Sick and tired of getting tangled in ropes during your climb? Then this is the perfect time to try bouldering! Bouldering is basically rock climbing stripped to its raw essentials. No ropes, no harnesses, just you and the rock. Plus it’s way more affordable. Finally, bouldering sites are often easily accessible and perfect for groups of any sizes.
Bouldering requires three essentials: rock climbing shoes, chalk and a chalk bag.
- Rock Climbing Shoes: These specialized shoes have a rubber bottom to help you stay on the rock. Buy shoes a size smaller than your normal street shoes, because you want your toes to curl up and help balance on small footholds. The only downside is that walking in these shoes is slightly discomforting (to put it mildly).
- Chalk: Sweaty hands? Chalk helps prevent this and provides for a steadier grip. You can either get this in block form or crushed powder form. Regardless, chalk is very inexpensive, averaging $1-5 for a decent amount.
- Chalk Bag: Chalk bags come in all shapes, sizes and colors. As long as you pick one that quickly slides into your hand, the world is your oyster. Just pick one that won’t fumble around as you cling to a rock.
If you want to avoid additional cuts or callouses on your hands, use tape on your fingers.
Though conceptually simple (you are essentially climbing a giant rock or boulder), bouldering requires technique, footwork, strength and endurance. You must be able to navigate across rocks to reach the top. Here are some tips to help make bouldering more fun for you:
- Don’t hug the rock: We understand, it’s scary! But many beginners grip to the rock, making it much harder to stabilize. You want to keep a little distance between you and the rock (enough to keep your hips centered over your feet). The common misconception is that bouldering is simply brute strength. However, this is truly a sport of balancing so do not forget to focus on this.
- Keep it low: Rather than climbing up, bouldering focuses on horizontal movements. We don’t expect you to climb towering heights with no equipment! Be sure to stay close to the ground. For your safety, set up a crash pad below your climb or find a spotter in case you fall.
- Use your legs: Another misconception is that climbing only involves a strong upper body. This is not true. Your quads are among the strongest muscle in your body. Pushing with your legs and pulling with your arms in harmonious rhythm will give you the most power.
- Be hands on: Don’t over-grip the rock. This will cause you to cramp and lose contact. Constantly look for cracks, depressions or protrusions and maintain your balance with handholds rather than death grip.
- Toeing, edging, smearing: These are the three basic foot positions. In toeing, use your toes on the foothold to stabilize yourself. In edging, the edge of your foot supports your body. On slick surfaces with no foothold, use smearing. In smearing, you hold on to the rock with the balls of your feet. Mastering these three positions and you will be surprised by how little foothold your feet needs to move.
So, set off on your bouldering adventure today! You can start at a rock climbing gym near you. In LA we’ve found a ton of great ones Rockreation being just one of our favorites. Just remember to be respectful and clean up after any chalk mess. As always, be fearless and have fun!