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Bouldering – What is it?

Bouldering – What is it?

Whilst working at the climbing centre there was a lot of discussion about bouldering. Ranging from ‘what is bouldering’ to ‘I don’t understand bouldering’ to ‘what’s the point of bouldering’ to ‘I’m useless at bouldering, how can I get better?’ Ad infinitum.  A friend of mine also said the other day ‘oh isn’t it just practising for real climbing.  I was glad not to be in the presence of a hardcore boulderer at that moment!  In this post I hope to demistify bouldering and hopefully encourage more women to give bouldering a go.

What is bouldering about?

Bouldering at Stanage Far EndBouldering is about climbing your way up to the top of a short climbing ‘problem’.  The word ‘Problem’ is key. It’s about your mind and body working together to solve the problem of how to reach the top. It’s a little bit like a physical Rubik’s cube- working out what goes where and in which order.

Bouldering Grades

Bouldering grading system

When you’re indoors, you use holds of the same colour.  There’s a grading system, like there is for roped climbs, that gets progressively harder.  Indoors V grades are often used – starting at VB and working up through V1, V2, V3 and so on.  There can also be a corresponding Font grade (Fontainbleu).

Outdoors the grading can be either V grades or Font grades (French).  Bear in mind that outdoors bouldering and climbing is a world apart from the climbing wall – be nice to yourself and work from the very lowest grade to build up your familiarity with the rock and movement.

STANAGE 25 JUNE 201342So what skills do you need to be a good boulderer?

When observing a boulderer in action you will notice that there are many skills aside from strength that make people fine boulderers.  Strength is the one thing that people often say is what they are missing and it is true that you need strength to really progress and become world class, but in reality there are many other skills you can develop to improve your climbing as a boulderer. Some of the skills you may need to build up are: balance, route reading, confidence, finger strength, core strength, arm strength, flexibility, foot placement, dynamic movement (dynos), knee drops, body position and flagging.

My next blog post will give some ideas of how to improve if you’re just beginning to learn the art of bouldering.

In the meantime.. here are some videos I found of indoor and outdoor bouldering:


IFSC 2011 Champs

July 2012 – Shauna Coxsey looking strong


Shauna on Roof of a Baby Buddha

Mina on a v12!!

Leah Crane at Raven Tor on a V10 – I really like this, as it shows the work she’s putting in to get to the top of the problem


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