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Why should I go bouldering?

If you don't understand bouldering, or are unsure about what it's all about, then follow our contributor Emily Thompson on her journey of discovery, starting this week, with her thoughts on feeling like a fraud, having never been bouldering and having piles of insecurities about giving it a go.  This is a live activity - Emily is reporting on her journey as she does it, so we have no idea how it will turn out or what she will discover.  To learn more as her journey unfolds, sign up now to our newsletter and we will let you know when the next instalment is out. 

Feeling like a fake climber

Being part of Womenclimb I sometimes feel like a fraud. While I've been climbing on and off for over 10 years I've only been climbing weekly for the past year, mostly because I've struggled to have a consistent partner and then I only really go indoors at my local climbing centres. While Cath and I climb well together, we are both at about the same grade and neither of us consider ourselves to have good technique, though Cath is stronger and braver than me, so will often push herself harder.

Emily on the GR20 long distanceg trail in Corsica.

Emily on the GR20 long distance walking trail in Corsica.

I've never bouldered

I also feel like a fraud in that I've never bouldered. Worse than that, I don't get it.  Yes, that thing that Shauna Coxey is awesome at - I just don't understand it. Why should I pay entry to a climbing wall to fart about on a small wall when I can get on a rope and climb high? Why would I consider climbing without a rope either? I can still freak out on a top rope half way up a wall when it gets hard, and I still have to shut my eyes sometimes to let go at the top.

Bouldering in a park

This is the closest Emily has come to bouldering. Will she try it? Will she love it? We will find out over the coming weeks.

I've been in the climbing centre and stared at the boulder walls and, while I can see and understand the routes, they either look too easy to bother with, or they're tiny little crimps and footholds. Or worse, overhangs that I have no chance on - certainly not when I'm not attached to a rope for safety.

Could I be the only one who climbs but doesn't boulder?  

Am I the only person who doesn't get it?

These thoughts made me start to think other things: What on earth would convince me that climbing up (and down!) a hard problem is worth the effort and jelly legs? If I'm ever going to get over my fear, perhaps I just need to eat, climb, sleep, repeat until I'm not scared anymore.

Considering trying out bouldering

It wasn't until I met Sarah from the Leeds Mountaineering Club that I started to seriously consider giving bouldering a go. She's a strong climber, way stronger than me and fearless too.  She reckons her climbing improved by going bouldering once a week to build her technique.

Susie Bannister at the 2015 Paraclimbing championships at Manchester Climbing Centre

Susie Bannister at the 2015 Paraclimbing championships at Manchester Climbing Centre

I definitely want to climb harder and not freak out anymore.  I can't keep relying on my ability to pull myself up the wall as the only way to climb. The things that I might learn are:

  • Foot techniques - to not end up totally pumped half way up the wall
  • How to hang on tiny holds and hold my weight
  • To be able to climb without a partner being around

Going to the climbing wall when my partner Cath isn't free would be great. It would give me more freedom, for all the reasons above and to no longer feel like a fraud, I am going to give bouldering a go.

Preparation for bouldering: Going alone to the climbing wall

Many women and girls participate in bouldering at all levels.

Many women and girls participate in bouldering at all levels. Sometimes going alone can feel daunting. Be confident and practice going it alone!

Thanks to Sarah I've already got over my fear of going into a climbing wall alone.  She's invited me to go bouldering with her and her son. So, before I allow myself to use the excuses that 'I don't see the point', or 'I'd rather do some 'proper' climbing', I'm going to take her up on her offer and see what happens.  Watch this space and find out how it goes.

What do you think? Will she do it?  What are your tips and tricks for someone in Emily's position?  Leave her a comment. 

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