What is Bouldering? The Beginner’s Guide

If you are new to the sport, it is fair to ask ‘what is bouldering?’ The answer is a simple one. It is rock climbing stripped down. It is just you and the wall. There are no ropes or harness involved. You simply climb a problem (a short sequence of moves) and that is it.

What is Bouldering? It is the Purest Form of Climbing

When it all said and done, bouldering is the simplest form of climbing. There is nothing other than you and the wall. Ok maybe free soloing is the purest, but no one in their right mind will be doing that!

The aim of bouldering is to get to the top of a problem. Inside, a problem is a set of holds that have been screwed onto a wall. The routes are short and usually require power, strength, technique, balance, and your noggin.

It is perfect for beginners as very little equipment is required. At first, you can hire shoes and you can wear whatever you want bouldering!

Problem Solving Required

One of the first things you will realise when starting bouldering is that you need to learn how to problem-solve. It is not as simple as going hell for leather and getting to the top. You need to read the holds and see the way you should take.

The best thing about bouldering is that what works for someone else may not for you. Everyone has different strengths and weakness, different body shapes and weights. Once you realise this, you can see the wall as your own.

Naturally, there are many different techniques you will have to learn as time goes on. Strength and flexibility are the keys to success. There are many things you can employ such as a toe hook. Not sure what this means? Check out some more bouldering terms.

Work the Brain as Well as the Brawn

Of course, a lot of bouldering comes down to your finger strength and overall power – not just your arms are needed. Core strength is integral to progression. If you have ever seen a pro climber they all look the same: slim and ripped.

Even so, bouldering is also a mental game. Firstly, you need to solve the problem before you. Secondly, you have to overcome unforeseen fears and apprehensions. This is pertinent if you have taken a fall or don’t trust a hold. A lot of the time the battle is in your head.

You will be surprised the number of times it takes you to complete a problem and then the next time you attempt it you find it completely easy. This is all in the head!

What is Bouldering if Not for Friends?

Friends sitting together after bouldering

One of the best thing that makes bouldering great is the social aspect. It is something that not many other forms of climbing can share. There is an intimacy and closeness to the wall that is not replicated.

When you are attempting a problem it is more than likely someone else will be too. This is different from rope climbing, as when you are on the rope – no-one else is. As a result, you will often discuss solutions and talk about the problem in general.

Furthermore, you can go with a group of friends and make it a regular social activity. We can speak from personal experience that we have made friends for life through the sport.

How is Bouldering Safe?

Like any sport, in climbing nothing is 100% safe. However, the problems are not that high and there are safety mats in place (inside). Of course, if you go outside then the safety factor changes. However, bouldering indoors is, for the most part, safe.

Furthermore, when you are planning on doing a tricky climb, you will ask some to spot you. This will also help you if you fall and make sure you land in a safe way. Overall, using common sense will keep you safe. Always check the route beforehand and make sure you are aware of other climbers.

Is Bouldering not Climbing?

Yes and no. Bouldering is a sub section of climbing, much like athletics has many disciplines, so does climbing. With bouldering being one of them. Check our dedicated bouldering v climbing article for more detailed info.

Overall Bouldering Is Fun!

The beauty of bouldering is that it is a sport where you can challenge yourself. The competition is you and your mind. Of course, once you are good enough you can enter competitions – but the essence of the sport is bettering yourself.

It is fun, social, and you work both your mind and body. If you are wondering what is bouldering, we recommend that you go to your nearest bouldering gym and try it for yourself!