What is Bouldering?

Indoor Bouldering Muhd Faizeen Abdul MalikIndoor Bouldering (Photo Credit: SSC)

Bouldering is rock climbing without the use of ropes or harnesses. As such, bouldering walls tend to be shorter, usually less than 6.1m high. While there is no equipment involved in bouldering, most climbers use climbing shoes to secure their footholds and chalk to keep their hands from slipping. Bouldering mats help prevent injury from falls, which given that the climber is not supported by any rope, is a norm rather than exception.

While most bouldering takes place on artificial climbing walls that enable boulderers to train indoors, there are outdoor bouldering areas. The use of natural features for bouldering, however, has been controversial as it can damage the rocks due to the overuse of handholds and footholds. Vegetation can also be trampled upon by hikers seeking bouldering locations, or by climbers laying down their crash pads.

History of bouldering

Bouldering was first founded as a method of perfecting climbing technique for both sports climbers and mountaineers. The sport not only helps top rope climbers practice specific moves with minimal hassle, but also helps build stamina and increase finger strength.

However since the 1900s, bouldering has become a sport in itself and individual problems (or sequences of holds) are assigned ratings based on their difficulty. The most common problems now usually use either the V-scale or the Fontainebleau scale.

Safety issues

Bouldering problems are generally no more than 6.1 m high, which makes the sport considerably safer than free solo climbing. Despite that, minor injuries such as sprained ankles and wrist are common among bouldering enthusiasts. This is because boulder problems are typically more complex than other climbing disciplines which results in more frequent falls. Secondly, boulder climbers will usually fall to  the ground as they are usually not supported by any rope or belayer.

To minimize injuries, boulderers place crash pads near the bouldering area for a softer landing should they fall. They might also have one or more spotters to help redirect the climber towards the pads. Boulderers typically employ the same falling techniques used in gymnastics. To break the fall, boulderers position themselves such that upon landing, the impact is spread across the entire body to avoid bone fractures.

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