If you are new to the sport, you may not be aware of some bouldering rules that determine if you have ‘sent’ (completed) a route or not. Naturally, this will only really be applicable to you once you are a bit more experienced and looking to progress. In the beginning, it really does not matter too much.
Before we start, some gyms may have different rules, so if you are unsure it is best to ask what their guidelines are. Even so, we will highlight some of the more important rules you should be aware of when starting bouldering.
Bouldering Rules: The Start Holds
Ok, now there is some debate here, however, we will provide a general rule of thumb. Your two hands should be touching the designated start hold(s). Usually, you will see the start marked with tape. Depending on the gym, they will use certain colour codes. If you are not sure, just ask and someone will easily be able to help.
Along with your two hands on the start hold, usually, your feet should also be touching the wall. Sometimes, a problem may also have designated footholds. This is normally the case with competition walls.
Importantly, you should be completely static when starting the problem. When you are progressing in your bouldering ability, you may find that some starts require a jump or dyno to begin with. These are whole other different beast, but for now static is the way to go!
How to Finish a Bouldering Problem?
Finishing a bouldering problem also has some defined rules. In the gym, most problems will have a designated hold at the top that marks the end of the problem. In order to say you have ‘sent’ it, you must have placed both of your hands on the hold at the same time. You must do this statically, and be in control.
Often times, this is marked by keeping hold of it for 3 seconds or so. But most of the time, it is pretty obvious to yourself if you know you can sustain the hold or not. When you are outside, boulder problems are only generally complete if you ‘top out’ (climb over the top). You may also find this in the gym too, depending on how they have been set.
Bouldering Rules, So We Don’t Need Rules!
At the end of the day, rules are generally there for guidance. If you don’t start a route properly, no one will care! Don’t let finicky bouldering rules get in your way of the enjoyment of the sport.
If you get into competition climbing, then it is a different beast. The International Federation of Sport Climbing have a specific set of rules and regulations that need to be adhered to.
Even so, this is a long way off and up until that point, we say focus on your enjoyment more than anything else!
Boulder Gym Etiquiette
There are certain rules you should follow in the bouldering gym. Most will have a list of regulations or something similar that you need to read. We recommend always asking if something is not unclear. The following points are not a definitive list, however, they are things that you should always keep in mind.
No Unsolicited Advice!
The term spraying is one that no one wants to be associated with. Basically, it means telling someone how they should climb a specific problem. We recommend not doing this unless you have been asked.
A boulderer is a strange creature and will want to figure something out on their own. Unless prompted, we recommend leaving the stray animal to themselves!
Pay Attention to Other Problems/Climbers
Another thing that is often a sore point is when problems crossover at certain points. This becomes an annoying situation when you are in the middle of the route and someone else starts climbing where you were going.
Therefore, it is always important to be aware of your surroundings. Assess the route you will climb and see if it will interfere with anyone else. Furthermore, always stand back from the wall. This is for your safety as well as those on the wall. Whoever is climbing should do so in the security that their landing spot is clear.
One Attempt, Then Wait Your Turn
Ok, the last point. It is often good manners that if the bouldering gym is busy you should let others have a go too. This means that once you attempt a problem and fail, don’t jump straight back on. Allow others to try it too. After all, the gym is for everyone, not just you!
Overall Bouldering Rules Are Easy to Follow
Let’s face it, this set of bouldering rules is nothing too strenuous. Once you start going to the gym regularly they will be second nature to you! You can also check our tips for bouldering indoors if you are new to the sport or find a whole host of subjects in our dedicated bouldering blog. Climb strong and have fun!