Bouldering Basics (Beginners Guide)

Bouldering is a fast-growing discipline in the rock climbing world. If you recently made your first trip to an indoor gym you probably noticed a large section of climbing walls about 10-15 feet high without any ropes. This wall is for Bouldering.

Training at RocktownIf you are unclear on to what the difference between Rock Climbing and Bouldering is make sure to read the linked article. It will explain all different types of climbing.

The following information can be used as a brief guide on Bouldering for beginners. The Bouldering Basics will consist of a few sections which include.

  • Bouldering History
  • Bouldering Do’s and Don’ts
  • Bouldering Technique
  • Bouldering Gear

This will be enough to get you started Bouldering during your next trip to the gym.

Bouldering History

Bouldering began in the early to mid 1900th century as a way to train in the winter months for mountaineering expeditions. The earliest established boulders were in Fontainbleu, France. In the United States Hueco Tanks in Texas was home base for early boulderers such as John Sherman who is responsible for the V-Scale used to grade problems (problems are analogous to routes in rope climbing). More information on Bouldering grades can be seen here.

Even though Bouldering was originally developed as a training method for other types of climbing, today it has become one of the most popular forms of climbing. For more detailed history check out this article by the legendary John Gill.

Bouldering Do’s and Don’ts

Just like all forms of Climbing, Bouldering is dangerous and extreme caution should be taken when participating.

Bouldering Do’s

  • Do warm up and stretch before Bouldering
  • Do spot your climbing partner while they boulder
  • Do downclimb as far as you can before dropping down
  • Do be courteous of other climbers

Bouldering Don’ts

  • Don’t walk under people while they are climbing
  • Don’t spray beta at climbers
  • Don’t spill your chalk on the ground
  • Don’t touch holds without chalk on your hands
  • Don’t try a problem more than once without letting others try
  • Don’t wear your shoes in the bathroom (Seriously…)
  • Don’t leave gear (brushes, chalk bags, shoes, etc…) in the fall zone
  • Don’t let your kids run around the bouldering area

Bouldering Technique

LRC BoulderingMost Bouldering problems consist of 5 to 10 powerful moves for any given difficulty. This means that the limiting factor is mostly strength related and not endurance.

Although if you are just starting out it is not a good idea to start training, some of the techniques used in training can help develop your bouldering skills.

That being said, as your technique becomes better you will find that many moves require less strength than previous attempts. Good footwork and proper hip technique are critical when trying to climb at your limit. Here is a bit more in-depth guide to climbing technique.

Proper Bouldering technique is not really something you can learn by reading an article or watching a video (although it helps).

To really learn good technique you have to spend long hours in the gym, learn how your body works, and how to listen to your instincts.

Bouldering Gear

One of the nicest parts of Bouldering is how simple it is. All you need to get started as a beginner boulderer is shoes, and chalk!

Shoes are definitely the most important piece of gear when it comes to Bouldering. Most Bouldering shoes are more aggressive than other types of climbing shoes. Getting a good pair of Bouldering Shoes is a good start to climbing harder problems. If you are just starting out then get a good pair of Beginner Climbing Shoes.

Chalk is pretty basic. You can most likely pick some up at your local gym. Chalk keeps your hands from sweating while you climb. It also makes the holds a bit nicer on your skin.

Crash Pads are only for outdoor Bouldering, but it’s absolutely essential for any Bouldering trip. Crash Pads are large pads that are carried like a backpack and put of the ground to protect the boulderer from falling. If you are looking to pick one up make sure to read out review.

Final Thoughts

The Bouldering Basics described above are meant to help a Bouldering beginner get started.

Bouldering is a very hard sport and progressing through the grades can be difficult and take a long time. Don’t try to rush your progress or you might suffer an injury.

Please leave us any comments are questions you have below!

Keep Crushing!

Owner and Operator of Every Last Rock. He is dedicated to spreading the Stoke about all things climbing. Often found Bouldering around the US and obsessively training.

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