Grayson Highlands Bouldering, Tonic for the Mind

Buy Aaron’s Grayson Highlands Bouldering rakkup guidebook and save more than 30% over the Apple & Google in app price here. Learn more about why you can trust Aaron’s bouldering beta here.
Aaron Parlier on Flying Spaghetti Monster (V7), Olympus Boulder

Aaron Parlier on Flying Spaghetti Monster (V7), Olympus Boulder

Grayson Highlands State Park (GHSP) has been called a tonic for the mind, body and soul. I have heard this sentiment offered by a number folks who love the outdoors but have never avidly climbed, and it accurately describes the scenery that envelops anyone, climber or not, who visits the Appalachian Highlands of Virginia. Cascading mountain streams, lofty boreal forests of spruce and fir, fall foliage showing fiery sugar maples and dancing yellow big toothed aspen, wild ponies, expansive mountain top balds, high elevation bogs, and foggy morning hollows (read “hollers”) are just a few of my favorite attributes of this region of Virginia. The 1000 boulder problems scattered throughout GHSP make this place yet another reason to return, season after season.

Matt Bieljeski on Foot Kaput (V4), Lonely Boulder

Matt Bieljeski on Foot Kaput (V4), Lonely Boulder

With elevations ranging between 3,500 and 5,089 feet, and being at a more northern latitude than other Southeastern bouldering areas, GHSP is without question the best summer bouldering in the Southeast. It isn’t only due to the high-northern Appalachian aspect of Grayson that allows for wonderful summertime sends. The very nature of the boulders adds to this. GHSP boulders are steep (VERY steep) with shaded overhangs leading to -usually- juggy topouts. Bouldering in Grayson Highlands is frequently a powerful, fingertip oriented, 45 degree affair. Vertical or slabby boulders are quite rare. Atypical Grayson holds are in-cut crimps and flakes (it is unusual to find a crux move involving a fiction dependent sloper). Once most Southeastern boulderfields become too humid, overgrown, and bug infested, GHSP thaws out from the icy winter as the spring season kicks into high gear.

Dan Brayak on Moon Light Sonata (V3), Moon Light Boulder

Dan Brayak on Moon Light Sonata (V3), Moon Light Boulder

Spring conditions are great in Grayson to be sure. Summer bouldering in GHSP is as good as it gets in the Southeast, but fall, as with every other Appalachian boulderfield, is the crown jewel for perfect projecting. Adding to the awesomeness of fall conditions, GHSP has without-a-doubt the best fall foliage in Virginia (and the literal bus loads of “leafer” tourists stand as testament). Crisp conditions, beautiful golden and red colors surrounding, and hundreds of boulder problems within a few minutes of the parking lot tend to spoil visiting climbers. With grades currently spanning from V0 to V12 (one boulder housing every grade from V2-V12), and with hikes ranging from 45 seconds to 30 minutes, what’s not to love?

Julia Statler on Indian Outlaw (V3), Picnic Area Rockhouse Boulder

Julia Statler on Indian Outlaw (V3), Picnic Area Rockhouse Boulder

Bouldering in Grayson Highlands unofficially began in the early 1990’s with clandestine sessions at outlier boulderfields by the likes of James Litz and several others out of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The total number of boulder problems likely didn’t exceed 200 until secure access and official approval of GHSP bouldering was gained in 2008-2009. Since then, open communication between climbers and park staff, careful development regarding recreational impacts and the park’s rare plant species, and volunteerism towards construction of approved access trails has opened many new GHSP boulderfields. The 1000th boulder problem was climbed in 2014. Now, with the full color Grayson Highlands Bouldering Guidebook and Rakkup’s mobile guidebook app, these wonderful areas, boulders, and problems in the most scenic section of Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains are even more accessible.

Find more Grayson beta at Aaron’s blog
For more awesome images like these check out Dan’s media site

Index Town Walls Rock Climbing…World’s Best Crag? written by Chris Kalman & photographed by Matthew Van Biene

Buy Index Town Walls here, and save over 30% versus the Google and Apple in app price.

You don’t get too many visitors from out of state here at Index. After all, why would you?  This is Washington – the rainiest state in the lower 48; and Index lies right smack dab in the middle of the wetness. It must always be raining there, right? Right…
Index Washington World's Best Rock Climbing. Photo Credit: Matt Van Biene

Index, the world’s best rock climbing? The towns walls lie within walking distance of the little hamlet of Index, WA. Photo Credit: Matt Van Biene

For those of you who still don’t know, the secret of America’s best crag is pretty well out of the bag.  Index is, meter for meter and inch for inch, one of the densest concentrations of high-quality granite sport and trad routes in the U.S., or anywhere, for that matter.  The climbing is unique and distinct; the weather is persnickety, but when it’s good it’s perfect; the surrounding views of some of the Cascade mountains’ most jagged peaks is breathtaking; and the rock quality is out of this world.  Imagine a hybrid of knobby Tuolumne faces, mixed with parallel-sided Yosemite Valley cracks, all with the texture of New River Gorge nuttall sandstone.  The combination is mind-bending: Index features knobs, pockets, crimps, jugs and slopers; seams, finger, hand, and offwidth cracks; stem corners, bomb-bay chimneys, friction arêtes, compression problems, and bouldery sequences; routes from 40 to 700 feet… and much more.  In short, it’s about as good a place as any to learn how to free climb (there are also aid routes up to A4 – did we mention Index climbers were the first to do a hammerless ascent of El Cap?). Add to that a short approach, an abundance of 4 star routes from 5.9 to 5.13, and a tendency towards safe fall potential above gear of any size (or bolts), and you have all the makings of a crag so good that God, Yaweh, Allah, or whatever you want to call the Great Gig in the Sky, would climb there him or herself.

Michal Rynkiewicz won't be forked of Spooner (11d) Index, WA, World's Best Rock Climbing. Photo Credit: Matt Van Biene

Michal Rynkiewicz won’t be forked off Spooner (11d) Index, WA, World’s Best Rock Climbing. Photo Credit: Matt Van Biene

But what really makes Index amazing is how it just seems to avoid all the climbing traffic that more popular destinations suffer from.  Granted, it does not feature the quantity of routes that nearby Smith Rock sports.  Nor is it as extensive or tall as Squamish, just a few hours North.  Those two little gifts of climbing meccas seem to keep the masses away from Index, as most visitors to the Pacific Northwest will choose one, or the other, or both – but rarely what’s in between.  Index locals couldn’t be more pleased.  Part of what makes Index special is how rarely you need to wait in line for any route at all.
Dave Burdick aims to protect the crux of Japanese Gardens. Index WA, world's best rock climbing. Photo Credit: Matthew Van Biene

Dave Burdick aims to protect the crux of Japanese Gardens. Index WA, world’s best rock climbing. Photo Credit: Matthew Van Biene

For those who do make the pit stop off at the sleepy little town of Index, you’re in for a treat.  If you climb 5.6 – check out Great Northern Slab.  5.7 or 5.8 – Senior Citizens in Space is hyperclassic.  Godzilla may be the best single pitch of 5.9 anywhere.  For 5.10, check out routes like Breakfast of Champions,  Tattoosh, Davis-Holland / Lovin Arms, and Slow Children (no, Slow Children is NOT 5.11a – even if it feels like it’s 5.11c).  5.11 and 5.12 climbers get the most fun at Index, where the two grades encompass everything from roughly 5.11a to 5.13b at “normal” crags.  The biggest concentration of routes at Index lies in the 5.11 grade.  If you can fathom 5.11c, Japanese Gardens may well be the best of that grade anywhere.
Jenny Abegg climbs Japanese Gardens as Mt. Index looks on. Index, WA, world's best rock climbing. Photo Credit: Matthew Van Biene

Jenny Abegg climbs Japanese Gardens as Mt. Index looks on. Index, WA, world’s best rock climbing. Photo Credit: Matthew Van Biene

The guidebook is 10 years out of print, but there’s a brand new rakkup guide covering about a third of the routes, and growing every year!  There are 4 star routes tucked away behind every corner, and shoved into each nook and cranny of this area – so it really helps to have a guide.  If you don’t have a smart phone, ask a local.  Chances are they’ll be so excited to see someone new they’ll take you under their wing for a day of unforgettable climbing at the state’s… I mean the country’s… I mean the WORLD’S best crag.
Check out more of Chris’s writing at, and at Fringe’s Folly.
Check out more of Matthew’s photography at

Exit 38 Rock Climbing this summer? Try our new guidebook!

Exit 38 Rock ClimbsTodd and I have been climbing at Exit 38 now and again since the late 1990’s, and we know it’s a great resource for Seattle and Western Washington climbers. The drive out to North Bend is easy, and the crags stay cool and shady even on hot summer days. If you have ever been climbing at Exit 38, you know that it’s got a great array of moderate climbs from 5.6 to 5.12 and some excellent first leads for the beginning outdoor climber. The short approaches and friendly bolting and equipping of the routes are added bonuses.

Our friends at (with whom we partnered to create the Exit 32 Rock Climbing title for rakkup last year) have a guidebook to the area, but its hard to find a copy this year and the new edition likely won’t be in stores in time for the summer climbing season. We thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase the advantages of digital distribution, so we set out to create a rakkup guidebook. You can buy the resulting Exit 38 Rock Climbs title now in our app or here on our website. Like all rakkup titles, it includes great mapping and our much-loved turn-by-turn directions to navigate you to every climb using the GPS in your smartphone.

We’ve included all the climbs at the most popular and highest-quality areas: the Substation, Write-off Rock, Nevermind Wall, Deception Wall, We-Did Rock, Hull Creek Wall, and Amazonia. We’ve even documented some climbs that have never appeared in any guidebook before. As always with rakkup, it’s fast and easy to search, filter, browse by grade, and map all the routes.

This was a fun project for us, as we took the opportunity to try some new technologies and teach ourselves some new tricks. We used some cool new Adobe software for iPads to sketch routes and annotate photos while standing right at the crag, and some cool “stitching” techniques to create panoramic views of some walls that would be impossible to take as a single image. As a result this guidebook features detailed color photos of the routes with clear lines making it easy to identify different routes. We think it’s the best guidebook yet for hassle-free climbing at Exit 38.

We’ve kept the price affordable and continue to offer an even less-expensive option to “rent” the guidebook for 2 months at half the usual price, if you aren’t a frequent visitor and just want to give it a spin. Happy climbing!

Check out our snazzy new website!

We’re proud to say we’ve launched a beautiful new website here at! Thanks to those who worked so hard on it and the amazing photographers who shared their work with us. Which image on our home page gets you stoked the most? Is there anything else you’d like to see?

rakkup discussion and feedback

There’s been a great discussion this week over at Mountain Project about rakkup.

There’s been particular interest in the mix of subscription options and update options that you all would like to see. Keep in mind that rakkup guidebook prices are set by the guidebook publisher or author, not by us. We have some influence and build the enabling technology, of course.

To quote from the Mountain Project thread:

Pricing is tricky, and what each person is willing to pay is different, of course. We’ve tried to strike a balance between making these guides affordable for climbers and making sure that the authors and publishers find the business worth their while so they keep making and updating guidebooks. Case in point, Wolverine Publishing found that they simply could not afford to keep adding updates to the older apps that never expired, hence the subscription plan. And there are a LOT of updates, and Wolverine’s been awesome about doing rapid updates to their rakkup guidebooks as climbs change or get put up.
The author of the New River Gorge book, Mike Williams, did a great job addressing this and describing the advantages of digital vs. print on his blog this week, check it out:>>>
We think the prices are fair for the quality of these books, and tried to provide options that are cheaper than print rather than more costly. The 60-day option seems to appeal to a lot of traveling climbers. Also note that you can buy all of the exact same subscription for around 25% less at than you can via buttons in the rakkup app, thanks to Apple’s hefty surcharges!

Since we are guests over at the Mountain Project site, we wanted to give you a place to weigh in here at What do you like about the app? What would you like to see? We can also start discussions about each guidebook or about particular topics you’d like to discuss in depth.

Thanks and happy climbing. -Rob and Todd

rakkup wins 2014 Climbing Magazine Editor’s Choice for Best App!

Climbing_ECLogo fixedWe’re delighted to announce that the editors of Climbing chose rakkup as a 2014 Editor’s Choice product! rakkup is a guidebook app for your phone, with powerful features and a growing range of available guidebooks for major climbing areas. See what Climbing had to say about rakkup in the 2014 Gear Guide. The rakkup guys have been reading Climbing gear reviews forever, so it’s great to see rakkup recognized for quality.  Huge thanks, Climbing!

New River Gorge Volume 1 & 2 released

rakkup-nrg-combined-cover 640We’re proud to announce the release of New River Gorge Volumes 1 & 2 by Mike Williams, published by Wolverine Publishing. Mikey did a nice post about his guides and rakkup here and nailed just how we feel about the importance of both print and digital climbing guidebooks.

These New River Gorge books are the largest guides we’ve released to date.  To get ready to show off all of Mikey’s great content we had to add a bunch of new features to rakkup this winter.

It became obvious as soon as we started this project that the rakkup of 2013 just wouldn’t do to properly showcase NRG. Endless Wall alone has over 500 climbs, bigger than lots of entire guidebooks! We had to add the ability to move up and down easily through a book’s “sectors”  so a climber could easily browse the Endless Wall’s many sub-walls.  We also added  histograms to every wall, great charts that help you tell at a glance whether an area has trad, sport or bouldering in the difficulty range you’re looking for.  In order to enable a climber to find the best routes from among over 1800 climbs, we added super fast searching and filtering.  It now takes literally one second and a few taps to identify the two four star 5.8 sport climbs that are in the shade at NRG using rakkup’s new filter features, and see them on a map as well as in a sorted list.  (Hint:  They’re both at Bubba City.)

One more second, tap the “Go” button, and rakkup navigates you to those two sweet climbs, turn by turn.  Best of all, every time you get a guide update icon (a small cloud) next to your NRG guide, you know that you’re a tap away from getting more great content from a trusted professional and Outdoor Research sponsored athlete, Mike Williams.

Thanks Mike and Wolverine Publishing. You guys helped us demonstrate what we mean when we call rakkup “Climbing guides, reinvented.”