An introduction to Bouldering

With Wales’ diverse scenery it has long been a favourite with the bouldering community.
A sport that has grown in popularity in recent years due to it’s ease of access.

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is performed without the use of ropes or harnesses, usually on low level Boulders and rock faces. Although equipment is not necessarily required most people will still wear good climbing shoes, chalk and fall mats to help prevent injury in the case of losing grip and falling from the rock.

Having originated as a training exercise for roped climbers, bouldering has become a hobby and sport of it’s own however it is still used as a great conditioning and strength building exercise for roped climbers.

A particular bouldering routes is referred to as a “problem” and the aim of the climb is to reach the top of the boulder from a specified start position.

Different types of rock offer different problems and difficulties. Granite often features long and sometimes sharp cracks and slabs, Sandstone are renowned for the steep overhangs and horizontal breaks and there are other surfaces such as limestone and volcanic rock all offering unique Problems of their own.

As with other forms of climbing, bouldering technique is largely centered on proper footwork. Leg muscles are significantly stronger than arm muscles; thus, proficient boulderers use their arms primarily to maintain balance and body positioning, relying on their legs to push them up the boulder.Boulderers also keep their arms straight whenever possible, allowing their bones to support their body weight rather than their muscles.

Bouldering movements are described as either “static” or “dynamic”. Static movements are those that are performed slowly, with the climber’s position controlled by maintaining contact on the boulder with the other three limbs. Dynamic movements use the climber’s momentum to reach holds that would be difficult or impossible to secure statically, with an increased risk of falling if the movement is not performed accurately.

Bouldering problems are assigned numerical difficulty ratings by routesetters and climbers. The two most widely used rating systems are the V-scale and the Fontainebleau system.

The V-scale, which originated in the United States, is an open-ended rating system with higher numbers indicating a higher degree of difficulty. The V1 rating indicates that a problem can be completed by a novice climber in good physical condition after several attempts. The scale begins at V0, and as of 2013, the highest V rating that has been assigned to a bouldering problem is V16. Some climbing gyms also use a VB grade to indicate beginner problems.

The Fontainebleau scale follows a similar system, with each numerical grade divided into three ratings with the letters a, b, and c. For example, Fontainebleau 7A roughly corresponds with V6, while Fontainebleau 7C+ is equivalent to V10. In both systems, grades are further differentiated by appending “+” to indicate a small increase in difficulty. Despite this level of specificity, ratings of individual problems are often controversial, as ability level is not the only factor that affects how difficult a problem will be for a particular climber. Height, arm length, flexibility, and other body characteristics can also be relevant.

Bouldering is a great gateway to the world of climbing and Wales has so many different places where you can participate without having to damage countryside and leave pathways.
Why not give it go?