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‘Bouldering’ is rock climbing at its most difficult

Easy does it

August 26, 2011
By DANIELLE PEMBLE - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Some people do sudoku and crossword puzzles to keep their minds sharp. Jason Schneider of Marquette, on the other hand, likes to solve boulder problems.

Bouldering is a subset of rock climbing that doesn't require the use of ropes. A boulder problem is a boulder climbing route, usually less 15 feet tall. Strength and endurance combined with problem solving is required to complete it.

"The routes are purely set by nature," said Schneider.

Article Photos

Jason Schneider rock climbs the Pinnacle at Presque Isle Park in the city of Marquette. (Photo by Corey Rich)

In some of the more difficult problems Schneider has completed, there can be up to 35 hand movements, and they all must be completed in the right order. Some of the movements are instinctive, while others are learned, said Schneider.

"Originally people did it to train for climbing," said Schneider, "Then bouldering developed into its own sport."

In his book, "Marquette County Rock Climbing," he talks about the nine cliffs and around 200 routes that are available for climbing in Marquette County. He decided to write the book because most of the climbing areas in the county are located on private land, and climbing can be considered a dangerous act.

"I wanted people to understand that it's private land and to be respectful," said Schneider.

It also includes how to get to the cliffs, the main climbing routes and different issues climbers could encounter.

Marquette is home to many different types of rock such as basalt, granite, quartzite and sandstone. Each has a different character and feel, said Schneider.

"Basalt is really knobby, while quartzite has no friction whatsoever," said Schneider.

The Upper Peninsula is blessed with some amazing climbing sites, even in the Marquette city limits. Presque Isle is home to a bouldering route called The Traverse, located right on Lake Superior.

Schneider has climbed in other parts of the country and appreciates the fact that he can still go to a cliff and not have it be overrun with climbers.

"Other places you can get there and have to wait in line," said Schneider.

While bouldering is one type of climbing, there are two other main types - traditional climbing and sport climbing.

In traditional climbing, the gear and anchors are placed in the natural features of the rock, and are removed when finished. When sport climbing, you drill small anchors into the rock and leave it there permanently, said Schneider.

"Climbing is perceived as very dangerous, but it's much safer than people think," said Schneider.

"Driving a car or playing football are more dangerous," added Schneider.

Getting into climbing is fairly easy. There is minimal gear needed - rigid climbing shoes to maximize friction, a harness for safety and a dynamic (stretchy) rope.

Downwind Sports and Switchback are both excellent local resources for climbing gear and information, said Schneider.

Rock climbing is an excellent workout for the upper back, abs and forearms.

"It works muscles you're not used to moving," said Schneider.

The sport favors people that aren't overly bulky. Climbers that also do things like yoga, ballet or gymnastics may have an advantage, although Schneider encourages anyone to try that is interested.

Beginners can also get started with climbing the rock wall at Northern Michigan University's Physical Education Instructional Facility, but climbing real rock can be quite different. Rock walls have brightly colored holds and tape to show you where to grab hold. As for real rock, you just have to figure it out.

"I like the fact that it's solving a problem," said Schneider. "You always feel like you're exploring. It's an incredible cross between power and grace and problem solving."

Danielle Pemble can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 256.



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