Bouldering is a form of rock climbing where the participants climb to the top of a boulder-like structure that can either be artificial or a real one. It is becoming very popular among professional climbers and fitness enthusiasts. As a sport, it combines strength, fitness, and technical problem-solving skills, making it one of the most challenging yet rewarding forms of climbing. In response to its growing popularity, many gyms and climbing centers now offer bouldering facilities so that you can get into the world of bouldering.
What makes bouldering different from traditional climbing and sport climbing is that it is done without any ropes or harnesses. Climbers are required to get to the top using a specified route. But unlike traditional climbing, bouldering requires you to maneuver across bends and inclines instead of simply climbing up.
To ensure the safety of the climbers, the height is limited to only 4 to 5 meters. A soft cushion-like mattress, called a crash pad, is also placed at the bottom of the climber to catch them in case of a fall. However, some training is required to learn proper falling techniques so that the climber doesn’t injure themselves when they hit the pad. Additionally, no belayer is needed either. That means you can start learning about bouldering by yourself.
How To Get Started With Bouldering?
If you are new to bouldering, you might be wondering how to get started. Here are a few important things that you need to know before you jump in.
- Gear: As we have mentioned before, you don’t need much gear in order to start bouldering. However, there are a few things that you should have with you. The first thing you need is a pair of climbing shoes. What kind of climbing shoes you need depends on your level of expertise, physical requirements, and budget. The second thing you need is climbing chalk. You can buy your own chalk bag but most of the time you can get it at the gym. Lastly, if you are going outdoor bouldering, then get yourself a crash pad.
- Grade scale: The climbs that people undertake when bouldering are called problems. That is because different routes require different solutions to get past them. These problems are graded on a difficulty scale. The V-scale is most commonly used but there is also another scale called the Font scale. To denote the difficulty of a problem, the V-scale starts from V0 and can go much further than V15. The greater the number, the greater the difficulty. As for the font scale, it is a bit more complicated to understand as it is denoted by a number, which is then followed by a letter between A to C. It can also contain a + sign. So, a problem with a grade of 7B+ is more difficult than a 7A.
- Notations: Problems are color-coded. Meaning that the route is marked with a specific color so that you know where to go next after each successful transition. There are also quite a few bouldering lingoes that you need to familiarize yourself with. You can look them up online and take down some notes. If you’re confused about what a certain word means, do not be shy to ask someone.
There are many other things that you will need to know as you start your bouldering journey. The best way to learn them is through practical hands-on experience. Once you start, a lot of things will become much clearer.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Bouldering?
Bouldering is one of the three disciplines of competitive climbing. It is recognized by the Olympics as an official sport. So, you can imagine the physical requirement and technical knowledge needed to succeed as a professional boulderer. There is somewhat of a prerequisite to start bouldering – you need to be fit. But it’s not a necessity as you can develop yourself as you learn. There are many benefits to bouldering that can significantly improve your body. Here are a few:
- Improves muscles: Rock climbing requires you to use every muscle in your body. This includes your arms, legs, abs, back muscles, etc. Since all of your muscles are being constantly used, it can improve your overall flexibility as well. This is also good for your cardiovascular system as it strengthens your heart muscles and burns calories.
- Improves grip: As you climb up each hold, it exerts immense pressure on your hands and fingers. Over time this can significantly improve your grip. Once you have a strong grip, it can help you get into other types of climbing as well.
- Improves mental capacity: Each bouldering problem has its own unique solution. The challenge is to find those solutions as you are climbing up. This real-time problem-solving ability can improve your cognitive and thinking skills.
Indoor vs Outdoor Bouldering
Although the basic concept of indoor and outdoor bouldering is the same, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. They are:
- The first difference when bouldering outdoors is you have to keep an eye on the weather. You don’t want to get caught in the rain while you are climbing.
- Always wear a helmet outdoors. You never know what might happen, so protect your head.
- Real stones and rocks are much more jagged and sharp than the holds you will find inside a gym. Make sure to protect your hands and fingers.
- You don’t have to worry much about injuring yourself while doing indoor bouldering. But when you are outside, if you do not properly place your crash pad, then you could seriously injure yourself.
- If you are bouldering with other people outdoors, be cautious so as to not get in their way as it could cause an accident.
- Keep an eye on your belongings when you are outdoors. If anything gets stolen then it would be very difficult to get them back.
- Lastly, make sure to tidy up the place whenever you are done. Since there is no staff to clean up your mess, you are responsible for keeping the area neat.
Bouldering is a great outdoor activity. If you have the patience to master it, then it can significantly improve your physical and mental capabilities. However, it is not beginner-friendly. A lot of technical knowledge is required to get into it.
Fitness is also another factor that determines how much you will enjoy your first day. You need to have some experience in climbing before you can take on bouldering. But once you overcome that first hurdle, it can be a really rewarding experience.
Robert Coleman, in one word is a multitasker. He enthusiastically works as an outdoor guide. He also has led large groups for backpacking at Bogota in Columbia. Hours of research and field experiences have helped him to stand as one of the best professional reviewers for anything related to outdoors. He improvises in using the right tool rather than packing tons of unnecessary things while outdoors.