Nicolas Cowan

I have long loved the outdoors but I came slowly to climbing. After trying rock, ice, and gym climbing as a teenager, it was a McGill Outdoors Club outing to Val David that motivated me to top-rope weekly at Allez Up. A couple years later, pursuing graduate school in Seattle, I sport climbed as often as my day job would allow. When an opportunity arose to attend a conference in New Zealand, I bought a crash pad and made a pilgrimage to Castle Hill… quite the first bouldering experience!

By the time I earned my PhD, I had become a died-in-the-wool boulderer: I was now a dad, and my son was too small to belay me! Although it began as a necessity, I grew to like the rhythm of working a problem interspersed with resting and reading on the pads with my toddler. I started bringing my climbing shoes and crash pad with me anytime I traveled for work so that I could check out the local problems.

On a trip to France I made a necessary detour for a few days of bouldering in the storied forests of Fontainebleau. There I discovered world-class boulder problems of all shapes and sizes, including for children! This was a revolutionary idea to me: instead of dragging my little tike to climbing areas where he would sit on a crash pad and read comic books, he could be climbing problems alongside me! Inspired by my avant-garde French brethren, I have since cleaned problems in Western Mass, northern Vermont, and southern Quebec, mixing in kid boulders for little crushers next to taller problems for their parents. In the process, I’ve discovered the challenges and joys of scoping out, cleaning, and climbing new lines.