Basics of Bouldering

New to rock climbing? Well then, give your confidence a boost with bouldering.

Practice your moves and challenge your physical and mental capabilities with complex maneuvers. Not only is bouldering a great way to get your hands dirty, but you can give your body a workout it’s never even seen before.

Nervous? Don’t be.

You decide how high you go. Besides, your friends will be right there with you cheering you on. Just grab a rope and crash pad, and get to it!

If you already know your stuff and you’re bored with the same old climbing routine, this heart-pumping exercise can push you to the limit as you solve complex, overhanging problems. And no matter how many times you do it, it’s pretty hard for bouldering to get dull.

What You’ll Need

You’re probably eager to start climbing boulders.

But not so fast! You’ll still need basic equipment. The good news? Bouldering gear is pretty inexpensive to obtain and chances are you already have everything you need.

You only really need three items.

  • Climbing shoes: This is the most obvious piece of equipment. If you have a good pair of shoes with a sticky rubber bottom, bouldering will be a snap. Try shoes with a hook-and-loop closure. And if you’re going to do lots of overhanging, get a pair with downturned toes. Of course, climbing shoes are meant to fit as snugly around your feet as possible, so be prepared for a little discomfort. But don’t forget to clean your shoes! You want those rubber soles to stick to the rocks while you climb. For effective cleaning, try rubbing your shoes together until they make a squeaking noise.
  • Chalk bag with chalk: A small nylon chalk bag just perfect for hanging around your waist is a climber’s best friend. The best bag is one that you can easily access on the boulder. Chalk is essential for getting rid of greasy fingers and easing up difficult climbs. You don’t want to slip before you’ve even made decent progress.
  • Appropriate clothing: Wearing clothing appropriate for bouldering might seem like common sense, but it’s important to mention it anyway. You want plenty of room to move around without getting all sweaty. Clothes that drive moisture away from your body are just perfect for solving those difficult bouldering problems. Wear stretchy, light pants that are cropped at the ankle for easy movement.

That’s all there is to it!

Grab your climbing shoes. Let’s learn some bouldering tips.

Master Bouldering with These Handy Tips

There are a number of techniques you can try to make your bouldering experience a wee bit easier.

Let’s look at a few.

  • Keep those climbing shoes clean. Don’t make the mistake every other climber makes. You don’t want to leave grit on your soles because that dirt will cling to the boulder and make future bouldering attempts more difficult. It’s better to clean your shoes before and after you go bouldering. Wipe away grime by shoving the toes of your shoes together until you see fresh rubber. Your own saliva also works well as a cleaning tool. And if you prefer, grab a sanding belt and remove oxidized rubber from the bottom of your shoes to make them really sticky.
  • Know what you’re getting into in advance. Get some guide books from any outdoor store. These will often have information about local climbing areas as well as the difficulty levels of certain routes.
  • Stretch before a climb. Don’t just stretch your arms and legs. Stretch your wrists and back. You’ll need to be flexible on the boulder. You can also avoid cramps and sores later by giving your limbs a good stretch.
  • Whip out the chalk. Chalk is a useful tool for preventing slips and falls. Use it on your hands and shoes before busting out your moves. Keep your chalk bag around your waist while you climb so that it’s always available when you need it.
  • Get a good visual. Bouldering is a mental exercise as well as a physical one. You’ll want to analyze the rock and find the most efficient path to your destination. If you find the path you picked out is less than ideal while climbing, don’t panic. Relax and find another way to reach your destination.
  • Focus on your feet. Your ability to boulder well will rely on how effectively you can find the right foot placements. Put more body weight on your feet and suddenly you tire less easily than if you were to use your arms to heave yourself up.
  • Know your foot positions. There are three basic ones. Toing is when you use your toes to balance on a foothold. Edging, on the other hand, requires the use of the edge of your foot for gripping holds. Smearing is useful for those situations when there aren’t any holds. You’ll need to put your foot flat on the rock formation, using your shoe to grip the boulder.
  • Get familiar with the different holds. Occasionally, you’ll come across sidepulls, where the opening you hold onto is on the side of the hold, and underclings, where the opening is facing downward on the bottom of a hold. Always keep your arms straight while bouldering. When dealing with sidepulls, grasp the hold from the side as you keep your body close to the rock. Underclings are different as you’ll need to grip the hold with your palms upward, pushing higher with your feet.
  • Stay close to the ground. The whole point of bouldering is the horizontal climb. Don’t worry about going high. Instead, keep it low. Avoid going higher than a few feet off the ground.
  • Keep your movements constant. Relax your muscles while you climb. Put most of your weight on your feet as you move from one foothold to the next.
  • Use cracks and protrusions to your advantage. These work well as handholds and will help you maintain your grip. But don’t hug the boulder! You’ll want to keep a short distance between the rock and your body if you’re going to maintain balance.

Most of all, stay consistent from start to finish. If you’re going to get the most out of bouldering, you’ll want to make it a routine exercise.


3 Comments » for Basics of Bouldering
  1. Jack says:

    “Just grab a rope and crash pad, and get to it!”

    You’ve not thought this through, have you?

  2. nothin_nyce1 says:

    I have been told by many people that for indoor routes you usually are meant to begin with extended arms (results in hanging). Would be that the proper start position?

    Even the gym I climb at doesn’t have natural features around the walls, but not the perimeters of walls are close enough and also at enough position to assist. Some routes it appears nearly impossible to prevent while using walls like a hold however they will not mark a wall for any route. So might be walls fair play or otherwise?

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