Rock climbing is an amazing sport, but it isn’t exactly the easiest sport to just jump right into. There’s a clear set of skills needed to safely and effectively tackle routes. Plus, there’s a substantial amount of gear required, and that gear comes with an equally substantial price tag. If you’d like to explore the sport of rock climbing, but you don’t quite want to invest in a truckload of gear yet, bouldering is a great place to start.
Bouldering requires a minimum amount of gear—usually just some climbing shoes, a crash pad, and some chalk. That makes it a very cost-effective introduction to the sport. Plus, bouldering doesn’t require the same amount of work that traditional climbing does when it comes to finding routes. You can usually get to great bouldering spots with a simple car ride and a short hike. Bouldering is also much more of a social sport than traditional climbing.
The great part about bouldering is that it offers the same types of climbing challenges you’ll find on major routes, but you can practice them with a higher degree of safety. From traverses and overhangs to slabs and the art of actually “topping out,” bouldering offers them all, but rarely will you be more than 20 feet off the ground. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to take some precautions, though.
When it comes to safety, bouldering requires two major components: spotters and crash pads. A crash pad gives you a place to land and cushion a fall. You’ll need to haul your crash pad to the boulder with you, but most models are lightweight and come with shoulder straps. In many instances, you’ll need more than one pad to cover your landing area, so that’s where the social aspect of bouldering can come in. Your spotters aren’t there to “catch” you when you fall. They’re there to keep your head from smacking the ground after you touch down on the crash pad. When it comes to bouldering, the more spotters you can have, the better.
Much like climbing routes, bouldering routes are scored in terms of difficulty, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginning climber or seasoned wall rat, you can find bouldering routes that offer every level of challenge you can think of.
Finally, consider the fact that bouldering is offered in just about every indoor gym in existence. While nothing quite beats finding an awesome chunk of rock to tackle in the great outdoors, you’re likely to have an easier time finding bouldering opportunities, even if it means heading indoors.