A Beginner’s Guide To Bouldering
If you thrive on adventure and are looking for the same adrenaline hit that comes with climbing, but without the heights, then bouldering could be the extreme sport for you.
As one of the most fun and social forms of climbing, bouldering tests your technique and strength to the limit.
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However, with bouldering, the only consequences of losing your grip is a short tumble onto a crash mat and the laughter of your friends. Needing little more than a pair of rock shoes when indoors, and only a portable crash mat in addition if you’re heading outside, bouldering is one of the most accessible types of climbing around.
In this short guide to bouldering, we tell you everything you need to know about this increasingly popular pastime.
What is bouldering?
Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is performed without ropes or harnesses. You might be thinking that this sounds like suicide – however, boulderers rarely climb above 4-5 metres, and use padded crash mats and spotters to soften any falls.
Originally practiced as way of preparing for rock-climbing during the off-season, bouldering has developed into a popular discipline in its own right. It is a great way to get a good workout, keep or get into shape and have fun, and is one of the most accessible forms of climbing around, as all you require are a pair of rock shoes and a chalk bag.
In recent years, indoor bouldering has become increasingly popular as a great way to work out and have fun at the same time.
What do I need for bouldering?
As one of the purest forms of climbing, bouldering doesn’t actually require that much specialist equipment. Beyond a pair of rock shoes and some comfy, unrestrictive clothing, there are just a few essentials you should look to buy.
First and foremost, you might want to invest in a decent bouldering mat. After all, this is what will be breaking your fall should suffer any slips. Modern bouldering pads are made using multiple density foams to give the best shock absorption, with very hard wearing outer fabrics to withstand abrasion and punctures by rock.
Other bouldering accessories such as chalk, a chalk bag, a brush and some finger tape are also a good idea.
If you’re climbing at an indoor wall, technical equipment such as climbing shoes and mats can usually be hired on site. Then, as you begin to progress, you can invest in your own climbing shoes and mats. However, it’s always best to get advice from an expert before going on a shopping spree.
Where to go
Unsurprisingly, the UK is bursting with great bouldering destinations, for both beginners and professionals. So, no matter where you live, there should be something with easy reach.
Some of the most popular beginner’s bouldering locations include St. Bees on the coast of the Lake District, near Whitehaven. Considered one of the nicest bouldering venues in the country, this sunny seaside destination boasts over 60 problems of varying grades on sandstone boulders. Elsewhere, the RAC Boulders in the heart of Snowdonia National Park are also a popular site for beginners, offering a superb venue for lower-grade bouldering.
For indoor bouldering, UKClimbing.com has a handy directory of over 3,800 indoor climbing venues, many of which offer bouldering facilities. However, it’s always worth calling your local indoor centre beforehand to make sure that they provide this form of climbing.