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Bouldering for Beginners – ‘Between a Rock and Good Place’

What is Bouldering?

Bouldering for BeginnersBouldering is great way to get into climbing. It is mostly practiced in indoor climbing gyms and it regarded as the safest way to practice climbing. Simply put, bouldering refers to climbs where you’re protected by mats rather than ropes. This tends to mean that you don’t really go further than 2-3 metres high. It tends to be an indoor sport but you can practice bouldering outdoors on, you guessed it, boulders and other rock features. Quite often rock features with overhangs or small technical climbs are used for bouldering outdoors.
Each climb is referred to as a problem – these are relatively short sequences that require power, technique and in some cases some nerve. Usually in ‘Climbing Gyms,’ problems will be colour coded with a key on the wall showing the difficulty. Usually as the ‘problems,’ get harder, the hand holds (or ‘grips,’) will reduce in size and frequency and become more sparsely spread meaning you will have to be more dynamic to get up the wall and solve the problem. It is as much a sport of intellect and planning as it is strength and physical ability.  

How to Learn?

Head to your local indoor climbing gym and check it out. It is likely to have a bouldering section. You will likely be able to rent some climbing shoes and maybe even get an introductory lesson. In fact, for safety and good customer service, most climbing gyms nowadays do some sort of intro to the gym for new members or people just wanting to check out what it is all about.
Most gyms will have ’starting holds,’ for both your hands and feet requiring a certain type of movement. You start off by climbing these and trying the harder climbs as you get better. Don’t worry if you cheat a little at the start and use different colour holds, its about fun. As you get better you will find what you like to do.  


All you really need to enjoy bouldering as a hobby is a pair of climbing shoes and a chalk bag(and even that is something I wouldn’t recommend you buy immediately). Think of straight up climbing as a very equipment orientated , requiring the safety ropes, the prep and a lot of time. Whereas with bouldering you can pop your climbing shoes on, chalk up and go! 
We highly recommend going to a climbing shop or at least go to a store that sells climbing shoes rather than buying from the internet. Getting advice on fitting and physically trying on the shoe would be ideal and will save you a lot of pain and wasted money. AND Before you buy anything you should have a go at it. Climbing or bouldering is not for everyone.  Find your local indoor climbing wall and head along to it. You can search our Big Adventure Map or google for your closest climbing wall.


Bouldering is a relatively inexpensive sport to practice. Climbing shoes can be expensive but with the growing popularity in the sport itself more affordable products have come to market in recent years. As well as products indoor climbing wall numbers have also increased as people adopt using climbing gyms rather than traditional gyms as a place to keep fit and exercise.
Climbing shoes can cost anywhere from about £30 to hundreds. Stick to brands such as Scarpa, Black Diamond, La Sportiva. These guys have been making climbing shoes since I can remember. A decent beginner pair of climbing shoes should cost you around £50. I would also not recommend buying second hand climbing shoes.
Climbing gym memebership can range wildly. I pay about the price of a Starbucks coffee every time i go to the climbing wall, and thats with discount as an annual member (which also costs money). My climbing friends tell me my gym is expensive but I do live in a big city. The only way to find out how much it costs from your local gym.
Here is a couple of tips (five to be exact) from the Big Adventure Map Team on Bouldering:
1. Don’t Take It Too Seriously
Number one rule of the bouldering gym is to have fun and enjoy your time there. Relax after a hard day or difficult week. Concentrate on the climbing and forget the world outside. Climbing and bouldering is for everyone. People of all levels of ability, fitness and backgrounds enjoy climbing. If you have a competitive side to you then climbing can be a very enjoyable sport to compete and challenge yourself with. If you are not so competitive climbing is also a sport you can simply enjoy and practice for your own personal enjoyment.
2. Advice is Gold
We never stop learning in climbing and spending time in the gym you will meet all kinds of people from all kinds of walks in life. Talk to them, take their advice, get to know your climbing fraternity and absorb as much as you can. we never stop learning in climbing and you learn a lot more than climbing knowledge in a climbing gym, trust me. With such an eclectic mix of people who enjoy our beautiful sport, you might make friends that you wouldn’t have imagined you would have before.
3. Buy Your Shoes from a Climbing Shop
Go to a climbing shop or outdoor shop and buy specific climbing shoes. Seek advice from an actual climber which you will definitely find in a specific climbing store. Buying a suitable, well fitting, shoe is really important and we therefore do not recommend you simply go online and choose your shoe size and buy the pair you think are the prettiest. Go to the shop and get fitted, ask for the brand and shoe you thought was the prettiest online. The price difference between online and in store will be minimal if any and it will be worth every extra penny for the advice and the right fitting.
4. Explore the Gym
Variation is the key to success and development of those much needed climbing skills. Try climbing on different sections of the gym including all the different angles you can climb on. Most importantly have fun and make friends. As we said in Tip 2… Climb with others and introduce your self to the people climbing next to you. As we said bouldering is like a puzzle, talking with others and watching how other solve the puzzle is interesting.
5……Ah I am going climbing, Watch this video instead 😉
Here is a great video for beginner bouldering tips:

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