Bouldering: A Growing Sport in Youngstown

By Jordan Boitnott

Jambar Contributor

 Interested in bouldering in the Youngstown area? Look no further than Youngstown State University’s Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center or behind Bears Den Cabin in Mill Creek Park.

Bouldering is different from rock climbing, according to Norm Swann, Northern Ohio stewardship director of the Ohio Climber’s Coalition.

“Bouldering is extremely hard moves at a very short distance. It is climbing on rocks that are very short without a rope,” he said. “Generally, rock climbing is higher. The goal is to get to the top of the boulder. Boulders are typically only 15 feet tall or so. Sometimes we do a sit-down start where you sit on your mat to get more climbing.”

Bouldering was approved behind Bears Den Cabin in Mill Creek Park in November 2019. Photo by Jordan Boitnott/Jambar Contributor

 Swann said there are various styles of bouldering and they can be very dangerous.

 “Highball bouldering has elite climbers practicing with ropes on rocks 50 feet tall. Then there is solo climbing where you go high enough that you can die.”

 R.J. Markowitz, the adventure recreation coordinator for the Department of Campus Recreation, said bouldering is a more technical form of climbing.

 “It is a lot more problem-solving [than rock climbing], a lot more moving your body in unique ways.”

 YSU will host a bouldering competition at the climbing wall inside Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center on Feb. 29 at 10 a.m.

Photo by Jordan Boitnott/Jambar Contributor

 Jacob Winters, a sophomore computer science major and member of the adventure rec team, said that the competition will have many climbers and multiple routes for them to travel along the wall.

 “The competition entails about 40 to 45 routes on the lower section of the wall,” he said. “Twenty to 30 climbers are going to come in and be looking to climb the various routes from beginner to expert difficulty. They are going to get points based on the difficulty of the routes they climbed and how many attempts it took them to climb it.”

 Markowitz is in charge of setting the competition up and said it is open for anyone, including the general public.

“The one thing that I love about this is we get climbers from all over coming. Usually, when we host this competition, we’ll have folks from West Virginia University, Edinboro, Toledo and Slippery Rock always have a great turnout here,” he said.

Markowitz said it’s a way for climbers to exchange ideas and network.

 He said people have competed on the rock wall for at least 10 years, with the bouldering competition occurring once a year.

“They’ve been doing some sort of series like this since the wall has been at YSU,” he said. “We do some sort of competition like this every semester, excluding the summer.”

 Winters said the adventure rec team is planning a trip to Mill Creek Park over the summer, which was recently approved for bouldering.

 Jamie Yohman, Mill Creek MetroParks community engagement director, said bouldering in the park was approved in the Bears Den Cabin area Nov. 12 and boulderers must follow park rules.

 “The park will not supply equipment to the climbers,” she said. “Climbing with ropes, anchors and bolts is banned.”

Photo by Jordan Boitnott/Jambar Contributor

 Markowitz said while Mill Creek MetroParks is for more experienced climbers, the rec center wall is perfect for beginners.

 “We are very much a community down here. Everybody who comes down here, they want to climb. They want to help you climb,” he said. 

“Our staff is incredibly knowledgeable; they are trained,” Markowitz added. “They will climb with you whether it is your first time down here or whether it’s your 500th time. This is the best part to start.”

Bouldering will be available in Mill Creek Park during regular park hours, while the rec center climbing wall is open 12-8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Those who want to participate can preregister for the bouldering competition at YSU at store.reccenter.ysu.edu for $20 or sign up at the event for $25.

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