Instructables
Bouldering: climbing on large boulders, either for practice or as a sport in its own right. (Oxford American Dictionaries)

Finding a decent boulder to climb on is harder than it may seem. Here are some steps to follow in finding a place to climb for practice or sport.

This instructable is written so that a person doesn't need to be able to identify different types of rocks or rock formations (another instructable waiting to happen). I apologize to those climbers that feel that most of the information conveyed here is common sense. However, I would appreciate feedback if you feel that I left something out.

I hope to update this regularly with pictures, comments and advice as I find more places to climb.

(And remember, climbing is inherently dangerous. You do so at your own risk.)
 
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Step 1: Drive/walk/bike and have a look around.

Generally speaking, in order to climb, one needs to have vertical elevation. So, you are going to want to get off your couch and travel around your town looking for boulders (obviously), hills (may potentially have an exposed rock face) and public parks (you never know when city planners will drop in a boulder for decoration).

Of course, if you live somewhere as flat as a pancake, you are mostly out of luck. For argument's sake, I will include on my list of places to boulder retaining walls and canals made of natural rock (or stone bricks). However, technically speaking, climbing man-made structures is considered "buildering" and usually quite illegal and dangerous.
ilpug2 years ago
If those pictures aren't taken below the ruins of Sutro Baths, I shall eat a hat.
randofo (author)  ilpug2 years ago
Yes. That is the place.
ilpug randofo2 years ago
I wen back there but that specific rock was underwater. Farther up the cliffs there was some good climbing, if a bit crumbly.
ilpug randofo2 years ago
Yay, I can recognize things! :P

I'm taking some friends to SF in a week, and I will for sure go there again.
crapflinger7 years ago
damned boulder monkeys....either rope up or get off my rock ;)...kidding..bouldering's great for strength building and technique gathering...i don't boulder...because my attention span isn't there for it...and well...it's alot easier to get into a place where you're climbing out of your skill range..very quickly... Trad's the way to go...place it as you move...take it with you when you leave...the only evidence you where there is the chalk...
randofo (author)  crapflinger7 years ago
I'm too poor for anything but bouldering. I like it because I have a bad shoulder and only have to fall a few feet when my arm gives out in a moment of blinding pain... but truthfully, even so, I liked doing it before my shoulder decided to hate me.
syco123 randofo3 years ago
I'm with you mate. Bouldering and sport is just practice for trad. Climb safe!
nomuse4 years ago
I really have to add -- I think it is important enough to made a step all on its own -- figure out where you will be AFTER you've climbed up.  I put myself into this position once when totally alone at fontainbleu; I went up a face I was sure had a clean walk-out only to find out it was actually a detached boulder and the other sides were worse...it was tough going and very exposed getting back down the way I had come.


ryguydub4 years ago
if it's a new bouldering spot, expect to break off obvious loose flakes here and there. it may take some 'traffic' over the routes to clean it up, but if you are pulling bits off every hold, the rock is crap.

refrain from climbing on wet rock. besides the dangers involved, waterlogged rock tends to break easier, degrading the a potentially good dry climb.
zip0nada4 years ago
Personally, these are the sort of things I think about as soon as I see a potential bouldering spot. Step two, rather than step four, but I suppose it doesn't matter that much as long as you don't get too overzealous testing the rock.
Rishnai6 years ago
Back in junior high my friends and I used to climb the janitor's shed and sit on it in between classes. The whole place was built with just the right brick offsets that we could have probably climbed the main building, too, if we had wanted to. I like bricks that when viewed from the side, look like this: | | | | | | | | | | etc.
Rishnai Rishnai6 years ago
Oops, I mean: | | | | .| | | | | .| | |
yea, my school's like that to, and some banks around here...
I'd love to climb up a bank. There are some really neat skyscrapers that I'd love to climb, too, but I'm not sure that I'd be able to get down.
Rishnai6 years ago
Amen to the thing about the approach being more dangerous. My family used to own a chunk of land just across the highway from Pike's Peak, and there was this really nice boulder formation there. Of course, it was a long hike up a scree slope to get to the flat area where the boulders were-- Not fun! I loved climbing them, though, especially given the view and the fact that it was a nice level meadow to fall on. Moral of the story: it may be a great spot, but think about how you're gonna get there. A lot of people don't think of that.
randofo (author)  Rishnai6 years ago
Indeed. I know someone who went all the way to Utah for a week and broke his ankle on the first day trying to get to the climb..
Rishnai randofo6 years ago
Yeah. Common sense ain't so common. At best it'll ruin your trip, at worst, it'll take your life.
Wade Tarzia6 years ago
I have to get this off my chest. Some spots are best when you can't be spotted. There are great bouldering/tiny cliffs behind the campus where I teach. I would climb out there between classes. The property is owned by the school, and the hiking trails have a 'hike at your own risk' sign, but one day someone called the campus cops on me. The cop hiked up and told me to get off. I asked, But why? He said -- my paraphrase -- I don't really know but it must be bad. I said, The hike at your own risk sign should cover everybody's asses. He said, I don't know, but you gotta get off the rock. This happened in the fall. Now I can climb only when the leaves camoflage me. What good was the sign?
macmaniac6 years ago
When I go climbing, I find that my spotter can, as well as keep me (fairly) safe when I fall, give me encouragement and guide me to the best path or foot/handhold.
VERY organized and thorough.
jongscx6 years ago
Step 7: Wait, why did you need a self timer? Were you bouldering ALONE? didn't you just tell us not to do that?!? I'M SO CONFUSED!!! (Disclaimer: I'm not as crazy as I sound.)
randofo (author)  jongscx6 years ago
My climbing partner is blind.
leevonk7 years ago
there's even some good places in central park nyc
I think that Topeka, Kansas counts as "flat as a pancake."
randofo (author)  leevonk7 years ago
Yeah.... there's a bunch of good places, but people climb on them so much that the holds fall off and they have to glue them back on. And little demon children throw pebbles and injured pigeons at you from the top of Chess Rock (don't ask). Also, there are places to climb in that park in the north Bronx, but that is a whole 'nother story. The retaining wall in one of the pictures was taken by the boathouse (go to 72nd street and keep walking west) and it is quite fun to top out onto the West Side Highway.
canida7 years ago
Nice overview!

I'd add one more thing about height. Determine how high you're comfortably able to ascend unroped (ie, how far can you safely fall? This will depend on you, the ground conditions, and your spotter), and identify that height on your rock face. Identify some features at that height, and don't climb above them, even if you see an awesome hand-hold. Your spotter can help keep you in line.

Bouldering is typically performed fairly close to the ground, with the emphasis on traversing the side of a rock face rather than ascending more than a short distance. Unroped ascent is usually referred to as free climbing, and can be quite dangerous. Proper bouldering should result in mere scrapes and bruises when you (inevitably) take a tumble.
qtm canida7 years ago
No, you're thinking of "free soloing", people who climb without the protection of a rope. "Free climbing" is climbing without the use of artificial aid, which means not pulling yourself up the rope or pulling on gear. You can both "free solo" and "free climb", but most climbers "free climb" with a rope for protection. Bouldering is as diverse as the rock. There's no emphasis on traversing, except where the rock lends itself to be traversed. "Proper bouldering" doesn't keep you from getting injured when you pop off. What keeps you from serious injury are your spotters. The more the better. You might have a good idea how you're going to come off most of the time, but when a hold breaks and you go spinning out into space, it's your spotters that help guide you to the soft landing on the pads. Hopefully... they can only do so much. Even with the best spotting, you can still land wrong and seriously twist your ankle, even if you're just one foot off the ground. And there are always injuries to spotters, broken fingers, sprained wrists, even worse... stay awake when spotting!
randofo (author)  canida7 years ago
Hmmm... good point. Height is kind of important.
qtm7 years ago
Watch out for the traffic (and the cops). Because these tunnels and overpasses are built for cars, the surfaces and cracks will be coated with all sorts of nasty grime built up over decades. Wash your hands afterwards, and bring something to clean any nicks and scratches.
Jack Attack7 years ago
Very nice. I have been climbing for a number of years, mostly in indoor competitions (I have some outdoor experience also). I placed sixth out of about 120 in my region in the USA climbing sport climbing series last year, and the first comp for this season is in eight days (I can't wait!). A general rule of thumb for bouldering is to have a crash pad if you waist will be more than 8 feet above the ground, especially if you don't have a spotter. I'm planning on posting an instructable on the fundamentals of climbing, and that should be up in the next few weeks. Please, please, please do not climb anywhere where the surface you will land on is dangerous. I was bouldering in Central Park a few years ago and I fell about six feet right on my butt and the ground was coated in broken beer bottles, that was very painful. Also, it is very important that you know how to fall safely, with or without a spotter. The most important thing is that you don't stick your arms out behind you, which puts all the pressure on your elbows, and that will cause them to telescope (the elbow pops out of its socket and the bone slides all the way up your forearm- very messy). While falling you should curl up into a ball, land on your butt, and immediately roll backwards. You may end up doing several backward sumersaults and you will be very dizzy, but you wont break anything. Just make sure there is plenty of room behind you. Good job covering the basics.