wikiHow to Boulder

Three Methods:Getting StartedClimbing TechniquesBecoming a Better Climber

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that doesn't require any ropes or harnesses. As a result, it usually performed at heights lower than 20 feet (6.1 m). Bouldering can be practiced outdoors, on suitable rocks and boulders, or indoors at artificial climbing walls. Bouldering is a fun, high-intensity sport which appeals to people of all ages, genders and strength levels. Start with Step 1 below for detailed instructions on how to boulder.

Method 1
Getting Started

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    Get the right equipment. If climbing outdoors, you will need a helmet. Purchase a good pair of climbing shoes from a local outdoor sporting goods store. Ask a knowledgeable sales assistant to help you, good fitting shoes are extremely important so ask someone who knows what they are doing. A pair of these can range from $40 to $200.
    • As a rule of thumb they should be very snug. Almost too snug. As you progress you will want them tighter and tighter to give yourself more toe control while climbing. Grab yourself some Climber's chalk (magnesium carbonate) on the way out. This will help you dry the sweat on your hands when you climb and keep you from slipping.
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    • You can get all different types and colors but you really only need to stick to whatever is cheapest for right now. It's usually about $1.50-2.00 for a block.
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    Be aware of safety. Bouldering is done at heights below four meters and involves the use of a crash pad. However, this can develop a false sense of security. A four meter jump can incur severe ankle fractures. In addition, you can hit your knees on protruding rock as you fall. This runs the risk of kneecap dislocation. These injuries can take months to heal. You do not want to jump down. Instead, down climb using both hands and feet.
    • Bouldering does not involve the use of a rope, so you can expect to fall a lot when practicing difficult problems. Even though you are not falling from a great height, you will often fall suddenly or awkwardly, so it's important to have a crash pad beneath you at all times.
    • If you absolutely must jump down, land in an upright position with your knees bent (to absorb impact), rolling to the side if necessary. Remove any rings or jewelry before you climb and always have someone to spot you -- that is, someone who is ready to break your fall, guide you onto the crash pad and protect your head from injury.
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    Decide whether you want to boulder indoors or outdoors. Bouldering can be done outdoors on any kind of rock or cliff face, or indoors at a rock climbing gym. Both provide a fun, engaging climbing experience -- so which one you choose is a matter of personal preference.
    • Outdoor bouldering has the benefit of being out in the fresh air and provides a more natural climbing experience, which some people prefer. However, it is dependent on good weather conditions and requires you to have your own equipment -- such as a helmet, shoes, and a crash pad. You must wear a helmet when climbing outdoors. Rocks can fall without warning off the cliff, tumbling onto the climber and partner below. As a climber, if you see a rock or piece of equipment falling, yell, "Rock!" loudly to warn your partner of incoming objects.
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    • Indoor bouldering is a good choice for beginners who want to try their hand at something new without investing in gear (shoes can be rented and crash pads are provided) and for experienced climbers who wish to hone their bouldering skills further. The problems are laid out on colorful walls and can be adjusted to mimic an outdoor climbing experience, across a wide range of difficulties. Indoor bouldering is unaffected by weather, but space is usually limited and the walls can get crowded.
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    Warm up and stretch. Bouldering is an intense physical activity, which requires power and flexibility. And like any physical activity, it's important to warm up and stretch before you get started, to help you avoid injury.
    • Get the blood flowing by doing a few minutes of cardio before you boulder -- this warns the body that it's about to climb. Try jogging or cycling for ten minutes or doing five minutes of skipping. If you're climbing outdoors, the walk or hike to the bouldering spot will probably do the trick!
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    • Next do some stretches to loosen your muscles, joints and tendons. Concentrate on your upper body by stretching your fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck and back, but also remember to stretch your legs, hips and ankles.
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    • Finally, start out climbing by picking some easy problems that you are confident that you can complete -- this gets your body used to the movements and helps you to slowly ease into the climbing session.
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    Understand how the difficulty levels work. Most climbing locations -- both indoors and outdoors -- use the same grading system for marking the difficulty of each problem (this is the bouldering term for route, in case you didn't know!)
    • This grading system is known as the v-scale, and helps climbers to identify problems suited to their level of ability. The v-scale runs from V0 (the easiest) to V15 (the hardest).
    • In addition, each grade can have a minus, normal or plus value, which indicates difficulty level within each grade. For example, a V0- is the very easiest problem a climber can do, while a V15+ is the very hardest.[1]
    • To help you follow the correct route, all of the holds in a problem are marked with the same colored tape, or in some cases the holds themselves will be coordinated by color. While bouldering, you are not supposed to use any holds that are not part of your chosen problem -- the color system is there to help you avoid doing this.
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Method 2
Climbing Techniques

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    Pick a problem and visualize your path. Before you begin, pick a problem suited to your ability. If you have never bouldered before, start with the very easiest problem and work you're way up. With practice, you can progress very quickly in bouldering, at least initially.
    • One of the major mistakes beginners make is to just jump on the wall and start climbing, without planning their route. This quickly leads to getting stuck or falling from the wall.
    • It's important to understand that bouldering is as much a mental exercise as a physical one -- before you start climbing you need to examine the route and visualize the pat you are going to take.
    • Think about which holds you are going to use and in what order, think about the specific hand grabs and foot positions you will use, and think about how you can complete the problem as efficiently as possible. This is why it's called a problem -- it's something you need to use your brain to figure out!
    • Of course, some things things won't go as planned once you're on the wall -- a hold won't feel quite like you expected it to, or you won't be able to stretch quite as far as you thought -- so don't be afraid to improvise when your up there. Just stay calm and find a new route.
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    Use your legs as much as possible. Many people new to bouldering believe that a climber's most important physical asset is their upper body strength, but this is incorrect.
    • A good climber relies far more on their legs, which makes sense if you think about it.Your quadriceps are some of the largest, strongest muscles in your body, so it makes far more sense to utilize them than your comparatively puny biceps. Is it easier to do a pull up or a squat?
    • Keep the majority of your weight on your legs and use them to push yourself up as you move from hold to hold. Remember -- power and stability come from your legs. Your arms, on the other hand, should be used mainly for balance and for pulling yourself up as you push with your legs. Try to keep your arms as straight as possible as you climb -- this puts the load on your bones rather than your muscles.[2]
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    Use the correct hand holds. As a beginners climber, it's okay to grab the holds in whichever way feels most natural and comfortable for you. But as you progress, you'll need to learn how to use the hand holds in a specific way, using the correct finger and hand positioning, in order to tackle more advanced problems.
    • Crimping: Crimping is a method of grabbing an edge (a narrow, horizontal hold) or a sidepull (a vertical or diagonal edge) with your fingertips. Your fingertips should rest flat against the edge with your fingers arched over them. This is a fairly solid grip, but requires good finger strength.
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    • Pinching: Pinching is a method of grabbing hand holds that protrude from the rock by pinching them between the thumb on one side and the fingers on the other. It can also be used when there are side-by-side pockets in the rock -- in this case the hold is similar to the finger position when holding a bowling ball.
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    • Palming: Palming is a method used when there are no actual hand holds to grip onto, just the flat face of the wall or rock. You simply press your open hand against the wall, with your fingers together and the weight concentrated in the heel of your hand. Palming allows you to change foot position while your body weight is pressed into your palm. [3]
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    Use the correct foot positions. A lot of first time boulderers tend to focus all of their concentration on their hands and neglect their feet, but foot position is extremely important for balance and stability. Some of the most common foot movements in bouldering include:
    • Toeing and edging: In bouldering, you will rarely have a hold large enough to accommodate your entire foot securely, so you need to get used to using individual parts of your feet. Toeing, as the name suggests, is when you grip a small hold with just your toes. This is where those tight shoes come in handy, as they will give you a better grip in small surfaces. In edging, you use either side of your foot to stand on small ledge-like holds.
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    • Smearing: Smearing is a technique used when there is no clearly defined foothold. It involves pressing your foot (usually the ball) against a rough, sloping surface and pressing your weight into it as much as possible. Smearing can feel a little precarious, but as long as you stay relaxed and commit to the move fully.
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    • Swapping feet: Another foot movement that's necessary for more advanced bouldering is swapping your feet. This is necessary when there is no room on a given hold for both of your feet and you need to replace one with the other in order to progress with the problem. There are two methods of achieving this: you can simply hop from one foot to the other, moving the necessary foot onto the hold while the other one is airborne, or you can slowly slide one foot one foot on to the hold while simultaneously sliding the other foot off.[4]
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    Learn how to fall correctly. Falling is an inevitable part of bouldering -- whether it's an accidental fall after a failed grab or an intentional one from the top of a completed problem. Therefore, it's important to learn how to fall properly, to minimize the risk of injury.
    • If you're climbing outdoors with the use of a crash pad, try to predict the trajectory of your fall before you attempt the problem and position the crash pad accordingly. Don't push the crash pad right up against the rock wall -- you're far more likely to fall out from the wall than straight downwards.
    • Get into the habit of landing upright, bending your knees to absorb the shock and rolling sideways if necessary. Don't rely on the mat to absorb the impact of your fall, even in the climbing gym, as landing awkwardly could result in an injury, no matter how soft the landing.
    • If you're jumping from the top of a problem, remember to spot your landing first and make sure there's nobody directly underneath you that you could land on.
    • As a beginner, stay away from highballing (this is a bouldering term for climbing higher, riskier problems) Falling from a greater height significantly increases your chances of injury. Stick to lower, more horizontal problems and focus on improving your technique.

Method 3
Becoming a Better Climber

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    Focus on your strengths but don't neglect your weaknesses. The great thing about bouldering is that each person will tackle the same problem in a different way, according to their personal strengths.
    • In fact, bouldering is one of the few sports where men and women can complete on an even footing, as things like flexibility and balance are just as important as physical strength. Try to figure out what your greatest strength is and use it in your bouldering.
    • However, as you progress with your climbing, it is also important to spend time working on your weaknesses, otherwise your overall performance will be affected. Avoid only sticking to problems that suit you and try to challenge yourself every once in a while.
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    Try not to get frustrated. If you just can't seem to complete a particular problem, it's easy to become frustrated and resort to throwing yourself at it or just giving up altogether.
    • However, both of these approaches are unlikely to help you improve -- remember that bouldering is just as much a mental activity as a physical one. Therefore, it's important to take a deep breath, stay calm and take all the time you need.
    • Examine the problem again and try to figure out if there's a hand hold or foot hold you might have missed, or an alternative way of tackling the problem.
    • It's also important to realize that failure is a part of bouldering -- reaching your physical and mental limit is all part of the fun. If you were able to complete every problem on your first try bouldering would get boring pretty quickly.
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    Watch other climbers. Watching more experienced climbers tackle a tough bouldering problem can be a great way to learn new skills and help you to understand some of the best ways to approach specific moves.
    • You'll also find that most climbers are happy to offer advice and guidance on how to complete a problem that you've been struggling with, so don't be afraid to ask!
    • However, you should also bear in mind that everyone approaches bouldering problems differently. There is never a single "correct" method of doing something, so what works for another person may not work for you.
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    Work on your balance. Arguably, balance is the single most important factor in being a good boulderer.
    • You should be aware of your center of gravity at all times and shift your weight when necessary in order to maintain your equilibrium. Try to move in slow, controlled, flowing movements, keeping your weight centered on both legs as much as possible.
    • Avoid what is known in the climbing world as "sewing machine leg" -- where one leg shakes uncontrollably as it bears your entire weight, while the other scrambles for a hold. When this happens, it's an indication that you need to pay closer attention to body positioning.
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    Don't forget to rest. Once you get bitten by the bouldering bug, you'll probably want to hit the climbing gym everyday, but this is a recipe for a strained muscle or a pulled tendon.
    • Bouldering is a strenuous activity and your body needs time to recover between sessions -- at least 48 hours if the session was particularly intense.[5]
    • Always remember to stretch after a bouldering session -- this will help to minimize muscle stiffness and pain the following day.
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  • If you get the bug and want to improve your climbing look into training methods - from technique and balance drills to finger/arm/core core strength training - the pros train hard, and even a little extra strength and technique can take you to another level.
  • Keep it fun! Mix it up, try new things, climb with different people - variety is good.
  • Get some friends to come along. Everyone climbs differently! It's useful and fun to be able to talk through a climb while resting - it's amazing what kind of things people will think of when they climb.
  • Remember that 'buildering' - climbing on the side of buildings is don't get caught! The majority of bouldering sites are open access - some places require permits, or fees paid to land-owners, so the best way to proceed is check with your local climbing club, or the park authority or landowner.
  • Some stores sell "crash pads" made for bouldering. These are highly recommended making your climbing experience safer if you fall. *Getting someone to spot you while you climb is essential, especially if you are a novice climber or you plan to climb close to your limit. Get someone you trust to help protect / slow / guide your fall. Good communication and attention is a must.
  • Try to leave the rock as you find it : without chalk. It absorbs the moisture of the air and make the place really glassy. Use an old toothbrush to clean it off before you quit the spot.
  • Indoor Gyms are a great way to meet people and get into the sport. Most people are willing to show you some of the finer methods of movement.(flagging, types of holds, etc.) Many gyms also offer inexpensive classes such as bouldering/climbing intros.


  • Climbing is a dangerous sport! You can injure yourself or be killed, so use your common sense.

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Categories: Climbing