August 30, 2021

What Is Bouldering? Beginner’s Guide + Top Bouldering Tips

by Kevin

Bouldering is fast mushrooming into the next big thing in the world of outdoor sports.

Bouldering is one of the types of climbing discipline that combines technical skills with physical strength that needs multiple problem-solving.

Therefore, if you are passionate about climbing but are not ready to take the plunge because the gear is costly, or it’s hard to get partners, or you are not a fan of being tethered to another person or a rope, then bouldering is the way to go.

The boulderers only wear climbing shoes and use chalk and chalk bags as gears.

You can practice bouldering either outdoors or indoors, depending on your preference.

So, let’s see what is bouldering.


Table of Contents
What is Bouldering
What Is Bouldering?

What Is Bouldering?

Bouldering is the simplest and easiest form of rock climbing, whereby one climbs very short but hard “problems” as you focus more on power and technique and less on endurance.

Bouldering is a raw form of rock climbing with more difficult climbing walls.

You will climb the walls with intense force in bouldering.

Bouldering is different because you will not use ropes and supports to climb the walls.

You must do it with your hands and a pair of climbing shoes.

You need a sharp mind and body to climb the boulders as it is a game of intense force and balance.

Most boulder climbing walls are not as high because climbers only have cushion mats to protect them.

If climbing walls are higher, climbers can also get hurt by falling on the mats.

By avoiding ropes, you will get a lot of freedom.

This freedom also comes with some risks.

You need more information to understand what bouldering is. It will help you understand this sport better.

So, bouldering is the following four things.

1. Pure rock climbing

You can say bouldering is pure rock climbing when someone asks what bouldering is.

It is a fact because other types of rock climbers use different gears to protect them from falling.

There are many safety gears and ropes for the protection of climbers.

2. Physical problem solving

Bouldering requires the support of your mind and body because every bouldering wall is a problem.

You need all your physical and mental strength to solve it.

The solution may not be the same for everyone.

Short people can easily conquer the canines on the bouldering wall.

3. The most social form of climbing

Bouldering is a social sport because you will discuss your climbing technique with others along your way to the top of the bouldering wall.

Bouldering does not require ropes.

Many people can climb the wall at once as there is a lot of space.

You will always find someone next to you.

4. A workout for the body and mind

Most sports only train your body to do impressive things.

It is not the same with all sports because boulder climbing can help sharpen your body and mind.

You cannot climb your way to the top by using extreme force only.

You have to balance your body on many boulders to reach the top.

A Brief History of Bouldering

Now, let’s dig a little bit into what gave bouldering its identity and where it hailed from.

It isn’t easy to pin down the exact history; however, what is now known as modern-day bouldering began as training for huge mountain ascents in the 19th century.

Originally, bouldering was a way of training and mountaineering.

Climbers would practice certain moves safely from the ground; this was a great way to increase your finger strength and build your stamina.

Here is an example of what type of exercises bouldering training may include.

During the 20th century, this sport evolved with different disciplines and gave the problems different ratings depending on difficulty.

However, in the olden times, the rating systems used are now different from the modern problems.

Nowadays, it’s either the Fontainebleau scale or V-scale.

Is Bouldering Rock Climbing?

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing with some differences.

You have to use different techniques for bouldering as there are no ropes in bouldering sports, as you have to climb without gears.

You can put a mat at the bottom of the bouldering wall, which only gives limited protection.

It is also known as pure rock climbing because you only depend on your physical strength.

There are no ropes to support your weight. It is harder than other types of rock climbing sports.

You can compare it with the sprint as you have to use all your force for a short time to climb the bouldering wall in the shortest time.

Most skills are the same as other forms of rock climbing.

You can repeat different rock climbing sequences to get better at boulder climbing.

Bouldering athletes do not focus on the climbing gears as they put all their energies into training their bodies to climb faster.

Bouldering Grades

Boulder grades are assigned to problems based on the level of difficulty.

However, grades are frequently debated in the climbing community.

Therefore, various parts of the world grade the problems differently, which causes a lot of confusion among participants.

The great thing about grading the problems is to point the climbers in the right direction on the climbs that one can enjoy and help them have a sense of improvement with time.

However, grades vary widely — particularly from outdoors to indoors.

How Tall Are Bouldering Walls?

Bouldering walls are not as high as the other climbing walls because climbers do not use ropes for protection.

You may find the most walls with a height of four meters.

It is the same as thirteen feet high.

Some walls are higher as they can reach four and a half meters.

It is equal to fifteen feet.

You can find walls of different heights at many locations. Indoor walls are usually shorter than outdoor walls.

All of these bouldering walls have mattresses with twelve inches of thickness to absorb the shock of falling and prevent injury.

You may find mats with more thickness in the outdoor bouldering walls.

Is Bouldering Part of the Olympics?

Bouldering was part of the Olympic games of Tokyo in 2021.

It was the first time they accepted bouldering as an Olympic sport.

It is hard to compete in the Olympics Bouldering because you have to master different types of rock climbing to win medals.

You can start with lead climbing.

Lead climbing allows the climber to attach the rope to the bolts during climbing.

Bouldering is a part of the competition.

They use the hardest bouldering walls to test the climbers.

Speed climbing is also a part of the Olympic climbing games.

You have to master all techniques.

What Are the Olympic Bouldering Rules?

There are very specific rules for bouldering in Olympics.

There are four boulders for men and women categories.

Climbers can reach the zone in the middle to get some points.

They will get total points if they reach the top of the boulder wall within four minutes.

Getting total points in one game does not ensure getting a medal.

You have to ace all games to reach the top.

Most competitions add the points to get the results.

It is not the case with the bouldering competition in the Olympics.

They multiply your points to get the final score.

If a person gets total points in one game and lower points in the second and third games, he will get scored by a multiplication.

You can multiply four by two and one to get 8 points.

It is his final score for the Olympics.

If a climber came at second position in all three games, he also gets 8 points as you multiply 2 three times.

If there is a tie between climbers, they decide the winner based on the number of attempts.

A climber with the least number of attempts will get the medal.

How High Is the Olympic Bouldering Wall?

The Olympics bouldering wall has an average height same as many other walls in different gyms.

The bouldering wall of the Tokyo Olympics had a height of 4 meters.

It makes 13 feet when you convert it into another scale.

It was hard to climb this wall due to inward facing corner.

Climbers had to use intense strength to overcome this problem.

You will notice many angles overhung on this climbing wall.

Who Won Bouldering at the Olympics in Tokyo 2021?

Alberto Gines Lopez won bouldering at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021.

He is a climbing athlete from Spain.

People will remember him in the history of climbing.

He is the first person to win the climbing gold medal in the Olympics.

He got 28 points by getting the first position in speed climbing.

He got the fourth position in lead climbing and the eighth position in bouldering.

Nathaniel Colemen came in second place and got a silver medal.

He is a climbing athlete from the United States.

The athlete from Austria got the bronze medal in boulder climbing in Olympics in 2021.

His name is Jakob Schubert.

In women’s combined climbing Janja Garnbret grabbed the gold, Miho Nonaka took the silver, and Akiyo Noguchi grabbed the bronze.

Is Bouldering Dangerous?

Bouldering is not a dangerous sport if you follow all guidelines and climb on the indoor bouldering walls.

You can minimize your risk of injury by learning how to fall properly.

You may see some bruises or cuts on the skin in most cases.

You will not get a severe injury if you learn how to act during falling.

Falling from indoor climbing walls does not cause severe injury.

Injuries are more common when climbing a wall outdoor.

Falling on the ground without a mattress can break your leg.

It is better to get help from a spotter.

You can ask your friends to come with you.

Is Bouldering Hard?

It is not technically accurate to call bouldering hard.

Most climbers prefer to call it a challenging sport.

You will learn something new every day.

Most climbers learn fast and start their way to the top of the bouldering walls.

It is similar to a workout on a treadmill because you have to use force to climb the wall in a short time.

Why Is Bouldering so Popular?

Bouldering is a healthy sport as you will increase your physical and mental strength.

People also climb bouldering walls to make social connections.

You will find many climbers on the wall as they do not use ropes.

You will get many bouldering gyms in your city.

It was not common in the past.

You may have a great conversation with someone on the climbing wall.

It can be similar to sitting and chatting in a cafe.

You can also learn from them and teach them all the things you learned online or during your journey as a climber.

Can You Do Bouldering Alone?

You can go bouldering alone in the indoor gyms.

There is no risk of falling because indoor bouldering walls are short.

These walls also have mattresses at the bottom.

Some climbers want to climb alone because they may have a competition ahead.

It is better to take someone with you when climbing boulders in the natural environment.

You can ask someone to come with you.

They can work as a spotter for you.

The person standing below can move the mattress according to your position.

You can avoid serious injury when you climb a bouldering wall alone in an outdoor setting.

What Are the Health Benefits of Bouldering?

There are many health benefits of boulder climbing.

You will get mental health benefits in these sports also.

You will get the advantages of cardio and strength training in this game.

The upper body part, core muscles, and back muscles increase strength when you climb boulders.

You may also see abs development when you climb boulders often.

Your brain takes a bouldering wall as a puzzle.

You can decide to place the hands and feet on the perfect boulders.

Your brain also controls your body during the balancing phase.

Your body will strengthen different muscles and core to overcome difficulties.

People forget about their stress when they are bouldering.

It can be a refreshing session for someone have emotional issues.

How to Start Bouldering?

Bouldering is a good way to start rock climbing.

It’s a sport that you could do either outdoors on huge boulders or in indoor bouldering gyms.

Here, you don’t need a partner, harness, or rope to start but just the gears; a pair of climbing shoes, some chalk and chalk bag, and a crash pad for outdoor bouldering.

Starting bouldering does not involve any equipment.

However, it would be best if you learned the basics of bouldering safely.

You are given an overview of bouldering gyms and their features that equip you with some basic techniques to get started.

How to Get into Bouldering?

With all the gears in place, you can get started into bouldering and:

  • Always make use of your legs rather than arms
  • Pretend those holds are fragile
  • Purchase the climbing shoes from a reputable brand
  • Always ask for guidance
  • Try our every move
  • Be confident even when you see people falling
  • Start with baby steps, not serious training

How Can I Get Better at Bouldering?

It is easy to learn boulder climbing as your body will learn different techniques to adapt to the strength requirements.

These points can help you find out what is bouldering.

  • Keep your body low to avoid arm exhaustion.
  • Do not bend your arms when not actively pulling.
  • Place the toe part of the shoe on the boulder instead of the shoe side.
  • Use legs instead of arms to push your body.
  • Plan to ensure you reach the top faster.

What Gear Do You Need for Bouldering?

Here is the most important bouldering gear for beginners.

Climbing shoes

SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Black/Orange - 9
162 Reviews
SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Black/Orange - 9
  • Stiff and Supportive | Slightly softer than the Instinct, the Instinct VS sports a thinner sole for added sensitivity, letting you feel the rock beneath your feet.
  • Toe Rubber | A large patch of rubber on top gives you maximum coverage for toe hooks and bat hangs.
  • Vibram Rubber | Stiff enough to let you stand on the thinnest edges, the XS Edge rubber in the forefoot pairs perfectly with the stickier XS Grip 2 heel rubber that molds perfectly to heel hooks on any rock type.

Last update on 2022-09-30 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

The climbing shoes are essential gear to help you secure your footholds.

For participants who are not willing to purchase their shoes or have no idea of the type of shoe to get, one can rent a pair from the local bouldering gym or read our guide for the best bouldering shoes for beginners.

Good Chalk

Friction Labs Secret Stuff Liquid Chalk, New Alcohol Free Blend - Sports Chalk Cream - Great Grip for Gymnastics, Rock Climbing, Sports, Lifting, Pull-Ups, Deadlifts, Kettlebells, Pole
  • QUICK, CONFIDENT GRIP: If you’re unsure of your grip, you hold back, make mistakes and don’t perform at your best. Whether it’s from sweat, moisture, humidity, or oils, Secret Stuff gives power and control to any athlete who needs dependable hands.
  • FOR ALL SKIN TYPES: No matter the climate or skin type, Secret Stuff is here for you. Original is great for humid climates. Alcohol-free is designed for climate-controlled gyms and/or sensitive skin. Hygienic delivers extra grip while killing germs.
  • NO MESS = GYM FRIENDLY: While many liquid chalks can reduce dust, Friction Labs is the only company with 2 liquid hand chalk formulas (Alcohol Free and Hygienic) that don’t leave ANY marks on clothes or equipment, and wash off hands in seconds.

Last update on 2022-09-29 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Good chalk will prevent your hands from slipping. Learn how climbing chalk is made and which type of climbing chalk to choose.

Liquid chalk is great for bouldering.

Bouldering Mats

Metolius Session II - Gray/Black
52 Reviews
Metolius Session II - Gray/Black
  • Redesigned flap closure system makes the pad easier to load; it reverses to cover up the shoulder straps while you're bouldering
  • 3 new drag handles make it easier to position the pad while it's unfolded
  • Tough exterior fabric stands up to regular use outdoors; carpeted logo gives you a place to wipe your shoes clean

Last update on 2022-09-30 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Another critically essential gear that people intending to kickstart bouldering outdoors should invest in is a decent bouldering crash pad.

The crash pad makes the sport significantly secure and safer, such that it serves as a mattress-like landing surface to prevent injury by cushioning a fall.

Today’s crash pads are easy to carry and extremely portable on your back or a vehicle.

The mat will help you from injuries if you fall since the participant has no harness or a rope supporting them, which is not an exception but a norm.

Learn further about proper falling when bouldering by reading our special article on how to fall when bouldering.

Chalk Bag

Sale
Sukoa Chalk Bag with Quick-Clip Belt and 2 Large Zippered Pockets
2,566 Reviews
Sukoa Chalk Bag with Quick-Clip Belt and 2 Large Zippered Pockets
  • Chalk Bag for Rock Climbing, Weightlifting, Bouldering, Gymnastics and Crossfit. Comes with easy-to-use quick clip belt. Clip on to harnesses and carabiners with ease thanks to the 2 loops on the back.
  • 2-pocket climbing bag for storing large valuables. Store your ID, keys, cards & large phones easily. Convenient rock climbing gear equipment allows you to never miss an opportunity to capture those breathtaking moments.
  • Large main compartment for chalk bucket accommodates big hands. Spend more time maneuvering through difficult spots instead of struggling with tiny chalk bag pockets.

Last update on 2022-09-30 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

The chalk bag is used to hold the chalk inside and keep it from getting wet and splitting.

What a Beginner Climber Should Expect when Bouldering for the First Time?

Now that bouldering gyms are getting more and more popular than before, they are coming with different configurations.

However, there are several constants that a participant can count on while at the bouldering walls.

The problems are usually coded with different colors to guide you on which holds to use depending on your experience.

If you are an experienced climber, head over to our advanced bouldering tips.

Once you start climbing, it’s advisable to use holds that only belong to that color.

The holds to start with are often marked obviously, with some colored box, extra tape, or a card written a grade on it.

You should ensure that you begin your hands on the first holds and go to the top of your climbing wall.

Also, as you climb to the top, you will realize that some gyms mark the hold at the top or close to the top of the wall.

Other gyms have places where one can “top out,” which means standing on top of the wall.

While doing outdoor bouldering, there’s a little bit of thinking involved; color coding and taping are not included.

Thus, you must ensure the foot- and handholds are in place despite most handholds being covered in chalk.

What Type of Boulders Can You Climb?

  • Overhangs: Here, you expect clean falls, big moves, and multiple new techniques to learn.
  • Slabs: They keep the body in shape very fast.
  • Roofs: these are extreme types of overhangs. The holds are bigger but with strength-intensive and gymnastic moves.
  • Vertical: Between the overhangs and slabs, vertical terrain requires strong fingers and good footwork.
  • Traverses: most gyms set up one long traverse, which is among the endurance-heavy problems in climbing boulders. There are also quality traverses outdoors.

How to Boulder Indoors?

There are several learning techniques and etiquette that a starter needs to know to go a long way. These few tips are helpful:

  • Straighten up your arms and keep the body low to help save some arm strength.
  • When alone, you can monopolize, but it’s good to get out of the way and share the climbing wall with a company.
  • It would be best if you only bent the arms while actively pulling yourself up.
  • Place the toes onto the footholds that face forward, not the side of the foot. It will help move the foot and push up the wall.
  • Stay close to the climbing wall, especially the hips, since that’s the center of balancing.
  • The legs should only be the part of the body that pushes you up, so focus less on using the arms.
  • Plan to ensure you get the hold that might be missing.

The Most Important Bouldering Terms You Need to Know

When you get into the bouldering career, there are some communication terms that you should learn to make easy interactions with fellow climbers.

Similar to other forms of climbing, bouldering has jargon as well.

Below is an incomplete number of terms that you are more likely to hear during bouldering:

  • Beta: It’s an insight or advice on how to execute a sequence or move.
  • Crux: It’s a term used to show a difficult sequence of motion in a bouldering problem.
  • Campus: Here is when you climb without involving your feet.
  • Dyno: It is a move that involves both hands and, at times, the feet where a participant jumps from one hold to another one.
  • Dead point: It’s a lengthy dynamic move using one hand or else finishing a move.
  • Flash: It’s climbing the wall on the first attempt and being successful after someone guides you or seeing someone do it.
  • Highball: Highball bouldering describes a boulder problem that is tall enough, and falling from there could lead to a serious injury.
  • Onsight: It’s when you attempt to climb a boulder without any information or guide about it, and you successfully make it.
  • Project: It’s the act of attempting a problem multiple times while learning.
  • Problem: Some hold from the starting to the ending point.
  • Traverse: To make lateral movements while climbing the wall. The list is endless. It takes time for beginners to follow, but as they gain more experience, everything becomes easy for them.
  • Top Out: It’s the act of climbing a wall until you get to the top and stand on the formation.

Final Thoughts on What Is Bouldering

Without much ado, this guide is enough to answer the question: What is bouldering?

It will help out people ready to enroll in a bouldering career.

It’s not a traditional form of climbing sport, but it’s one of the most modern.

Note that it does not involve obscure knots and tall walls and is fun when done in groups, particularly in towns where indoor climbing is common.

Amongst several climbing techniques, bouldering has a reputation for being difficult.

The moves might be hard, but it’s a great time to enjoy it with friends.

There are so many rewards from the awaiting rocks. It’s time to learn, train, and have fun socializing through bouldering.

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About the author 

Kevin

Kevin loves bouldering. Mainly because he can practice it alone without considering other people. Although he rediscovered this hobby in the last three years, the boulders turned out to be his most visited landmarks.

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