Bouldering is climbing in its simplest form. The reasons for its popularity are clear:

  • It requires the least amount of gear: A pair of rock shoes, maybe some chalk and a landing pad and you're good to go.
  • It's accessible: You can go bouldering outdoors wherever you can find some solid rock. Bouldering is also available indoors at nearly every climbing gym.
  • It's great practice: Bouldering allows you to work on basic movements so you become a more efficient, stronger climber.

Problem Solving and Friendly Competition

Bouldering's attraction is often the camaraderie and friendly competition that results when several climbers are attempting the same problem. Holds that are deemed too easy can be made off limits to add to the challenge. Climbers often repeat moves many times until they succeed in finishing the route.

Bouldering Moves

Bouldering can offer the climber a variety of challenges.

  • Crack climbing, face climbing and overhangs: These are all great things to practice and will make climbing on longer routes even more enjoyable. These techniques improve your footwork and body movement. They also help build your power, endurance, flexibility and confidence.
  • Traversing: This is a good way to build your endurance and footwork. Try going one direction without coming off the wall, then go back again, retracing your steps.
  • Down climbing: Climbing down the route you came up is valuable practice for increasing strength and balance. It's also good to know in alpine situations where you might want or need to down climb a bit to improve your route.

Bouldering Safety

It's pretty common in bouldering to peel off the rock. Since ropes are not used in bouldering, your chances of hitting the ground at some point are virtually certain, especially if you're challenging yourself on overhangs and other tough moves. The best ways to break your fall:

  • Crash pads: These thick mats are used to cushion your fall. A must for solo climbers, crash pads must be strategically placed beforehand in your fall zone. Some climbers bring more than one to ensure ample coverage, The only downside is the need to carry in these pads to your bouldering site.
  • Spotting: Another method of breaking a fall (especially if you don't want to haul the crash pad to the bouldering site) is to have your buddies spot your moves. Spotting does not involve actually catching a climber, but rather it is to make sure that his or her head and shoulders don't hit the ground. The more spotters you have, the greater the likelihood of a soft landing.

Shop REI's selection of crash pads.