Bouldering is a version of climbing that doesn’t use ropes. Boulderers climb short distances, but up routes of varying degrees of difficulty—some of the trickiest will see climbers hanging upside down by their fingertips! It’s recommended that you begin with indoor bouldering, as climbing gyms have crash mats and expert support available. More experienced boulders will take it outside, seeking interesting rock formations on which to test out their skills. If you think you’d like to give this fun, challenging sport a go, read on for the three essentials every boulderer needs.
Most boulderers carry a small pouch of chalk with them, attached to a belt loop or wrist cuff. When you don’t have a rope to hold you, you are really reliant on an excellent grip. Even a touch of clamminess can see you slip from the rocks, and whilst this isn’t an issue in an indoor climbing gym (due to the crash mats), it can be a little dispiriting if you’re just getting started. Make sure you coat your hands in chalk before beginning a climb, and then throughout as you feel it’s needed.
Perhaps the worst part of climbing, you will need to buy (or borrow from a climbing gym) a pair of climbing shoes. Specially made with textured soles for grip, climbing shoes need to fit you incredibly tightly. You will probably be scrunching up your toes to get them inside the shoe. This allows you to stand in footholds as close to the wall as possible. If you’re finding them really uncomfortable, slip them off while you take a break on the crash mat. You can always treat your feet to a nice soak and massage at home, once you’re done scaling the walls.
Not necessarily essential, but most people find that going climbing with others makes it more fun. You can watch how others complete routes, and your friends can even call out advice to you as you’re climbing (because from where they’re standing on the ground, they may be able to see holds and routes that you can’t from the wall). Going with a buddy or two also means you’ll have someone to complain to when those shoes start digging in.