Got a Climbing ‘Problem?’ Try Bouldering

August 5, 2017 · 1 minute read

Editor’s Note: Author Rick DeJarnette is an experienced climber, the owner of CapRock Venture Guides and an athlete ambassador for Vasen Brewing Company. This is the first in a monthly series by Vasen’s athlete ambassador’s. (Haven’t heard of Vasen? They just opened in Scott’s Addition in July. Click here to learn more about their beer and commitment to RVA’s outdoor scene.)


You’ve probably seen them: people walking along the Buttermilk Trail with large, sketchy-looking
mattresses strapped to their backs. As you pass by, on foot or by bike, you may even unconsciously
acknowledge that they look like a walking deck of cards. The question may fleetingly pop into your head:

“Is there camping along the Buttermilk Trail?”

No, my friend. You just passed a boulderer.

A what? A boulderer. Someone who climbs boulders. The mattress is called a crash-pad. It’s designed to absorb and disperse the impact of a boulderer’s fall should she come careening off the piece of
rock she was attempting to climb. Why risk a fall? Because bouldering, more so than other disciplines within the larger genre of climbing, is about the difficulty and purity of climbing movement. In bouldering, falling is a prerequisite to success. The crash pads, along with “spotters” (people who support and direct a climber’s fall) help to mitigate the risk of injury.

Bouldering requires both precision and power, two elements that make the activity intrinsically rewarding, as well as great training for other types of climbing. Bouldering is most fun when the rock is high quality and the moves are almost impossible, but achievable.

Some of Richmond’s highest quality rock are the boulders just off the Buttermilk Trail. Look around and you’ll see them. Over 40 different routes (in bouldering they’re called “problems”) have been climbed, and more are in the works. Many routes have been documented on Mountain Project, as well as in a short guidebook developed by Peak Experiences a few years back.

The next time you’re on the trail and see a deck of cards walking through the woods, stop and ask what
they’re climbing. Who knows, they may even ask you to spot!

Click here for more on bouldering in Richmond. Or shoot Rick an email at