by Jullie

September 15, 2021

How to Spot while Bouldering

Spotting is a skill. Good spotting will eliminate almost all of the falling hazards when bouldering, freeing the climber to focus on the climb.

This article examines some of the difficulties at hand as well as possible solutions. Read further to understand how to spot while bouldering inside or outside.

Lay the Groundwork

Be ready for your boulderer to fall, virtually on you, if you’re going to spot effectively. It would be best if you made an effort, which entails paying close attention at all times.

Spotting Techniques for Bouldering

Communication

To make both the climber and the spotter more comfortable, identify pad motions and potential problems before the boulderer takes the first step. 

Inquire about possible cruxes and make predictions about where your boulderer could land.

Spotters are also there for support and guidance, and having a bunch of people cheering you on will frequently help you stay in the game longer.

Adjustment and Positioning of Pads

One of the most important jobs of a spotter is to properly set up the pads and adjust them between tries to avoid the common but easily avoidable lower-leg and ankle injuries that occur when boulderers land in the right zone but on an irregular surface or space in the pads. 

Because pads move after each fall, both the climber and the spotter should communicate to confirm the pads are properly located and make necessary adjustments.

On-the-spot Problem-solving

Spotters should rearrange the pads to achieve optimal placement, particularly on highballs or traverses, and be versatile about their standing positions.

As you change the pads, engage your boulderer so they are aware and you don’t finish in the landing site. 

Spotting for Bouldering

Here is some professional advice:

  • Keep your setting clean-when you are shuffling pads, make sure the rest of your gear (backpacks, food, shoes) is neat, so the pads don’t get stuck on anything.
  • Drag the pads by their corners, ensuring the straps are tucked away or tightened down, as they can get caught on rocks and roots.
  • Avoid tossing pads around indiscriminately while the boulderer is ascending; instead, practice or visualize shifting the pads before they begin. Be careful about which pads are permanent and which are mobile.

Modify Your Spot

Body positioning

The conventional position of the body is a counterbalanced position, with one foot before the other and slightly bent knees. 

Because the climber’s force will shove you backward, your knees will take the brunt of the pressure. Also, be aware of what is behind you (stumps, rocks) to keep your balance.

Hands

It’s recommended that your thumbs be inside in terms of hand positioning. When your boulderer comes crashing down, you will not snap your fingers. 

In addition, keep your hands bent, in a modest hug-like position, in preparation for catching a fall. Learn further about proper falling in our special article for falling techniques in bouldering.

You’ll often catch the climber around their center of gravity and direct them to the ground while protecting their head, spine, and neck.

How to Spot for Bouldering

Advanced spotting

Now that we have covered the basics let’s move on to some more advanced methods.

Techniques dependent on the situation:

What if the Boulderer is Much Bigger than You? 

The easiest method to decelerate someone larger than you or prevent a massive fall is to double-hand their butt. 

It’s preferable to get over the awkwardness of this technique than to injure your climber.

The fairy’s capture

If the boulderer is smaller than you, grab their waist as they descend to slow them down and gently set them on the pads.

You need a lot of practice and familiarity to pull this technique off.

The takedown

You might be trying to keep your boulderer away from rocks or other items on the ground in some cases. 

You can try pushing the boulderer forward or sideways toward the pads from this position. After you’ve steered the climber into the pads, go for the waist and butt-shove to decelerate the fall.

Cave snag

Climbers might come off in unexpected ways when dealing with overhanging difficulties. Having your hands beneath your armpits instead of your hips ensures a perfect spot. 

The climber can fall on their legs or feet rather than toppling backward. To give a sufficient spot, go underneath the boulderer, even if it involves kneeling uncomfortably.

Group catch

When there are several spotters, it’s critical to coordinate and ensure that everyone understands their responsibilities. 

It can be beneficial for one of the spotters to take leadership in large groups with many pads. The rest of the spotters can monitor different landing zone positions while one person coordinates.

Bouldering Tips to Skyrocket Your Bouldering Skills

Highballs

The spotter must be ready to take a tremendous amount of energy when dealing with these significant difficulties. You are not present to catch them but rather to soften the fall. 

Spotters are still helpful above 20 ft, but their mission will now be to provide psychological support and prevent the boulderer from significant injury-in other words, to make sure the boulderer falls upright. 

Spotters are present to offer an extra point of contact if the climber rolls or bounces from the pads after landing. Spotters should also ensure that they’re far enough back to prevent the climber from falling behind them.

Power-spots

Here the spotter lifts the climber’s weight to perform crux climbs and gain a feel for generating off holds they’re having difficulties with. 

Push on the rear of your boulderer’s hips to transfer their weight towards the rock and give a strong power spot. 

Communication is key, as an uninvited power-spot may be an unpleasant experience for everyone concerned. The push movement helps balance your muscles.

Head and Neck

A rolled or fractured ankle is the most common bouldering injury. Head and neck injuries, on the other hand, can happen-and they can be fatal. 

Here are some suggestions:

  • The most important thing for you to do is maintain your climber erect and protect their head and neck. Keep this in mind at all times. 
  • Stay on them until they’ve topped out because you don’t know what could happen-the climber could shatter a hold, dry fire, or panic and bail.
  • After the climber has landed, keep a firm grip on them to prevent them from tumbling or bouncing into any risks. Jackets, pads, and other items can be used to cover stones and other dangers on the ground-be creative! 
  • Push your climber toward the pads if she falls headfirst into an obstacle, though it means they risk lower-body damage. When highballing, the climber should wear a helmet.

If you are advanced in bouldering, be sure to read our special article on bouldering tips to improve your boulder skills.

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About the author 

Jullie

Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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