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Bouldering tips from a beginner
I’ve posted about bouldering before and got a several comments about how brave I must be and how some of you would like to try it but aren’t sure where to start. Here is another post to add to the ‘tips from a beginner’ mini-series.
What is bouldering? Essentially, bouldering is a type of rock climbing that can be done at an indoor gym or ‘out in the wild’ that does not use harness or ropes and you generally don’t go higher than 10-15 feet. There is no belay or safety device used other than the crash pad underneath you.
Now, while that sounds scary, I find it more enjoyable than top-roping, which is when you’re using a harness and ropes and the whole sha-bang. It can be very scary and it can be dangerous, even when all safety measures are observed. Please chat with your doctor before making any changes to your normal activities.
Listen carefully to the safety introduction
Safety is super important, and being in a rock climbing gym is no exception. Listen carefully to the safety instructions and be extra vigilant when walking around. As you come through doorways, be sure to look up before going through…kind of like not stepping over a log while you’re hiking, you want to make sure you see what is on the other side before going through. There may be somebody above the doorway about to come down and you don’t need some yoked dude to end up crashing down on top of you.
There may be other areas of concern: where you can boulder, if you can go up and over the wall or if you need to climb down, and where the emergency exists are located. Pay attention and ask plenty of questions.
Yes. Fall. Practice falling so you know what it feels like, you properly take the fall, and so you’re not afraid to fall. Kind of like learning to dive for the first time…jump in first. You need to know what it feels like to plunge into the water, right? The same is true here. Fall and fall again. Nobody is going to judge you for falling, you need to get off the wall somehow, right? If you don’t fall at least once, you’re not doing it right. Even Chris Sharma falls, so join the club.
Focus on fun rather than making it up one of the predetermined routes
While it is easy to get hung up on the routes and the ratings (TRUST ME, I know!), you want to have fun and build skills. This shouldn’t be a chore…if it was a chore, why would you pay to do it? Why would you slip on those uncomfortable shoes? Why would you spend all day in a hot gym if you weren’t having some fun? You’ll obviously want to start working on some of those routes and maybe find a route to work on completing, but by then you’ll find that to be fun, too! Who knows – maybe you’re better than you think!
Bring a friend
You know how I said there are no ropes? Aside from the crash pad, another piece of safety ‘equipment’ to bring with you is a friend. Not all gyms are built the same (and when you’re outdoors, you’ll totally want to bring a buddy with you) and crash pads (kind of like a giant mattress) may not be built into the floor, so you’ll need a helping hand on the ground to push you toward the pad should you fall from a great height. I went bouldering at a gym in San Diego and the floor is made of river rocks – like, ROCKS. Do you want to fall and possibly miss the crash pad only to land on rocks?? I certainly don’t.
It is also nice to have somebody to yell things up to you like, “there’s a hold by your left knee for your left foot! Match your feet! You got this!” while you’re on the wall and they’re resting/spotting you. You’ll do the same for them while you recover. It’s nice to have friends.
Bring flip flops, baby wipes, and water
Have you ever seen a climber’s feet? Don’t google it. Your feet are going to need to breathe, so bring some flip flops for after your gym time. Also, baby wipes are a great thing to keep in your bag or car for a quick wipe down before heading to your next adventure…walking through Whole Foods covered in chalk may not bother some people, but the side eyes may make others think twice. It is also nice to clean up your hands if you get blisters and cuts, especially if you are going to put some sort of balm or crème on your hands. Water is a given, but I somehow tend to forget.
One of the main reasons I took up yoga and Pilates was to improve my climbing. I’m slowly getting stronger, and I’m thrilled with that. I have a long way to go, but I have to think back to when I first started and how I felt for the following week…I could barely move for the first few days, but now I recover super quickly! I’m by no means an expert or even good enough to compete, but I’m having fun, and that’s what matters, right?
Do you boulder? Do you want to try bouldering?
What tips would you include?