Outdoor bouldering walls have been constructed and are now open in Highland Park on the city's northeast side.

The Twelve Foot Walls Opened Tuesday Morning

The walls were part of a city wide park improvement project that was approved late last year, and we followed the construction of the walls which began in earnest in April. Now the 12-foot walls are open and ready for climbing. And the greatest thing about it -- they are entirely free.

Highland Park is located between College and Grand just north of the Ford Freeway, and just south of Leonard.

The bouldering walls are the brain child of the West Michigan chapter of the American Alpine Club, who proposed putting up the walls as part of their Grand Rapids Bouldering Project to expose more young people to climbing.

The Project will maintain the walls at Highland Park, and change the routes on the walls regularly to keep them fresh. What are "routes"? Good question.

Bouldering Is Now An Olympic Sport

Routes are fixed holds placed on the wall which follow a trajectory or path to the top of the wall. You follow the route by using the same color of holds. For instance, all the holds that are red in the above photo are a route you would follow to get to the top. It's also known as a "problem", which if you ever down any bouldering you would know is a pretty good word for it. Sometimes, it's "problem" figuring out how to follow the route.

As a sport, bouldering is defined by USA Climbing as:

In Bouldering, athletes climb fixed routes, commonly referred to as “problems”, on a 4.5m-high wall equipped with safety mats. The routes vary in difficulty and climbers are not permitted to practice climbing them in advance. When a climber controls the final hold at the top of a route with both hands, they are deemed to have completed it. Climbers tackle the wall without safety ropes and if they fall during their attempt, they can try a route again during their allotted time. The walls used for bouldering present a range of challenges, with overhangs and some holds so small that they can only be held by the fingertips. Climbers must plan each move carefully, thinking about which hand and foot to place in the next holds, while constantly being aware of the time limit. The physical and mental dexterity required for success is extraordinary.

It became an Olympic sport in the 2020 Tokyo Games, which were held in 2021 due to Covid.

It's A Great Youth Sport, Because It Builds Strength, Coordination And Confidence

I'm all in on the GR Bouldering Project. I got into the sport at a late age (50) when my daughter began climbing competitively when we lived on the East Coast. It was a great confidence builder for her, and is a sport that attracts as many women as men. Eventually she began climbing on real rock outdoors, and won a leg of the Triple Crown of Bouldering in her age group back in 2010.

Here she is climbing in PA.

Jojo Girard/TSM
Jojo Girard/TSM
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It's a wonderful sport for kids because they can build strength and coordination.

The walls at Highland Park offer many skill levels, but mostly are for beginners. Please keep in mind that climbing can be a dangerous sport, and always stay within your skill level.

Now get out there and climb!

Like I did many years ago...

Jojo Girard/TSM
Jojo Girard/TSM
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Peabody Ice Climbing