Welcome to the Lowell Bouldering Wall! We have a dedicated staff who open the Wall every single night and can teach you everything you’ll need to know to have fun and stay safe. And we can provide all the gear you need to climb. So whether you’re a rock-crushing climbing fiend or a curious newbie thinking that climbing is way too scary or dangerous, come try it out! We promise you’ll have a kick-ass time. Please note that only Harvard University ID holders are allowed at the Bouldering Wall. You will also need to sign a waiver before you climb, which you can do online to speed things up when you get here.
Where? The Wall is located in the basement of A entryway in Lowell House. Lowell House has, however, requested that all climbers enter through F entryway, which on your right as you walk through the main gate into Lowell House. Go down the stairs, turn right and follow the hallway for around 250 feet until you reach the entrance the Wall (which will be on your right about 100 feet after a left turn in the hallway). GRADUATE STUDENTS AND OTHER NON-UNDERGRADUATES must stop and check in at the security office (on your left as you go through the gate into Lowell House) and swipe their HUID. (Please note that only Harvard University ID (HUID) holders are allowed at the Wall; your ID will be checked again at the Wall, and you will also be required to sign a waiver if you have not already do so online.)
When? The wall is generally open 5-10pm every night. Hours do, however, vary week-to-week so check the calendar for accurate hours. Unfortunately, we are not open during the summer, other breaks, and university holidays.
What? Bouldering is climbing with pads instead of ropes. Because a fall onto a pad becomes harder the higher you climb (whereas a rope provides the same catch at any height), bouldering problems tend to be shorter than roped climbs. Our wall, for example, is 18 feet high. This short length means you don’t get as tired as on a longer roped climb, and so boulder problems (i.e. routes) can offer trickier and more interesting moves than roped climbs. Boulder problems tend to be puzzles in which you figure out where you need to put your feet and hands to stay balanced while moving up the wall.
Who? The Lowell Bouldering Wall is open to everyone who has a physical Harvard University ID (HUID) card. Each semester over 400 students climb at the Lowell Wall. One of the great things about climbing is that the variety in type of problem means that anyone (of any build) can be a great climber. A rower or football player may be able to power up some routes with pure strength, but other routes will require someone who can delicate balance on each of the holds. A lot of people think you need to be really tall to climb so that you can reach the holds, but this isn’t true. When we set routes we do our best to ensure that height isn’t going to prevent anyone from climbing them. And the biophysics behind climbing actually suggests that smaller climbers should have an advantage. (This is because strength is proportional to muscle cross-sectional area, which is roughly proportional to the square of your height, whereas your weight is proportional to your volume, which is roughly proportional to the cube of your height, so the shorter you are the better your strength-to-weight ratio is expected to be!)
Why? There are many reasons to boulder. It makes you strong both as a climber and in general. It’s a great way to hang out and socialize. And it a ton of fun.
Is it safe? Short answer: YES! Long answer: While we cannot say that climbing is 100% safe, it is not nearly as dangerous as you may think. We usually see 1 or 2 sprayed/twisted ankles per semester, a broken wrist every couple of years, and, of course, some bruises along the way. We probably can’t say the rest of this officially, but unofficially: Your chances of getting injured are similar to if you were playing basketball, soccer, or most other sports. That’s not to say more serious injuries aren’t possible, they’re just not significantly more likely than during other parts of your every day life.
How much does it cost? The first time you climb is free. After that we charge a $20 per semester membership dues. (For comparison, the nearest commercial gym now charges $29 per day.) Dues can be paid in cash at the Wall (talk to the staff member on duty) or via Venmo to @HMC-BoulderingWall (please include your HUID number in the Venmo “for” field). The chalk and rental shoes are available for free. If the $20 membership dues would be a financial burden please email wbloxham (at) college.harvard.edu or talk to staff member on duty next time you’re at the Wall; we can waive the fee no-questions-asked.
What do I wear/bring? Athletic clothes (i.e. whatever you’d wear at the gym, playing soccer, or on a run) are ideal for climbing, but street/casual clothes also work fine. If you own your own climbing shoes bring those, but otherwise we can supply you with free rental shoes. The Wall is all bouldering, so no need for a harness. We also have communal chalk bags so no need to bring your own. Bringing a water bottle is never a bad idea.