Bouldering Basics for Beginner Climbers

Bouldering, my favorite type of rock climbing, is a sport in which you climb to a max height of about 20 feet with no rope or harness.  This type of climbing also requires the least amount of gear which makes it perfect for beginner climbers.  For the most part all you need are climbing shoes.  However, the vast majority of boulderers use a “crash pad”.  A crash pad is a cushioned mat that provides a safe landing to the climber if they were to take a fall from the rock.

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 When someone climbs a section of a boulder it is referred to as a “problem”. The difficulty of a particular boulder problem is given rating or grade.  These grades are based primarily on two scales that are convertible to one another: The Hueco V (Vermin) Scale or the Font (Fontainbleau) Scale.  Grades in the bouldering world are always a controversial topic since grades can be subjective.  For more information about bouldering grading systems check out the link here: Bouldering Grading Scale.

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Bouldering originally started as a type of training for longer rock climbing ascents.  The practice of bouldering was also used to help build forearm and finger strength.  It enacts elements of gymnastic flexibility as the American bouldering pioneer John Gill so famously introduced in the 1960s.  Bouldering has grown in popularity since then with many new bouldering areas discovered yearly along with the strong media presence of national and international bouldering competitions.  A great site to check out a lot of this media is Louder Than 11.

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One of the best ways to get started in bouldering is at your local gym.  Every gym in the northeast region has a dedicated bouldering wall which contain a multitude of problems of varying difficulty.  These gyms are great for meeting up with other individuals who climb outside and can introduce one to the outdoor boulder fields.  Bouldering is an easy sport to get involved in that can provide climbers of all abilities with exhilarating experiences but especially for beginner climbers.  However, all safety measures should be taken to prevent injuries.  Always boulder with a crash pad, wear a helmet (even though I’m not wearing one in these photos), invest in a good pair of climbing shoes, mind the landing areas, and always have a spotter (someone who guides you to the crash pad if you fall)!

Now that you know the bouldering basics, get out there and climb! 


5 Training Tools for Rock Climbing

Pushing boundaries and escaping plateaus are common themes in rock climbing. It always seems that the more difficult the route or problem, the better the experience one has on the ascent. I have always found that the best training for rock climbing is more rock climbing. However, getting out on the rock can be difficult due to schedules, work, or weather related setbacks. It is fortunate that there is a plethora of training tools available to help one succeed at getting to the next level. Knowing which tools to use and how to use them become a different matter.

Hangboards:

Also known as fingerboards, this tool is most useful in developing finger and forearm strength. There are many companies that supply hangboards of varying difficulties. Popular hangboards include the Metolius Simulator, Metolius Project board, and the Moon Fingerboard that have varying degrees of difficulty.

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Campus Rungs:

My personal favorite, the campus rungs helped me jump 2 V grades in bouldering in less than 6 months. The campus rungs exercise was originally developed by Wolfgang Gullich to help him push through what was once the hardest route in the world, Action Directe (5.14d). These wooden slats are used to develop explosive power in the arms and to develop finger and forearm strength.

Mike ClimbCircuit Board:

These are usually found in gyms since a climbing wall is needed. Specific holds are set up vertically symmetrical or in a random pattern. A climber can also choose random holds on the climbing wall and make a circuit of them. This helps train specific movement for certain types of holds (pinches, crimps, slopers, etc.).

Rice Bucket:

A bucket filled with rice comes in at one of the most inexpensive tools for training. Specific hand opening and twisting exercises in the bucket of rice helps train antagonistic muscles to help prevent over use injuries. Check out this rice bucket training routine to get familiar with the practice.

Rock Rings:

A portable training device made by Metolius, these can be taken virtually anywhere to get a quick training session in while on the go. They are not extensive in the number of hold positions they provide, but they provide enough to give you a decent workout for your fingers, forearms and biceps.

Mike HangingThese training tools are used either singly or in a combined fashion to fit the specific needs of the user. All of these tools can be used to help train for bouldering, sport/trad/ice climbing, competition climbing, or even just for upper body fitness. If a climber wants to make specific gains in their practice, these are some great instruments to add to their climbing routine. Check back for more detailed routines on the above listed training tools.