How to Climb Boulders

How to Climb Boulders
Climbing boulders, or "bouldering", is an activity that allows people to try rock climbing without having to commit to learning how to use ropes, climbing harnesses, carabiners, and other related rock climbing safety equipment. However, bouldering does require a decent level of physical fitness and advance preparation on the part of the climber to ensure the safest and most enjoyable experience. Before climbing on boulders outside, consider bouldering at the indoor climbing gym a few times, or take a beginner-level lesson on rock-climbing technique. A little bit of technical knowledge---and a lesson in spotting---will go a long way in getting you off to a safe and informed start.


Difficulty: Challenging

How to Climb Boulders

Things You’ll Need:
  • Crash pad
  • Climbing shoes
  • Chalk
  • Chalk bag
  • Brush
  • Boulders
  • Spotter
Step 1
Rent or buy at least one bouldering crash pad. Consider renting or purchasing additional bouldering supplies, including rock-climbing shoes, a brush (to clean chalk and debris from holds), climbing chalk, and a chalk bag or bucket.
Step 2
Choose a boulder "problem," or route, to attempt in an area where you can legally climb on boulders. If you can find a boulder that is listed in a guidebook, you will have the advantage of knowing any established problems, along with the relative difficulty of the challenge and any other information or hints the guidebook author may wish to relate.
Step 3
Place the crash pad (or pads) in the landing area underneath the boulder problem, covering any sharp objects, like stones and stumps. Attempt to create one flat, level surface without any uneven edges.
Step 4
Scope the boulder for additional relevant information. Make a plan for getting down off of the boulder after climbing it. Note any visible loose rocks or debris that might hit the climber or your spotter. Also, consider the height of the boulder and the potential consequences of falling off the problem. If you're not comfortable with this situation or the risk involved, choose another boulder problem.
Step 5
Either stand or sit down (for a sit-down start) at the boulder problem's designated starting holds. Select appropriate footholds, and use them, along with the handholds, to pull onto the rock face. Use your technical rock-climbing skills and your strength, along with your problem-solving abilities, to unravel the boulder problem. Seek the most efficient way to ascend this particular path.

Tips & Warnings

Climbing on a boulder without established boulder problems requires more preparation. In addition to making sure you can legally climb there, you have to clear the boulder face of any potentially loose pieces of rock that could snap off and cause injury.
Always take at least one other person with you whenever you climb on boulders. You can take turns spotting each other, and help out in case of injury.
You may need multiple attempts, or multiple days, to succeed climbing a particular boulder problem.
As with all forms of rock climbing, bouldering is dangerous and carries with it an inherent risk of injury or death. Obtain proper training and knowledge of bouldering safety skills before you attempt bouldering, or any other form of rock climbing. Boulder at your own risk.

Article Written By Alli Rainey

A professional writer since 1997, Harvard graduate Alli Rainey has written several books, including "Wyoming: An Explorer's Guide." Her articles have appeared in "Climbing Magazine," "Rock & Ice," and "Men's Fitness," among many others.

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