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Bouldering - Shoes, Chalk and Rock

Bouldering is a great alternative to more gear-intensive types of rock climbing, and a good way to practice your technique.

by Mike

BOULDERING — Bouldering can be done just about anywhere you climb. Most bouldering is done on big rocks that have fallen off of a cliff or were dumped by a glacier thousands of years ago.

Many sport and traditional climbers boulder without even knowing it. Before you can clip the first bolt on a sport route or get in that first piece of protection trad climbing, you are bouldering. So if a partner calls and cancels, you can always climb up the first part of your favorite route or even find a boulder and practice edging, smearing and traversing to perfect your technique.

Bouldering is also a great way to “ease into” the sometimes expensive sport of rock climbing because it only requires climbing shoes, a chalk bag and maybe even a bouldering specific crash pad. The commitment level is relatively low, because as a rule, you should only boulder as high as you don’t mind falling.

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Some boulderers get into a facet of the sport called “highballing.” Highballing is climbing to the top of a boulder; however, the boulder is usually as high as a modest sport route. With only a few inches of foam on the crash pad to break the fall, this dangerous undertaking should be reserved for experienced boulderers only. Remember, you always have the option to tie in and have someone belay you from up on top.

If at all possible, you should have someone spot you as you boulder especially on radically overhanging problems. On climbs like these it is easy to fall off and the chances of getting your feet back under you before your head hits the deck are slim.

Crash pads are used to cushion falls, preventing twisted or broken ankles and other injuries common to the sport. Be aware of vegetation before you throw down your pad. Take string to tie back bushes and trees and untie them when your session is finished. Boulderers have a nasty reputation for leaving trash at bouldering sites, so tidy up before you take off.

Bouldering is great for developing skills and building muscles necessary for quick, short and powerful routes. It is also a good way to practice hard moves close to the ground that are encountered on harder sport and trad routes.

Many years ago, bouldering was just a way to warm up for bigger routes, or something you did on a relaxing day; it is now one of the most popular forms of climbing the sport has to offer. There are several rating systems for bouldering which can even vary widely area to area. Here is the most commonly used system in use, the (John) Sherman V-Scale rating system:

Yosemite Decimal System Sherman V-Scale for Bouldering
5.8 V0-
5.9 V
5.10 a/b V0+
5.10 c/d V1
5.11 a/b V2
5.11 c/d V3
5.12- V4
5.12 V5
5.12+ V6
5.13- V7
5.13 V8
5.13+ V9
5.14- V10
5.14 V11
5.14+ V12
  V13
  V14
  V15

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