Bouldering is a style of rock climbing undertaken without a rope and normally limited to very short climbs so that a fall will not result in serious injury. It is typically practiced on large boulders or artificial man-made boulders. However, it may also be practiced at the base of larger rock faces, or even on buildings or public architecture (see buildering).

Bouldering Basics

Bouldering is a style of climbing emphasizing power, strength, and dynamics. Its focus is on individual moves or short sequences of moves, unlike traditional climbing or sport climbing, which generally demand more endurance over longer stretches of rock where the difficulty of individual moves is not as great. Boulder routes are commonly referred to as "problems" (a British appellation) because the nature of the climb is often short, curious, and much like problem solving. Sometimes these problems are eliminates, meaning certain artificial restrictions are imposed.

To reduce the risk of injury from a fall, climbers rarely go higher than 3-5 meters above the ground. Anything over 7 meters is generally considered to be free-soloing (or simply 'soloing' in the British), although such climbs might also be termed "high-ball" bouldering problems. For further protection, climbers typically put a bouldering mat (crash pad) on the ground to break their fall. Lastly, climbers often have one or more spotters, who work to direct the climber's body toward the crash pad during a fall, while protecting the climber's head from hazards.

Bouldering is increasing in popularity; bouldering areas are common in indoor climbing gyms and some climbing gyms are dedicated solely to bouldering. Children are joining the sport now as well as adults. In fact, studies have found that young climbers develop better skills as adults from their experience with youthful disadvantages such as height and strength.Fact|date=August 2007


One of the major appeals of bouldering is its relatively scant equipment requirements. It is not uncommon to see people bouldering with shoes, a chalkbag, and a small mat to wipe their feet on. Although nothing is actually required, common equipment includes:
* Loose, powdered chalk as a hand drying agent while climbing.
* A mattress-like object called a crash pad. These are generally thick, rectangular foam pads with a heavy-duty fabric shell. They are opened and placed at the base of a boulder to cover irregularities in the landing and provide some cushion if the climber falls.
* Climbing shoes, for better traction and edging capabilities.
* A brush, or several brushes of differing sizes, typically with nylon bristles but sometimes coarse animal hair, is used to clean holds and is often mounted on a telescopic pole to allow greater reach.
* Sports tape is useful for covering cuts or blisters, as well as providing support for joints that may have been strained.
* Clothing usually include a sleeveless shirt and shorts, though anything that's comfortable and flexible enough will generally work.


As in other types of climbing, bouldering has developed its own grading systems for comparing the difficulty of problems. The most commonly used grading systems are the Fontainebleau system which ranges from 1 to 8c+, and the John Sherman V-grade system, beginning at V0 and increasing by integers to a current top grade of V16 (The Wheel of Life by Dai Koyamada in the Grampians, Australia [] ). Both scales are open-ended at the top, and thus the upper grade of these systems is always increasing as boulderers ascend more difficult problems.


Bouldering's documented origins may be found in the United Kingdom, France, and Italy in the last quarter of the 19th century [ Origins of Bouldering - from John Gill's Website] ] . The British coined the word "bouldering" at that time. For many years, bouldering was usually viewed as training for climbers, although, in the 1930s and late 1940s, Pierre Allain and his companions enjoyed bouldering for its own sake in Fontainebleau, considered by many to be the Mecca of bouldering. The first climber to actually make bouldering his primary specialty (in the mid 1950s) and to advocate its acceptance as a legitimate sport not restricted to a particular area was John Gill, an amateur gymnast who found the challenge and movement of bouldering enjoyable. "The Art of Bouldering" by John Gill, The Journal of the American Alpine Club, 1969 ]


;Beta (n.):Any helpful tips, solutions to problems, guides, tricks, "etc" that one climber passes on to another, usually about a particular problem (as opposed to tips about bouldering in general, though there is obviously some overlap).

;Boulderer (n.):Any person participating in bouldering; usually synonymous in context with the more general term 'climber'.

;Crash pad (n.):A pad, usually made of foam, placed at the bottom of a boulder problem onto which a climber can land if they fall, reducing the likelihood of some injuries. (A green crash pad is pictured at right under the climber.)

;Crimp (n. v.):A type of hold used when the climber can fit only their fingertips on the hold. A crimp may be 'closed,' in which the thumb is pressed over the index finger to strengthen one's grip, or the crimp may be 'open', where the thumb does not touch the fingers. Closed crimps, while stronger, put more stress on the hand and are generally regarded as posing a higher risk of injury.

;Dab (v.):Touching anything other than the climbing surface in any way, whether intentional or not; it is grounds for immediate termination of a 'send' attempt.

;Dyno (n.):Shortened form of "dynamic movement". Essentially any movement that requires the climber to jump or to swing from one hold to another. Technically, a dyno is a move that, if not completed successfully (by catching the next hold), will result in a fall.

;Eliminate:Any problem that eliminates some of the holds on a natural way up the boulder, maximizing the total number of climbs in a limited space.

;Flag (v.):Extending a leg as a counter-balance without placing your foot on a hold.

;Flash (v.):Completing a problem on the first try with no falls, but with beta.

;Grade (n.):Boulder problems are ranked by difficulty using a graded system.

;Highball (n.):A term for a boulder that is so high, falling when close to the top could cause serious injury. Some highballs have anchor bolts at the top to allow for protected top-rope climbing.

;Hold (n.):Any rock feature that a climber can use to ascend the problem. These can be cracks, crimps, jugs, places to smear, "etc", that can be used in any useful way by the hands or the feet.

;Jam (v. n.):Placing a foot or a hand, usually in a crack, and rotating or loading it so that it can fully support the climber.

;Jug (n.):A hold that is large enough to allow the climber to reach their entire hand around (or inside of), making it a good low-impact hold, usually with low possibility of injury.

;Mantle (v.):A manoeuver whereby the climber initially pulls down on a hold (usually matched) with enough force to propel them upwards, and then rapidly changes the pulling motion into a downward pushing motion.

;Matching (v.):Matching implies that both climber's feet or hands are on the same hold.

;Offwidth (n. adj.):An awkward crack that is too wide to jam a hand in, yet not wide enough to back and foot. These typically require a combination of several different methods to achieve a good hold.

;Onsight (v.):To send a problem on the first try without falling and with no beta.

;Problem (n.):A sequence of allowed (by choice or mutual agreement as in a competition) holds leading to the top of a boulder. A problem is the bouldering analogue of a "route" in traditional climbing.

;Redpoint (v.):To climb at maximal effort. Can also refer to the most difficult grade one can climb.

;Send (v.):To successfully climb a problem.

;Sit Start (n.):A start to a problem beginning with the boulderer sitting on either the ground or on a crash pad, at the lowest point of a route. Typically, starting from a sit start increases the difficulty of a route.

;Sloper (n.):A hold that tends to slope, or is round. Sometimes very difficult to grasp.

;Smear (v.):Pushing with the ball of the foot where there is no hold.

;Spot (v.), Spotting (n.):The act of being a spotter: this may include duties such as moving the crash pad, removing dangerous objects in the fall zone, and physically cushioning or modifying the trajectory of the climber in the event of a fall.

;Spotter (n.):A person who tends to the safety of the climber, who 'spots'.

;Traverse (v. n.):Generally a horizontal climb that involves traversing across a face or overhang, or sometimes around a boulder, occasionally finishing off at an arête in order to top out.

;Top out (v.):To complete a problem by getting to the top of the boulder where one can stand upright.

Famous Bouldering Areas

The region around Fontainebleau near Paris is particularly famous for its beautiful and concentrated bouldering sites. Well-known areas include Stanage (UK), Hueco Tanks (Texas), Castle Hill (New Zealand), Bishop (California), Yosemite (California), Rocktown (Georgia), Rocklands (South Africa), Hampi (India) [ Bouldering in Hampi ] ] and Horse Pens 40 (Alabama) amongst others.

Places to Boulder

*List of New York bouldering sites
*List of New Jersey bouldering sites
*List of Utah bouldering sites

See also

*Glossary of climbing terms
*Ice Climbing
*Le Parkour
*Rock Climbing
*Tree climbing
*Colorado Bouldering


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