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Rock Climbing : Articles : Introduction to Climbing : Start Climbing - Part 2 : Get Started Bouldering

Start Climbing - Part 2 : Get Started Bouldering popular

Submitted by trevor on 2006-10-18 | Last Modified on 2010-04-01

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Votes: 26 | Comments: 11 | Views: 120948

Probably the best way to start experiencing the thrills of moving over rock is to pick up bouldering. Boulderers climb short routes up to a height that is still safe to jump off from.

There are climbers out there who have devoted their life to this art and some of the hardest moves are closest to the ground. Recently there's been a renewal of interest in this form of climbing. You'll get all the fun of the climbing moves without the scary bits and the hassle of rope-handling and protection.

Bouldering can be practised both on real rock and indoor as most climbing gyms have a special boulder section. There are even bouldering-only gyms out there, but these are still rare.

Even though bouldering can be practised alone you shouldn't underestimate the importance of an experienced climbing partner. You'll not only pick up a better climbing technique, you'll also progress in a lot safer environment. In bouldering ankles and spines are top casualties. Without a good spotter to catch your fall you will get hurt some day.

Good spotting is the art of guiding the climber's fall rather than trying to catch him/her. If you're asked to spot someone, you should aim to guide the fall by taking the hips so he / she lands on both feet. If it's your first time, ask another climber to assist you.

Until you're an expert climber it's not a good idea to climb on your own, especially not on higher problems. (Called highball problems in boulderspeak.)

If you ever get in trouble up a rock and you need to jump off, remember that downclimbing is always the better option. Your ankles will thank you for it. And if you do have to jump, remember to bend your knees on impact.

What gear do you need to pick up bouldering?

The basic necessities to pick up bouldering include: a pair of climbing shoes, a chalk bag, some chalk (Magnesium Bicarbonate) and a rug or doormat to clean your shoes. An old toothbrush can come in handy too.

If you plan to make bouldering your new way of life, you want to consider buying a good crash pad. These mattresses aren't exactly cheap but they're a lot softer to fall on than sharp rock.

Though you can use sneakers to start out, it's not a very good idea. You won't learn the subtleties of footwork and frequently repeated rocks will suffer erosion from dirty or unadapted shoes.

Cleaning your shoes before you climb is important because you want to make sure that the special rubber on them will completely stick to the rock. For best effect, you can rub your toes until they make a squeaking noise... Or find a nice girl in leather to do exactly that for you... Oops, let's not stray off topic here...

Since your feet are your most important instrument for upward motion you want to put some care in choosing your shoes. Climbers tend to wear shoes a couple sizes smaller than their normal shoe size. It's probably not a good idea to kill your feet but your shoes should never feel loose. Take your time determining the size: cram your feet in the smallest shoes possible, then add some sizes until you feel comfortable. Remember that your feet should never slip inside your shoes.

If you climb a lot, your shoes will wear out easily. If it weren't for resoles I'd have to buy 4-5 pairs every year. A professional resoler at your local climbing shop will fix you up with a fresh slab of sticky rubber in no time. A lot cheaper than buying new ones.

Shoes cost between US$ 50 - 150. Some of the top brands include: La Sportiva, Five Ten and Boreal.

A chalk bag and some chalk (Magnesium Bi Carbonate, actually) will help you keep your hands dry. Most chalk bags come with a short belt and buckle to put around your waist.

No, that white stuff is not for sniffing: dip your hands in it and it will miraculously absorb your sweat. It will help you evoid the embarrassment of ungraciously greasing off the rock. Chalk also is a mild anaesthetic. If you have a small scab you can smear some clean chalk in it.

The single most important feature on a chalk bag is how it closes: you want a bag that can be thoroughly sealed off. Believe me: chalk can get messy. Even then, it's probably a good idea to have a ziplock-style plastic bag for transportation.

Chalk bags come in different sizes and this may seem more important than it looks. If you're planning to do lots of bouldering, you may want to opt for a chalk bucket: a massive container that's intended to stay on the ground.

At his point, it's probably a good idea to talk about some of the alternatives to chalk. Chalk stains the rock and chalk-caked holds are actually worse to hang on to. This is where the toothbrush comes in. Use it to clean chalky holds before and after you climb. The next one will thank you for it.

Finally, you'll need a small rag or doormat to clean your shoes if you're bouldering outdoors.

Total estimated cost is about US$ 150 - 200. Here are some online stores to shop around. Rei - Misty Mountain -


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11 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

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Just a minor note: its Carbonate, not bicarbonate (MgCO3)
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is that reallyy an anestetic? thats crazyy... byy the wayy how much do new rubber on shoes cost?
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no, it really isn't. sodium bicarbonate may have some implication in increasing the rate at which real anesthetics take affect, however, there is certainly no scientific evidence. furthermore, it's unrelated to magnesium carbonate.

climbing shoes offer higher friction which could lead to higher erosion than standard shoes if anything. there is no evidence to support that any shoe has any effect on stone, however.

crash pads should not be considered, they're mandatory. even falling from standing to sitting on a rock can cause serious injury.

to the people who are considering bouldering, other resources other than a software developer, say an actual climber who's sent harder than 5.10 would be strongly advised.

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Hey squiros,

Can you please explain the bitchiness in your last paragraph?

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Thanks for the article.
I expected more on the topic of the climbing techniques itself, this is just a short introduction to the gear.
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which is better...
sodium carbonate or magnesium carbonate??
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Any information is appreciated. If there is a discrepancy, as some of you claim, I'll research it and get the real deal. Anyone that A: has the balls to write an article knowing that it'll be picked apart and B: gives a shit enough to share what he or she knows about climbing is ok in my book. Cut the dude some slack, he's trying to be helpful.
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1 out of 5 stars which is better...
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i recently went to mt buffalo bouldering and climbing and i am hooked, could any one tell me any other places like these near victoria or some books or info on good places. thank
and safe climbing
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Squiros you haven't climbed on Elbsandstein have you?

People living in glass houses should not throw stones.

Best to take advice on rock types from people who have more than local backyard experience climbing. Sorry dude, your advice about no evidence of shoes affecting rock is wrong, they can and do. Depends on the rock.
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^true. Polished rock sucks in bouldering. Chandler park is full of limestone that is polished on the parts everyone walks on, climbs, and holds onto.

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