Missouri’s Secret Bouldering Hotbed
Think to yourself: where in the U.S. is gushing with bouldering development? Picturing the location? Good. Now, here’s a secret, it’s not where you i magined. Buried i n the elapsed St. Francois Mountains, is a valley. You’re probably mumbling, “What mountains?” Rising throughout Missouri’s southeastern countryside, the St. Francois Mountains stretch from St. Louis’ southern suburbs until they collide with the Ozarks. Positioned among these forgotten mountains lays one of America’s most overlooked bouldering destinations, including nine growing areas and two deep-water-soloing locations. Despite the previously discovered zones, motivated locals continuously find unclimbed areas ripe with first ascents. So, what’s the name of this mysterious valley? It’s Arcadia Valley. The valley reminiscent of America’s popular boulder f ields before crowds descended upon them causing congestion. In Arcadia Valley, there’s an absence of chalk-encrusted holds, trash, and fist-pumping, hip-thrusting bros. Despite t wo published guidebooks (
by Jim Thummond and by Matt Bliss), which only highlight select areas, I’ve met few climbers here. Since my first tour, I frequent Arcadia Valley whenever I find myself back in the Midwest, guzzling gallons of gas into my car to explore new roads, scouring public land for virgin climbs, and creating irreplaceable memories. On these trips, I’ve told many friends about the great climbing, many of whom have said the area resembles the Rockies’ front-range in Colorado. One of those friends is Matt Lancaster. He describes himself as a part-time boulderer. Regardless, when Matt interrupts his teaching to climb, he unleashes impressive raw, brute strength, despite constantly complaining of being out of shape. Like me, Matt echoed my curiousity as to why climbers weren’t in awe with Arcadia Valley. The remoteness, unspoiled nature, and worldclass bouldering, surround by the local eccentric culture of rural Missouri were all unforgettable.