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This article uses climbing terms to describe the sport of rock climbing.

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


Bouldering Basics

A climber with chalked-up hands and a crash pad on the ground. (Black Mountain, Idyllwild, California, U.S.)

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. Bouldering is more focused on the technique of climbing instead of undertaking a full bodied climb.

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'), 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.[citation needed]



One of the major appeals of bouldering is its relatively scant equipment requirements. It is not uncommon to see people bouldering with shoes, a chalk bag, 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 includes anything comfortable, flexible, and appropriate for the weather.


As in other types of climbing, bouldering has developed its own grading systems for comparing the difficulty of problems, mainly because bouldering problems can be much harder than traditional rock climbing routes. 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 [1]. The British coined the words bouldering and problem at that time. The first documented bouldering advocate may have been Oscar Eckenstein, a British engineer and innovative climber who wrote about bouldering, and in the 1890s conducted an informal bouldering competition for natives in Askole, a village in the Karakoram mountains [2]. For many years, bouldering was commonly viewed as a playful training activity 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, a mathematician and amateur gymnast who found the challenge and movement of bouldering enjoyable.[3]

Famous Bouldering Areas

The region around Fontainebleau near Paris is particularly famous for its beautiful and concentrated bouldering areas. Other well-known areas are: Chironico (Switzerland) including more than 1300 problems, divided into 27 sectors (with high quality boulders), Stanage (UK), Hueco Tanks (Texas), Castle Hill (New Zealand), Bishop (California), Yosemite (California), Rocktown (Georgia), Rocklands (South Africa), Kjugekull (Sweden), Hampi (India)[4] Horse Pens 40 (Alabama) and Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (Arkansas) amongst others.

Places to Boulder

Indoor bouldering venue in Helsinki, Finland
  • Magic Wood, Switzerland
  • Hueco Tanks, TX
  • Joe's Valley, UT
  • The Ledges, MI
  • Bishop, CA
  • Cresciano, Switzerland
  • Chironico, Switzerland
  • Gunks, NY
  • Horsepens 40
  • Castle Hill, NZ
  • Little Rock City
  • Squamish, Canada
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
  • Vedauwoo, WY
  • Reutlingen (Indoor), Germany
  • Rocklands, South Africa
  • Wonderwall, South Africa [1]
  • Kjugekull, Sweden
  • Albarracín, Spain
  • Cocalzinho de Goiás, Brazil
  • Horseshoe Canyon Ranch: Jasper, Arkansas
  • Ardennes, Belgium
  • El Cerrito, CA [2]
  • Hampi, India

See also


Simple English

Bouldering is a kind of rock climbing. It is climbing without rope and harness. It is climbing heights at which the climber does not usually suffer serious injuries in case of a drop. To protect from injuries there are usually special bouldering mats underneath the climber. It is usually practiced on large natural boulders and in climbing gyms.

Bouldering basics

Boulder routes are called "problems", because this style is like solving climbing-problems. The height of boulder problems is rarely higher than 3-5 meters. Otherwise the risk of injuries is too high. Often other climbers, who stand on the ground, spot the climbers to protect them from hitting the ground with the head or the spine.


The equipment used by boulderers is not much. They use special climbing shoes, a bouldering mat, some brushes to clean the grips and sports tape.


Bouldering was invented in the late 19th century. It has been first documented in France, England and Switzerland. It has been practiced for a long time but in the 1930s and 1940s it was practiced for its own sake in Fontainebleau in France.

Today many rock climbers are specialized boulderers and it is their favourite style of climbing.


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