The history of rock climbing and bouldering had its genesis with mountaineering and alpinism in the late 18th century, although climbing rocks had been a feat accomplished long before. In the 14th century, a Native American tribe called the Anasazi drilled holes and carved stairs into rock cliffs in Chaco Canyon, but it wasn’t until 1786 with the first ascent of Mont Blanc, that the ‘modern era’ of climbing truly came into being.

The history of Boulder’s rock climbing and bouldering history began a little over one hundred years later in 1896 when a group of Boulder Hikers formed the Rocky Mountain Climber’s Club. Their activities mostly consisted of hiking and scrambling in the Flat Irons, and exploratory climbing in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The First Ascent of the Third Flat Iron was the earliest recorded rock climbing in the state, and was achieved by two climbers, Earl and Floyd Miller, in 1906. Another prominent member of the RMCC, Rudolph Johnson, wrote this about the Flatirons:

I am not recommending the Flatiron climb for any except the most foolhardy rock climbers, but to mountaineers who want real thrills no better climb can be found.”

The warning to ‘foolhardy’ rock climbers fell mostly on deaf ears, as the sport of rock climbing grew tremendously in the following years and most especially in the 1950s. However, safety measures and equipment also improved rapidly during this time, making the term ‘foolhardy’ mostly obsolete, and the term ‘pro-adventurers’ much more apt. The moniker, “no better climb can be found” has stuck with Boulder and the surrounding areas, and has made the city and mountains a famous mecca for rock climbing and climbers eager to attempt the most difficult of routes.

Climbing in boulder boasts trad climbing, a type of climbing where you place your own protection on the route, sport climbing, where you clip into quickdraws as you climb, and top roping, where there is an anchor system at the top and no threat of big falls. Rock Climbing in Colorado attracts some big names in the climbing community as well. One of the most difficult boulder problems in the world is thought to be The Game in Boulder, CO and was finally climbed and completed by Daniel Woods, one of the most accomplished male competition climbers, in 2010. Another prominent climber, Sasha Dijiulian, the first female climber to climb a 5.14d, is known to travel to Colorado frequently to climb and boulder.

Besides outdoor rock climbing, Boulder also boasts a panoply of indoor rock climbing gyms for climbers to train and stay in shape, and for those who are new to the sport and would like to try climbing in a safe, friendly environment. There are a couple of boulder-only gyms, where the walls are shorter and people climb without rope, and a couple of gyms which include both bouldering and roped climbing. For those who have never tried the sport, I urge you to go. The climbing community are tightly-knit, friendly, and one-of-a-kind, and have some expertise that are truly impressive. And with a name like Boulder it’s hardly surprising that the climbs are first class, and so are the people.

Theresa Duncan is primarily a student of writing and lover of literature, currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, England. She has previously worked for Ocean Magazine and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, and enjoys learning about the esoteric eccentricities of every town she visits. She loves books of all kinds, climbing and bouldering around Colorado, and drinking a jag of Pimms with her tutors when she’s in England. She has a BA from California Lutheran University in English and hopes to eventually pursue a Ph.D in Literature.