If you’ve ever shaken hands with a rock climber or kept one eye on Jason Mamoa’s Instagram page, you might assume that bouldering is pretty hardcore - and it can be. Hell, just check out Shauna Coxsey’s performance at the 2016 British Finals - insane. But the great thing about bouldering is that it can be as challenging or sociable as you want, and even the best climbers go bouldering for the sheer fun of it rather than to train.
“It’s super simple, time-friendly and very social” - that’s the verdict given by top UK rock climber Steve McClure, and it hits the nail on the head. Bouldering is the most accessible variant of climbing, purely because the amount of kit you need is minimal and it’s easily scaled up or down for difficulty. We reckon it’s something that everyone should try at least once, which is why we’ve outlined, right here, everything that you need to get started.
If you’ve never encountered bouldering before, chances are you’re not up to speed on how exactly it differs from regular climbing - so we asked McClure to spell it out. “In a nutshell, it’s basically that bouldering is climbing without the use of equipment other than a chalk bag and a pair of shoes”. That’s why it’s the easiest form of climbing to get into - you don’t need to learn about belaying, abseiling down walls, safety equipment or anything else. You just rock up, put your shoes on and climb: simple.
No prizes for guessing what’s needed here. As listed by McClure, chalk and some shoes is all you’re going to need for indoor bouldering - when you take it outdoors, a crash mat is definitely advised too. Most bouldering gyms will provide kit that you can rent, which is ideal if you’re just getting a feel for the sport. Chalk bags are easily picked up online, though, like the Belmez Darkside Chalk Bucket, and all you need beyond that is some comfortable, loose fitting clothes to allow a full range of movement. If you want to declare your allegiance to bouldering with Belmez’s slick apparel, we’d completely understand.
For most of us, an indoor bouldering gym is going to be your best option. Not only are they easier to get started with, with chunky grips for beginners and matted floors, indoor gyms are incredibly sociable atmospheres, packed full of likeminded people looking to challenge themselves in a fun way. Once you get started, there are myriad ways to test yourself, from increasing difficult problems (i.e. routes) to fingerboards. There are bouldering gyms across the entire country, too.
Taking your newfound skills outdoors is big draw for most avid boulderers, though - it’s where McClure is most likely to be found. “The amount of times I’ve been out bouldering in the Peak District on a Saturday morning just because it’s so easy to do is incredible,” he says. It’s the idyllic view of bouldering: pitching up to a craggy buttress or rock-strewn forest with nothing but a crash mat, a couple of mates and a few spare hours ahead of you. Without the need for fixed ropes, you can pretty much take your bouldering anywhere there’s rock, from coastal boulders to inland limestone.
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