Getting Started in Bouldering: What You Need to Know

April 26, 2019

Bouldering is a discipline within climbing that develops stamina, finger strength and combining maneuvers to solve climbing routes. Most important, bouldering is done without safety harnesses or rope, and thus, it is done usually within 20 feet of the ground with crash pads on the ground to soften a fall. Although bouldering started out as merely a training method for other types of climbing, it has gained in popularity because of the low cost, social aspect and problem-solving thrills. Today, there are more than 400 climbing gyms in the United States, according to the Climbing Business Journal.

What You Need to Know About Bouldering

Bouldering Gear

Let’s start with safety: Get a crash pad. Essentially it’s a large thick foam pad to put at the bottom of your climb. Some climbers put several around the landing area. Because bouldering can take place in backcountry spots, look for a crash pad with comfortable straps for putting it on your back and hiking it in.

A good spotter is just as important. They should monitor your moves, reposition crash pads as necessary, and, if you do fall, try to steer your head and shoulders from hitting the ground first.

Next is rock shoes. These usually have a tight fit, and tacky soles.

Chalk keeps your hands dry and increases grip, while finger tape can reduce wear and injuries to your digits.

Learn of the Lingo

Surfaces: A flat vertical rock is known as a “face,” while an angled rock is called a “slab.”

Going sideways:When a route problem requires the climber to go sideways before heading up, they must complete a “traverse.”

Over head:A “roof” or “overhang” is when the rock bends back parallel to the ground and sits over your head.

Going higher: When the climber ventures beyond 20 feet off the ground, the boulder is called a “highball

Finale: Some climbs require a set of combination moves to ascend to top. Climbers refer to this as “topping out.”

Rate your Route

The bouldering community labels routes in the United States using a system called the V-Scale. VB routes are rated beginner, while the scale goes from V0 (easy) to V16 (most difficult) as you work to improve your strength, endurance, flexibility and problem-solving skills.

Remember to start out with stretching before sessions and training with qualified instructors as you grow your skillset.