Problem Of the Week #22: Johnny Get Your Gun (V5), Crooked Road Boulder

27 Aug

Map of the actual Crooked Road from

The Crooked Road Boulder is huge. With the rest of GHSP’s clustered Boulderfields in perspective, the Crooked Road Boulder is a loaner; a recluse in the forest. Yet, concerning its size it easily constitutes several boulders at once. As large as the Crooked Road boulder (CRB) is, it can be difficult to locate. This unexpected megalithic boulder is a jewel of a rock though and worth a trip, even if exploratory, to find it. Tall, steep, and amply featured this boulder is awesome for any climber looking for easy to moderate boulder problems in a peaceful and uncrowded section of GHSP.

Katie at the start to "Johnny Get Your Gun"

Katie at the start to “Johnny Get Your Gun”

It was hard to pick just one boulder problem to cover for the CRB. “Life is a House” and “Narcolepsy Crack” both are a joy to climb, “Rosewood Casket” has that flow, and “Man of Constant Sorrow” still gives me anxiety when reminiscing about the top section. I chose “Johnny Get Your Gun”(V5) simply because it is a techy, steep, awesome line without a deadly fall and because it is challenging halfway through, into a juggy finish (what’s not to love?).


This little sign located somewhere in VA is not to be confused with the “giant sign” at the parking area.

The name of the boulder is based off of the giant sign at the parking area describing the history of and route that the actual Crooked Road follows. The Crooked Road winds through and links together almost 300 miles of scenic terrain and back roads in Southwest Virginia including ten counties, three cities, and ten towns. This region of Southwest Virginia’s Appalachia is steeped in bluegrass music and Appalachian heritage which is why many boulder problem names here are also names of famous bluegrass and country music songs. “Johnny Get Your Gun” can be traced back to WW1, but is also a –not so- historical, but good, Old Crow Medicine Show track.

Matt Bielejeski on "Big Timin' In The Jungle," another fun line on the CRB

Matt Bielejeski on “Big Timin’ In The Jungle,” another fun line on the CRB

“Johnny Get Your Gun”(V5) sit starts as per “Narcolepsy Crack” but breaks right after the start climbing through a powerful and technical crimp sequence. After crimps and a jug this line links into the fun and jug-a-licious finish as per “James River Blues.”

Aaron Parlier starting the FA of "Johnny Get Your Gun"

Aaron Parlier starting the FA of “Johnny Get Your Gun”

As mentioned before, CRB is tough to locate. Basically, pull into the convenient pull-off immediately to your left once you turn into the park entrance. Get out of your vehicle and walk up the hill behind the sign (over the rock wall, up the mowed grass, into the woods). Walk straight back to the logging road/firebreak that leads up hill (follow the stacked rocks). Trek up along the firebreak until you see the large block on the right (see diagram in GHSP Guide). Turn off of the firebreak to the right at the block and traverse the hillside until the massive, dark, ominous boulder appears (that would be the CRB).

Rakkup: Climbing guides, reinvented.

Rakkup: Climbing guides, reinvented.

All the approach confusion can be avoided however, if you wait for another short timeframe for the Rakkup smartphone GHSP Guidebook app to be released. This awesome app is equipped with turn-by-turn navigation (yes that includes turn-by-turn climber access trail directions) to every boulder listed in the 1st edition GHSP Bouldering Guidebook. With full color photos and interactive mapping you will be able to walk effortlessly to any boulder in the park… I couldn’t be more excited!

Join Grayson Highlands Bouldering on Facebook!

24 Aug

Join the Grayson Highlands Bouldering Facebook Community and share information, photos, updates, experiences and psyche!

Problem(s) Of the Week #21: Ranger Rick Boulder

23 Jul
Ranger Rick from Jellystone Park, probably saluting those who have sent the problems on the Ranger Rick Boulder

Ranger Rick from Jellystone National Park, probably saluting those who have sent all of the problems on the Ranger Rick Boulder.

Ranger Rick is without a doubt one of the most frequented boulders in GHSP. Aesthetic and hosting a series of varied starts and difficulties, it’s no wonder that problems on the Ranger Rick Boulder are often at the top of the Grayson Highlands must-climb list.

The Ranger Rick boulder is tucked away in the forest behind the Park Office with the rest of the Contact Station Boulders. Its name stems from the park ranger character in the classic Yogi Bear cartoon, and the boulder’s close proximity to the Park Office where you can usually find a friendly GHSP ranger.

Among the varied starts, Ranger Rick (V0) stand starts high in the lowest rail jug.

Krista Holyak topping out the Ranger Rick Boulder

Krista Holyak topping out the Ranger Rick Boulder

Every hold above the start jug is deep and in-cut, while overhung, and the trickiest part of the line is finding the “juggiest” of the jugs to hang back on through to the nice top out.

Ranger Rick (V1) begins one set of holds below the V0 rail jug. The start holds are two side-by-side, in-cut crimp rails. This start can be a little perplexing in figuring out how to best position feet and bodyweight, but if you can pull onto the start holds you can definitely pounce to the higher V0 start and finish as per.

Ranger Rick -Sit- (V4) is a great introductory climb to other GHSP V4s. If you love crimps and are trying to break through to V4s

Brianna Knaggs reaching through to the next crimps on "Ranger Rick Sit"(V4)

Brianna Knaggs reaching through to the next crimps on “Ranger Rick Sit”(V4)

or want to quickly dispatch a climb of that grade, this one is for you. The line sit starts on the two side-by-side, in-cut, thin crimp rails below the V1 start. Figure out the feet, pull through to the start holds of the V1, and finish through the fun, higher V0.

Ronnie Black Jr on the start to "Ranger Rick Sit"(V4)

Ronnie Black Jr on the start to “Ranger Rick Sit”(V4)

Several other problems and variations can be found on the Ranger Rick Boulder, and in the area other classics like “Periscope” and “True Grit” are just seconds away.

Kevin Kelly, the park ranger who I first had contact with during the earlier bouldering development in Grayson, pointed me in the direction of many -then- obscure blocks. I showed Kevin the Ranger Rick boulder and he absolutely loved the name. Kevin mentioned several times that if he ever climbed one boulder in GHSP it would be Ranger Rick, and he would proudly do it in his park uniform. Since I first met Kevin, every ranger in the park has been not only helpful but pivotal to development, access,

Prenn Tran working through to the higher crimps on "Ranger Rick Sit"

Prenn Tran working through to the higher crimps on “Ranger Rick Sit”

and implementation of bouldering in the park. If you meet a Park Ranger or Park employee while walking to the boulders in the Contact Station Area, or anywhere in the park for that matter, you might take a moment to say hello or thank these folks who work so hard to keep the park beautiful, safe, and climber friendly.

A huge thanks to CJ Yunger for the great photos of the Ranger Rick Boulder and the many other awesome shots in the past!





Find these problems listed in the GHSP Bouldering Guidebook on pages 62-63. The Mountain Project link is:

Problem Of the Week #20: Billy Budd (V4)

2 Jul
While this Billy Budd DVD cover looks exciting, it's a safe bet that "Billy Budd"(V4) is a little more thrilling.

While this Billy Budd DVD cover looks exciting, It’s a safe bet that “Billy Budd”(V4) is a little more thrilling.

Billy Budd, Sailor is a Herman Melville novel that was published in 1924. The book was acclaimed by British critics as a masterpiece and quickly took its place among the canon of significant works in the United States. You can read the book if you like, but you’ll probably find that climbing the boulder problem “Billy Budd”(V4) is a little more exciting.

“Billy Budd” is located in the Right Boneyard Area on the Belgrano Blade (the name Belgrano following the naval theme) which looks sort of -maybe- something

Matt Paden on "Billy Budd"(V4). Photo by Dan Brayack.

Matt Paden on “Billy Budd”(V4). Photo by Dan Brayack.

like the bow of a sinking ship. To get there, follow the trail which cuts sharply to the right past the Thews Boulder. The trail drops through a wet-weather creek  -plenty of stones to step across, so no wet shoes- and then turns left and uphill (look to your right to find the often overlooked Flat Top Boulder at this point) to end at the Belgrano Boulder, HMS Block, River Patrol Prow, and Gunslinger.

Just as Melville’s novel is open to many interpretations, this line has several beta sequences that seem to work well for different climbers. In general, Billy Budd begins matched on a large, deep in-cut jug feature in the low left, dark, steep corner of the face. The line follows several nice crimps, a long rail, and then smaller edges up and right passing beneath the close tree at the crux, and finishes over the flat lip into the sunlight.Billy Budd4

The Belgrano boulder, while not massive or highball, can certainly be exciting when negotiating the crux in front of the tree just before the lip. With a nice landing and a few pads this boulder problem is quite protectable however, and with a spotter can be climbed with confidence. The steep nature of theboulder makes this sequence a powerful one, and the edgy flakes can take a toll of your fingers. Bring plenty of skin if youre projecting this one!

Be sure to stop by the Belgrano Boulder

Shane Messer using some interesting foot beta to finish "Billy Budd"

Shane Messer using some interesting foot beta to finish “Billy Budd”

to try out “Billy Budd”(V4), “Rights of Man”(V5), “Belgrano”(V2), “Cannonade”(V2), “Gunslinger”(V7), or any of the other fun lines in the Right Boneyard. The Constant Boulder and the newly developed Rage Boulders (Rage Boulders are not listed in the 1st edition GHSP Guide) are likewise nearby. Check out the Mountain Project page for more area climbs here: and pages 50-51 in the Grayson Highlands Bouldering Guidebook!

Problem Of the Week #19: High Jump (V7/8?)

25 Jun
Snoopy, the star high-jumping rabbit of the Jena Kaninhop club.

Snoopy, the star high-jumping rabbit of the Jena Kaninhop club.

You don’t have to be an awesome high-jumping creature like Snoopy the rabbit to complete the newly established “High Jump” (V7/8). However, If you are naturally gifted with the unusual ability to leap up & cling to small crimp edges -or just psyched to try out a new boulder problem- definitely stop by the Thews Boulder next time you visit GHSP!

High Jump (V7/8?) is a recently sent project in the Middle Boneyard Area. Listed in the Grayson Highlands Bouldering

A 2010 attempt at High Jump

A 2010 attempt at High Jump

Guide as “The Nab Project”, High Jump was a long-standing project in the area. This line had been occasionally attempted -off and on- since 2010 by several visiting climbers and locals but without many “serious” projecting efforts. High Jump was finally topped out on the 20th of June 2014 with a “best guess” for the grade at v7/8…

Six feet to the left of the classic “Thews”(V6), in the middle of the featureless, blank face “High Jump” begins with a foot pasted

Posing on the start after the FA of High Jump...

Posing on the start after the FA of High Jump…

on any of the small, smeary nubs at the base of the gently overhung boulder. The start move is a standing jump to the overhead rails just below the small overhead roof. The crux of the line is latching both of the small diagonal rails and hanging on, although the moves that follow are fairly sustained. Jumping up for the start, the first holds are a right hand “lightning bolt” shaped diagonal crimp rail, the left is a slanted crimp/pinch with a low thumb-catch. While the starting jump & deadpoint up to these holds is fairly low percentage, once accomplished the sequence afterward is a lot of fun.

Posing and doing the move to the lip after the FA of High Jump.

Posing and doing the move to the lip after the FA of High Jump.

After locking off on the crimps, smear feet on anything available and “campus” out to the pinches at the lip of the roof. Trend slightly left on the longer pinch feature and heel hook out to the right over the roof. Gain the high, vertical, right facing gaston and press out a dicey mantle over the roof to finish. While you could stack three or four pads up and simply reach up to the high crimps, the jump is considered part of the problem. Let us know when you repeat the line and if you have a better suggestion for the grade. Happy High-Jumping!

-Mountain Project link:

-GHSP Guidebook page for “Nab Project”: (pg. 42)

Problem Of the Week #18: Shang-High Knight (V6)

14 Jun
Crazy "Shanghai Knights (2003)" movie poster!

I can not promise that when climbing this problem you will look as cool as Jackie Chan or Owen Wilson in the above “Shanghai Knights (2003)” movie poster. Close, but probably not quite as cool.

The problem “Shang-High Knight” (V6) is a classic, both for the grade and for Grayson Highlands Bouldering in general. The Shang-High Boulder is a tall-ish, dark, steep boulder along the Listening Rock Trail (LRT) below the SLS Boulder. This line involves steep compression climbing leading to a fun crux dyno halfway up the face. Following the dyno are comfortable, deep holds that lead up to a standard mantle over the high lip above a flat landing.

Shang-High’s steep compression climbing is somewhat unique to many other compression climbs in that your left hand must slot with precision into specific sections of

Matze Bär on Shang-High Knight (V6)

Matze Bär on Shang-High Knight (V6)

a diagonal crack. Some portions of the crack, when accurately hit, are quite deep and juggy. If the nice sections are missed, it can be difficult to continue  on with the sequence. On the opposite, right side of the compression line you climb past smooth open handed slopers and pinches to the high hold (another sloper with a thin

Derek Samples on Shang-High Knight

Derek Samples on Shang-High Knight

crimp thumb-catch). At this point, the classic beta is to huck to the high jug rail and hold the dyno’s swing. This original beta, still my favorite, is what gave the grade its v6 points years ago. Many other beta sequences have materialized since the First Ascent including hard heel-hooks and the use of the higher, tiny, left

Nick Love (right hand with the thin thumb-catch) on Shang-High.

Nick Love (right hand with the thin thumb-catch) on Shang-High.

crimp. This beta more-or-less avoids the core intensive dynamic move to the rail. While avoiding the dyno,  the newer beta sequence is still quite difficult (Jackie Chan would still be proud) and consensus agrees that the beta still earns a V6 grade.

A particular descriptive phrase in the GHSP Bouldering Guidebook illustrates one aspect of the boulder problem, and I would like to share the background of that description here (Steven Lovelace I hope you don’t mind). Several years ago one of my best friends Steve Lovelace was projecting Shang-High Knight. Steve, a meticulously technical climber with fingers strong and thin enough to make most any section of the left crack feel comfortable, had the entire sequence memorized to the point of effortlessness. Steve could smoothly execute the

Steve Lovelace dyno-ing for a flapper on Shang-High Knight (V6).

Steve Lovelace dyno-ing for a flapper on Shang-High Knight (V6).

line up to the dyno crux with ease. He could likewise pull onto the sequence at the point of the dyno, jump for it, and finish the problem on command. The downside was that when attempting the line from the sit-start he had developed an unconscious habit of stepping his foot down to the pad when launching for the jug. While compiling the Bouldering guidebook, Dan Brayack, myself, Steve, and several others went to the Shang-High Boulder while Dan shot topo photos. Steve jumped at the chance to send his project while Danno was capturing guidebook shots. Steve breezed through the low section, set up for the pounce, and landed it with feet swinging out free from the pads. The swing however, resulted in one of the nastiest, bloody flappers you can imagine. This flapper precipitated to the guidebook description, “will leave your hands looking like a baloney sandwich got into it with a belt sander.” This  injury isn’t the norm however, but as with any dyno to a rail-like hold the chance for flappers isn’t out of the question!

Be sure to stop by Shang-High Knight and the rest of the fun problems on the Shang-High Boulder on your next visit to the LRT in Grayson Highlands State Park. For more info on bouldering at the Shang-High Boulder, check out pages 128-129 in the Grayson Highlands Bouldering Guidebook, and Mountain Project:

Grayson Highlands Stewardship & Bouldering Weekend 2014 Recap

3 Jun

happy-rock-haul_webThe 2014 Grayson Highlands Stewardship & Bouldering Weekend couldn’t have been more productive. With perfect weather (sunny with highs in the mid 70s) and a motivated gathering of volunteers, we got to work early on the 24th. Starting out at 9:30 on Saturday at the LRT Trailhead our goal for the day was to rock armor some of the most popular boulder along the LRT. armored-base_webWith tools for the job in hand everyone quickly got to work and rock armored the landings for 5 separate boulders which needed preventative protection for possible future erosion. Of those five boulders, the preventative armoring protected the landings of over 32 individual boulder problems, helping sustain the landings well into the future by preventing soil erosion and impact from frequent climber activity. Also on Saturday, volunteers trimmed back overgrown briars along the Listening Rock Trail,aaron-team-rock-drop moved fallen branches from trails and landings, and picked up what little trash we could locate.

On Sunday the 25th the focus was spraying off old chalk and left over tick marks. Over 10 boulders were sprayed with water guns, scrubbed, and chalk marks were removed from under the steepest sections of the boulders where rain and weather could otherwise not reach.aaron-rock-shimmer With the amazing effort from volunteers and the support from the Access Fund, AmeriCorps, Hippy Tree Surf & Stone, Mad Rock, and GHSP the event was a huge success. The afternoon raffle was able to raise funds to go toward the Southwest Virginia Climbers Coalition and the Friends Of GHSP Group.

Thanks so much to all of the hardworking volunteers who made the event possible and dedicated their memorial weekend to helping support stewardship efforts in Grayson Highlands State Park and continued access to Virginia’s primer bouldering destination. A huge thank you to all of the agencies and organizations that supported the event, and to all of the event sponsors who sent some sweet volunteer and climber swag in support of the event!


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