Grayson is home to over 1,000 boulder problems, according to Mountain Project. Its also (in my opinion) sandbagged, and is notorious for sit-starts and sharp crimpy problems. As in, come prepared to climb v2s that feel the same difficulty as v5s in a gym setting…. Likewise, climbing at Grayson never fails to shut me down, but for some reason I love it. It is, without a doubt, THE place where I learned to love to boulder. It might be because there is such a concentration of high quality boulders that are easily accessible (ie, a 2 minute easy hike from the car), but it could also be because the park itself is so beautiful and feels like a special hidden gem in Virginia’s backcountry.

Dustin and I arrived late Friday night to a snowy, cold campsite. In fact, we were the only other people there, besides an old RV, which felt kind of creepy but we were too tired to really care too much. We woke up Saturday morning to the sun but decided to take the dogs for a hike in the highlands while the rock dried out a bit.

We ended up covering approximately 3 miles before heading back to the car to eat a quick lunch with the heat on. After lunch, we headed down to a bouldering area of the park we hadn’t checked out before called the Boneyard. Located at the base of a mountain, it is usually a bit warmer than other areas of the park. Luckily, we were able to find dry rock pretty quickly.

One of my favorite things about Grayson is its plethora of lowball traverses (ie, making hard moves on boulders that aren’t very sketchy or high off of the ground). They’re fun to play around on without feeling stressed about falling and breaking an ankle or something (although for those of you all that like the height challenge, Grayson is also home to more than a few 5 star highballs as well).

By Sunday, the snow had all melted, the temps rose to the high 50s, and the RV had left. We were also fortunate enough to check out the newly acquired AVP (Alien vs. Predator) boulder as well (thank you Access Fund!), which was incredibly fun. Its also located next to the Boneyard area, which turned out to be one of my favorite bouldering areas in the park. It has a long list of non sketchy v1-v5 problems that are in close proximity to one another.

Some of our favorites we tried:

Cap-Gun Boulder: Cap-Gun (v2), Fat Lip Traverse (v2+), and Presidential Problem (v3)

Tilt Boulder: Tilt-A-Nose (v2+)

AVP Boulder: Blockade (v1+), Pocket Shot (v2)

Overall, it was truly relaxing to chill out and play around on boulders. Although the weekend was bodily physical and also really cold at night, it almost felt like a form of “self care” or something. I felt myself completely relax as I disconnected from reality and got stoked about some 7 foot climbs. Sometimes I forget how accessible bouldering is compared to other forms of climbing. Its social, low key, but still incredibly challenging. The weekend kind of got me stoked on bouldering outside more, and I was (am!) stoked to come home with a couple of projects on the to-do list. Climbing at Grayson is hard to beat!

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