First Time Bouldering: Things to Expect

When you start your first time bouldering, you can’t expect to be able to solve the problems right off the bat. Bouldering takes a lot of practice, strength, flexibility and above all patience.

If you are a beginner when it comes to the sport of bouldering, it is best to start your training in indoor climbing gyms. Indoor climbing gyms will provide you with the necessary equipment, mentorship and training that will be useful once you start to climb outdoors.

Indoor Bouldering

In indoor climbing gyms boulder problems will be coded with color, using either colored tape or the color of the holds itself. In order to climb a boulder problem, you need to use only one color to climb. Each color represents a boulder problem. So following only one color means you are solving a boulder problem.

If you are having a hard time finding a starting point, that is no problem as they are usually easily marked. This starting point is usually marked with an extra piece of tape or the climbing grade of the boulder problem. To resolve a boulder problem, use your hands and feet to climb the wall until you reach the finishing hold. The finishing hold is usually also marked. Some gyms offer “top out” which means climbing all the way to the top of the boulder.

Once you have mastered all the bouldering problems with different grade levels in an indoor gym, you can move on to outdoor bouldering.

Outdoor Bouldering

When trying to solve boulder problems outdoors, a little more thinking is involved. You need to have route-finding skills that will help you in finding the route that suites your skill level. Since there will be no colored tape or markings, you will have to search for hand and foot holding by yourself.

Usually, outdoor bouldering involves “topping –up”. This means that you climb to the top of the formation. Remember, once you “top-up” you will have to find a bouldering route back down. Be aware that “topping-up” can be the most stressful part of the climb.

How to Fall Properly

Bouldering does not take you to far of the ground. Usually bouldering problems are no more than 12-15 feet in height. Over that it may be considered free soloing. Though you are not too high off the ground, the possibility of falling and injuring yourself is still a risk. So how do you fall properly?

Firstly, make sure you lay your crash pad below the area you will be climbing. Secondly, makes sure that the pad is free of any obstructions or equipment that you could land on. Keep in mind that falling safely is a skill on its own so it is best to practice falling as well while you are training in indoor climbing gyms.

Falling can be a pretty daunting ordeal but once you learn how to fall properly it can be a bit thrilling. When falling make sure not to try and grab any holds on the way down, own the fall and don’t try to slow it down. Accept that you are falling and stay engaged, but also not stiff and prepare yourself for the landing. If possible it is best to land with your knees first or land with your feet flat and your knees bent. This will aid in absorbing the shock from the fall then allow yourself to roll onto your back or side if needed. Make sure to stay relaxed during landings as stiff limbs are more prone to injury.

Get Started

Now that you know a little bit about what to expect and how to start you can begin facing those bouldering problems and moving up grades or levels as you continue to practice and improve your skills.

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