Discovering the Holy Boulders

~ Guest blog by Jason Kehl

Back in 2003 my good friend Brett Lowell took a recon trip down to Southern Illinois to check out an area called the Holy Boulders that the Chancellor brothers, Dan and Dave had been raving about. They claimed it had the best sandstone in the midwest with hundreds of first ascents on untouched stone just waiting to be climbed. A couple weeks later me and my good friends Obe Carrion and Nate Gold got a call saying the area had checked out and we should all meet down there to see for ourselves. It was almost summer, so it wasn't exactly the best time to go, but rumors of Fontainebleau-like sandstone in the midwest sounded too good to be true.

Holy stoneThe Font-like sandstone of the Holy Boulders

After bushwhacking our way through the mosquito infested, poison ivy engulfed Shawnee National forest, we crossed over onto private land. Dan and Dave had been granted access by talking to the land owners Mr and Mrs Tripp. They were ok with us climbing there, but I think they had no idea the quality of the stone and the amount of climbers it would draw if the word got out. For this reason the Holy Boulders had been on the down low for many years. People knew of the area, but there were no directions or guides for fear that the owners would be overwhelmed and shut it down.

Jungle BookOn the first ascent of Jungle Book V8 on my first trip the the Holy's

As we made our way up the hillside the forest opened up and revealed two of the nicest looking blocks I have ever come across. The Enlightenment boulder only had three problems established and the difficult terrain that remained was steep flowing waves of beautiful sloppy sandstone. We could hardly believe our eyes. That started my love affair with the area that would last for over 4 years, returning each year when the weather cooled off enough for good friction. It was not only the hard projects that caught my eye, but everything that looked climbable. I've been to Fontainebleau, France several times and sampled most of the sandstone in the southeast and the Holy Boulders in my opinion are as good if not better than most of them.

CrookedRevisiting one of my favorite lines, The Crooked Master

This year I got a call from Dave Chancellor, saying that the Holy Boulders were up for sale and he was working with the Access Fund to try and save the area. I could hardly believe my ears--this is something I never dreamed would happen. Our biggest fear was that a non climber would buy the land and it would be closed to climbing forever. So with the help from the Access Fund and all the climbers out there, we now have a chance to put the area into climber friendly hands forever. Not only that, but with the improved access we will be able to improve trails, establish more boulders, and make the whole area more accessible for everyone. That is why we need help from everyone out there to raise the money to save the Holy Boulders forever.

Please donate today and help protect what's holy!

KingsHighballing in the evening light on Kings High