Starting out in bouldering

Starting out in bouldering

Bouldering is the easiest aspect of climbing to get started in. It requires minimal equipment and is probably the most social form of climbing. Amongst other things, this article gives tips on where and how best to start bouldering.

Most climbing walls have bouldering sections, usually with marked and graded problems, and there are more and more dedicated bouldering centres springing up. Bouldering is currently very much in vogue.

Most areas of Britain have outdoor bouldering venues nearby and guidebooks that cover the problems (routes), or on-line guides and topos (drawings of where the routes are).


Bouldering is very much in vogue

The boulderer today is spoilt for choice around the world, too. Fontainbleu, France, in particular has thousands of problems and is a Mecca for outdoor bouldering.

Information on bouldering areas is now widely available, especially via the web, so it is easier than ever to select a suitable venue - be it climbing wall or outoors - to get started. While location will be important, don't forget to check there is a decent spread of lower grade routes for you to try.

Landings and top outs when outdoor bouldering

Choose a venue with good soft, flat landings and good finishing holds for your first steps in outdoor bouldering. Modern guidebooks generally inform you about the number and grade of problems, the landings and sometimes the top outs. If you are unsure of the top out, climb up the descent route to look at the finishing holds - this is worth doing especially after bad weather when holds may be full of water or wet leaves. Use a bouldering mat. Even landing on seemingly flat grass can result in sprains, plus it gives you something dry from which to start the problem.

Of all the climbing disciplines, bouldering can be done with the least equipment.

Equipment

Of all the climbing disciplines, bouldering can be done with the least equipment. Rock shoes should be a first consideration as they are much more effective than trainers or walking boots. See Kit for more information about climbing boots. A carpet square or rag to dry the soles of your boots is cheap and handy. A chalk bag will also prove useful.

Solo or group bouldering

Bouldering can be enjoyed on your own, but bouldering with a group of friends has a number of advantages.
  • You can spot each other
  • Use a team approach to problem solving
  • Positive group dynamics provide great motivation
  • It's a good laugh
Select your bouldering friends with care as they may influence how well you climb - especially as you must have confidence in your spotter to perform at your best when committing to the more technical problems.

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