The New River Gorge, West Virginia.
Boone Boulderer Aaron Parlier’s Favorite Climbing Gear
If you’re a rock climber from central Appalachia, you’ve probably heard the name Aaron Parlier. This prolific climber has notched some 2,000 first ascents throughout central Appalachia. He is also a devoted developer of numerous boulder fields, a guidebook author, and the owner of Boone, North Carolina’s premier climbing gym, Center 45 Climbing and Fitness.
One of Parlier’s most notable achievements comes in regards to the work he’s done in Grayson Highlands State Park. Between 2010 and today, Parlier has spent nearly 1,400 hours inside GHSP blazing trails, cleaning new boulders and mapping hundreds of climbs. Grayson Highlands Bouldering, which Parlier published in 2013, features over 400 problems and a second edition is on the way.
In the past few years, Parlier’s main focus has been on the development of multiple boulder fields in the southeast corner of Virginia. Endless swaths of river-polished sandstone keep the 32-year-old plenty busy when he’s not managing the gym.
With a climbing career that spans nearly a decade and a half, Parlier has learned the ins and outs of the game and knows what he is doing when it comes to building trails and developing boulders. Here are his favorite pieces of gear for a day on the rock.
1. Getting there.
The first step in developing boulders is building a sustainable trail. This involves a bit of thought and planning, but when it’s time to get to work, the Pulaski tool is one of Parlier’s go-tos. Great for digging soil and chopping roots, the Pulaski combines an axe and adze into one tool great for tackling multiple parts of the trail building process.
• Pulaski Tool ($50)
2. Check ‘em out!
A lot of the development process takes place hanging from a rope and harness while you scrub moss from holds too high to reach. Parlier, who has spent countless hours in that exact position, has his set-up dialed in for a safe and comfortable time. To get the job done, Parlier racks up a Misty Mountain Threadwork Turbo harness with a Petzl GriGri2 and a BlueWater Spec-Static rope.
• Misty Mountain Turbo Harness ($109.95)
• Petzl GriGri 2 ($97.95 on Amazon)
BlueWater Spec-Static Rope ($155 for 45m)
3. Clean ‘em up!
Also attached to that Misty Mountain harness is an assortment of steel wire brushes. These brushes and a small towel will be some of your best friends when cleaning boulders. Look to stock up on a variety of sizes and styles of these brushes, since having options comes in quite handy.
4. Safety first.
Bouldering is an inherently dangerous activity, especially since—unlike other forms of climbing—you hit the ground every time you fall. Making sure you are safe when bouldering starts with good spotters and good pads. In terms of spotters, Parlier recommends climbing with friends you trust and who you know care about safety. And when it comes to pads, Parlier says you can’t beat the foam and durability of a Misty Mountain Highlander crash pad.
• Misty Mountain Highlander Pad ($299.95)
5. Good rubber = Good sends.
Climbing specific shoes make a world of a difference, but with so many options out there, it can be hard knowing where to start. Overall, climbing shoes are very specific to each individual, so trying out different brands and models will help you figure out what’s best for you. But when it comes to the steep, overhung sandstone of central Appalachia, Parlier turns to the aggressive toe and solid rubber of the Scarpa Dragos to keep him on the wall.
• Scarpa Dragos ($199.95)
Tilley T3 Wanderer Hat, $80
This is our go-to hat for all of summer adventurers. On the water, it protected us from the sun; deep in the forest, it kept the bugs away. Enzyme-washed for a worn look, the Canadian-made Wanderer Hat features a versatile brim style with snap-up options, UPF 50+ protection, water-repellent finish, ventilation grommets, buoyancy in the water, and a moisture-wicking sweatband.
Grangers Active Wash, $13
It’s a must-have for any sweaty, dirty outdoor adventurer. Active Wash removes sweat, dirt, and odors from any clothing, including garments made from merino, Lycra, polyester, and cotton. It also improves wicking performance of sportswear, and it’s Bluesign certified, which ensures there are no harmful chemicals used.
Deuter Compact EXP 12, $135
Looking for a versatile, durable pack? The EXP 12 is a do-it-all hydration pack geared for mountain biking (but is so supportive and comfortable that it works well for hiking and trail running, too). With three liters of water carrying capacity and a well-organized, roomy cargo area, it is built for long adventures in the backcountry.
Foehn Brise Shorts, $80
These climbing shorts blur the lines between function and style. But they’re not just for climbers; they’re perfect for hiking and mountain biking, too. Lightweight, rugged, and durable, they’re built for adventure.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Mattress
As the absolute lightest insulated air mattress available, the 8.8-ounce UberLite keeps your pack featherweight on the trail. With 2.5 inches of rugged, durable padding, the minimal UberLite makes a big impact during nights in the backcountry.