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Bouldering at Governor Dick Park in Mt. Gretna

If you’re looking for new challenges, new community, and new sights, the sport of bouldering can provide all three in a spectacular way. Bouldering differs from traditional rock climbing in that it involves less by way of equipment and altitudes: those who boulder scale rock faces no more than 20 feet high without a harness or rope, relying on only a crash pad at the base of the rock. Some argue that this provides a purified kind of climbing, allowing one to focus exclusively on the various holds and routes up the face of the rock without being distracted by some of the “frills” associated with conventional climbing. Because of its relatively scant equipment requirements and the ubiquity of traversable boulders in Pennsylvania, the sport has low barriers to entry for those wanting to begin bouldering in the Keystone State. Not only that, but newcomers will find the sport has generated an especially tight-knit community of fellow adventurers, eager to share about rocks discovered and surmounted.

In addition to sandstone and gritstone, Pennsylvania has the largest deposit of climbable diabase—a porous, igneous rock sometimes referred to as dolerite—in the country. Boulderers develop preferences for their favorite texture of rock, but it’s indisputable that Pennsylvania provides something for everyone. Pennsylvania’s mother lode of eligible boulders has until more recently been more of an insider’s secret, but the state’s phenomenal bouldering has been highlighted in several recent books and documentaries, including Rock Climbing and Bouldering Pennsylvania and The Next Frontier: Pennsylvania Bouldering.

One of the highest concentrations of these boulders may be found in Governor Dick Park in Mt. Gretna, which offers 700 diabase boulder problems rated on a scale of 1 to 16 for difficulty. Information about specific, colorfully christened routes, from Astroboy to Spring Chicken to Shamu, may be found in local bouldering guides at the park’s Environmental Educational Center. One can also look up the most current information online on bouldering websites or social media—so that the adventurous instinct and the planner instinct can combine to allow for the best possible experience.

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