What the Heck Is Bouldering??

We know most of our family and friends are keeping track of our three-month travel via this blog, and we know that most of them know that the aim is to climb quite a bit on this trip. But we’re not sure how much people know about the different styles of climbing, or what the heck we do when we say we’re going bouldering!

According to the all-knowing Wiki,

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing which takes place on boulders and other small rock formations, usually measuring less than 20 feet (6.1 m) from ground to top. Unlike top rope climbing and lead climbing, no ropes are used to protect or aid the climber. Bouldering routes or “problems” require the climber to reach the top of a boulder, usually from a specified start position.

All you need to boulder are some rock climbing shoes, a chalk bag (to minimize those sweaty paws on the rock) and a crash pad. The crash pad is basically a big “soft” mat that protects you if you fall. Bouldering is quickly becoming the most popular form of climbing (if not the most popular, already!). You don’t require a lot of equipment (read $$) and if you get scared, you simply jump off the rock onto a relatively soft landing (as opposed to being 30+ meters off the ground with no other option except going up.

Bouldering does require some level of strength, however. Because a training schedule was going to be difficult to maintain on this trip, we decided to focus most of our climbing on bouldering, because physically attempting some of these “problems” just require so much strength! It’s almost like a form of training.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty bouldering at Sad Boulders, Bishop CA

Jonty warming up on a nice problem at the Sad Boulders.

So! Some key phrases and terminology that may be useful for the non-climber:

Beta: Information from another climber about how they did the problem. Some people like to get info from others, some people prefer to problem-solve for themselves. Usually, a person will “ask for some beta”, or if you see someone struggling on a climb, you may ask them if they “want any beta”.

Boulder: The big (or small!) rock you’re going to climb.

Crag: The area where you’re going to be climbing. A given location may have many crags.

Dirtbagger: A climber who lives in his/her vehicle and tries to ensure they do not have to pay for much. You tend to be able to smell (literally!) a true dirt-bagger a mile away.

Flapper: Sometimes when you grab a sharp hold, a piece of skin may tear. If the skin is still attached, you’ve got yourself a flapper! (Hey, nobody said climbing was pretty…) They hurt like the dickens.

Ghost-y symbol: If a problem is a High-Ball (see below) or has a bad landing, your guide book may indicate the “spooky” nature of this problem by placing a little “ghost” symbol beside the description of it (you’ll need to keep a cool head while climbing it, because you will probably get freaked out half-way up!).

Guns: Your bulging biceps.

High-Ball: A reeeeally high boulder problem. Usually synonymous with a Ghost-y symbol.

Problem: The route you take from the bottom of the boulder to the top. One boulder can have multiple “problems” on it, often of varying difficulty.

Spotter: The person who stands behind you who will make sure you land safely on the crash pads if you fall off the rock.

Top Out: When you climb to the top of the boulder, you are said to “Top Out”; you can stand on the top of the boulder, wave to your friends and show “your guns”, then make your way off the top of the boulder (usually there’s an “easy” route down somewhere on the boulder).

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Moira on top of Warmup Boulder, Sad Boulders, Bishop CA

Moira topping out on the last run of the day at the Sad Boulders.

We’ll be in Bishop a few more days. We’ve taken a few videos of us climbing over the past few days and we plan to get those posted over the weekend.