Rock Climbing From Then to Now
Rock climbing’s history is a long one that knowingly dates as far back as 200 BC according to paintings which depict Chinese men performing the feat. The act of ascending mountains has undoubtedly been performed out of necessity in the past for hunting, religious pilgrimages, access to cliff-face dwellings and the common search for additional resources. It wasn’t until the first ascent of Mont Blanc – the tallest mountain in the Alps – in 1786 that the modern era of mountaineering with ropes and safety rigging came to be.
As mountaineering became common throughout the Alps in the latter part of the Victorian era (late 1800s), Europeans are generally credited with the development of rock climbing as a sport.
So, like many other outdoor, endurance related sports, rock climbing didn’t start here in Boulder, but once it found the area, there was no letting go.
BOULDER’S CLIMBING COMMUNITY
Native Americans were most likely Boulder’s first rock climbers. The next well-known group of mountaineers being miners looking for gold and other precious minerals. The local rock climbing scene that we enjoy today began to develop around the 1950s.
South Florida native, Matt Segal, grew up climbing in Miami gyms. After moving to Boulder nearly 12 years ago and graduating from Naropa University, he has found exquisite professional success as a rock climber. Garnering sponsorship from Boulder-based companies such a Zeal Optics and Skratch Labs, as well as global support from The North Face and La Sportiva, Segal now mainly spends his time trad (traditional) climbing for National Geographic and other magazines performing expedition climbing on exploratory objectives.
Although Segal spends a great deal of his time traveling for work, Boulder is a home he chose to never really leave. You may even catch him at Ozo Coffee on Pearl or the Outback Saloon on 28th street.
Segal explains his original migration from Florida by describing the climbing community as,”…massive, the first reason why I moved to Boulder from Florida, was for the competition climbing scene back around 2002. Lots of climbing gyms, I was able to get trained and pushed by this community that climbs at a very high level. There’s lots of different facets in the local climbing community…competition, traditional, a bunch of sport climbers and boulderers as well. The proximity of really good climbing is so close to Boulder, so it draws the best of the best to settle here.”
Boulder Canyon offers routes for every level and the Flat Irons deliver a smorgasbord of fun for sport climbers and boulderers alike. Just outside of city limits, but still within the county, El Dorado Canyon is Segal’s favorite Front Range climbing spot, as it has thousands of routes that cover the gamut of difficulties. Segal even established the hardest route to date in El Dorado Canyon a couple years back.
Just beyond our immediate area, Segal names Estes Park and Idaho springs as go-to hot spots for climbers. He also calls Rocky Mountain National Park outside of Estes the premiere spot for bouldering and crag (small cliff) climbing.
Segal says, ”The coolest thing about the climbing community in Boulder is the different generations. There’s climbers in their 60s that grew up climbing here and are still here. There’s the young generation of kids doing really well. It’s cool to see the mingling of multiple generations, I don’t think you get that in many other areas for our sport.”
Boulder has made a habit of cultivating greatness. Whether in the arts, business, cuisine or pushing the limits of outdoor recreation, we have an uncanny ability to reach new heights, both literally and figuratively.
Let’s keep it up!