Pelican Flyer • October 13, 2020
In general, bouldering is a lot like rock climbing, but without all the ropes, harnesses and hardware. Also, instead of scaling a high craggy rock face, you are climbing large rocks. Bouldering has also grown in popularity due to its relatively affordable equipment (or lack thereof).
But other than these fundamental underlying differences, what is bouldering? In this quick guide, we break down bouldering basics, from essential gear, V-Scale ratings and common obstacles you might face as you climb.
Ready to try your soon-to-be callused hand at bouldering? Here is the essential bouldering gear you need.
As eager as you might be to try bouldering, first-timers should stick to a climbing gym. Climbing gyms can offer many route options that help you gain the experience you need before trying the real thing. Once you’re ready, then you can find local bouldering routes. Seek advice from climbing shops, clubs and fellow climbers to get the good beta (insider info) and research guide books for more in-depth planning. It also helps to learn how to read a topographic map.
Unlike rope climbing, bouldering doesn’t require a belay partner. But that’s not to say you can go it alone. At the very least, bring along a friend to spot you and be there in case you fall. If they’re a climber, even better! They can offer you tips and advice as you learn the ropes (figuratively, of course, since bouldering is sans rope). If you don’t have climbing friends, sign up for a bouldering class to learn more techniques and make more bouldering buddies.
When researching bouldering routes, you need to pay attention to the ratings. Ratings will tell you the experience level required. Bouldering ratings, also called the V-Scale, go as follows:
The V-scale is a bit subjective and based on each location. When starting out, stick with VB routes or somewhere on the lower scale. Even experienced hard-grade rope climbers find they need to use VB, so there’s no shame in taking it one boulder step at a time.
As you begin bouldering, you’ll run into several problems, which coincide with a V-Scale rating. Here are the most common bouldering problems you’ll face:
Rock climbers have a rope to protect them from falls. But bouldering is a bit riskier, which is why safety should be of utmost importance. Here are some must-know bouldering safety tips:
Bouldering is an exhilarating yet peaceful Zen-like activity. Before long, you’ll be dedicating hours and eventually years on a single “project” so you can proudly say you completed the V-Scale route.
On your first bouldering adventure, remember the seven Leave No Trace Principles and, in general, be considerate of other climbers. If you’re a beginner, take your time, but not too long that other climbers can’t enjoy.
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