Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that does not require you to have a harness or be tied in, because you will not be climbing very high. Bouldering is a great way to get some exercise and have a great time while doing so. You might think that you are not physically fit enough to boulder. This isn't true. Most bouldering walls have beginner routes available so even couch potatoes can begin climbing.
Step 1: Pick a Location
When you are deciding on a location for bouldering there is a variety of aspects you must consider in order be successful. The first aspect to consider is whether you would like to bouldering indoors or outdoors.
- If you are just beginning I would recommend bouldering indoors at a climbing gym. Indoor bouldering walls have a variety of routes with many different difficulties so there is sure to be something to match your skill level. Bouldering at a gym is also convenient. At most gyms you can rent all the equipment you need (we will discuss equipment in the next step), and they usually have taken the necessary safety measures to minimize injury.
- If you would like to boulder outdoors you should plan ahead and make sure you have a soft landing pad (just is case you fall). You should check the weather to make sure that there will not be any extreme weather while you are bouldering.
Step 2: Gathering Equipment
When you are going bouldering you are going to want to bring
- Climbing shoes - These should be nice and tight, but if your feet hurt too bad for you to be able to climb you should go up a size. Having tight shoes allows your feet to better hold on to the holds on the climbing wall which is essential.
- Chalk(optional) - Chalk can be very helpful when you are climbing. Sometimes when you are bouldering your hands will end up being sweaty which makes it much harder to hold on to things. This is where the chalk comes in, put some on your hands and it will dry them right up and you will be ready to boulder again.
- Chalk Bag(optional) - A chalk bag holds all your chalk and one place and usually has a strap so you can wear it around your waste while you are climbing just in case you need to chalk-up will you are on the wall.
- Water Bottle - You hands won't be the only thing sweating while you are climbing so it is important to stay hydrated and drink lots of water.
You should also wear the proper attire when you boulder. What you consider proper attire is up to you. Many people prefer to wear jeans or long pants because they protect you from scraping you legs on the wall. Other people prefer to wear shorts because it gives them more freedom. What ever kind of cloths you wear they should not restrict your movement and they should not be too loose enough to get in your way.
Bonus tip: Clip your fingernails before going bouldering. Trying to grab a small hold with long fingernails is painful.
Step 3: Pick a Route to Climb
Now that you have all your equipment it is time to pick a route. Most indoor climbing gyms have routes set for you to follow. These routes will usually be marked with a certain color of tape or have a certain color hold. The bottom of the route will be marked with a "V" shape and so will the top hold.
When you pick a route to climb consider its difficulty, most routes will have a difficulty rating. Most gyms use a v-rating system where routes are rated with a v and a number, v0 being the easiest and then working their way up.
Step 4: Plan Your Route
Now that you have picked your route you should plan how you are going to climbing it.
- First, you should find all the holds that are a part of your route. You are only allowed to use holds that have the same color marking as the route you are attempting to climb.
- Once you have picked out all the holds that are a part of your route, you should plan which holds you will grab with your hands. Pay close attention to which hand you plan to grab a hold with, sometimes the order which you grab the holds can make a very big difference.
- After you have a plan for your hands you should consider where you are going to place your feet. Feet positioning is vital to successful bouldering. When you are trying to go upwards make sure you get your feet as high as possible, sometimes you need to put your feet on a hold that your hand was just on.
While you are planning it can sometimes help to feel holds so you know how you should grab them. Sometimes you might have to climb up to a hold to feel it.
Step 5: Climb the Route
Once you have planned your route it is time to begin climbing.
WARNING: In this step you will be climbing up the wall. Some routes will take you high enough on the wall that it would hurt to fall even though there are mats. It is important to not be out of control when you are climbing so that if you fall you can land properly and without injury.
- The route will probably start close to the ground. Most routes start with what is called a "sit start" this means that you hold on to the beginning hold that is marked with a "V" and sit on the ground (as shown in the picture) and pull yourself up from there.
- Follow the steps that you had planned in the previous step.
- Carefully reach and grab each hold as you progress toward the top of the wall.
Helpful Tip: As you climb try to keep your hips closer to the wall. This will help to keep your weight closer to the wall which makes it easier to hold on.
Remember to follow the moves that you had planned earlier as you work your way to the top hold marked with a "V". This is the physical step and is matter of putting your plan into action and having the determination to reach the top.
Step 6: Finish the Route
In order to finish the route you must place both hands on the top hold marked with a "V". Once you have done so you have officially completed the route.
The next thing you have to do is get down. You have two options to do so.
Sometimes the top hold is not that high. In cases like this, it might be easiest to simply jump down from the finish hold to the soft padded mats beneath you. WARNING: If you jump down make sure there is no one underneath you, and be careful, one small blunder can result in a sprained ankle.
The other option is to climb your way down. On your way down you do not have to worry about using only the holds that are a part of your route, you can use whatever holds make it easiest to reach the ground safely.
Once you have reached the ground safely you climb is complete. Congratulations!! As you practice more and more you will be able to complete harder and harder routes.