Illinois Climbers Have Bought Themselves a Whole New Bouldering Area

ICA board member Kevin Sierzega on Best in Show, one of the classic boulder problems secured with the House Boulders acquisition. Ancestral lands of ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ. Photo credit, Kevin Sierzega.

In the Shawnee National Forest in the Mississippi Bluffs region of Illinois, overlooking the Mississippi River Valley, lies the House Boulders climbing area. Acres of tightly packed boulders of grey sandstone in a hardwood forest. The land there recently went up for sale, and so the Illinois Climbers Association (ICA) reached out to the Access Fund for help to buy it. Contributions from the Climbing Conservation Loan Program came through, and the ICA and Access Fund were able to buy 20 acres of the House Boulders site to keep it protected, forever.

The House Boulders are in an area crucial for amphibian and reptile species, some of which are threatened, and which use the area as a migration corridor from low to higher elevation for hibernating. It’s also part of a deeply impoverished section of Illinois, and the hope is that a permanent climbing area will bring in some badly needed outside money.

Oh, right, it’s also loaded with beloved bouldering problems. At least 70 have been identified in the House Boulders. The ICA is currently building proper trailheads and a new parking area to handle increased visitation. Once completed, and paired with the nearby Holy Boulders, also purchased by the ICA, the Midwest will have a great regional climbing area, one owned by the climbers themselves.

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