by: Jon Meltzer
Some of my fondest climbing memories have been spent with friends, huddled around the same 15 foot tall boulder, figuring out the precise sequence to send, and laughing all the while.
I love bouldering outside–it’s really awesome! However, there are a few things you should know before you take your inside hobby into the great wide open.
BOULDERING OUTSIDE IS DIFFERENT. HERE’S WHY…
First and foremost, get ready for a wholly different climbing experience from the man-made routes of the gym. Mother Nature beat these bouldering problems into rock faces over millions of years, and wouldn’t you know it, she wasn’t really thinking about us boulderers while she did it.
The holds you use won’t be as obvious as they are inside. Instead of brightly colored jugs, you’ll more often find yourself using natural aretes, edges and crimps that are marked with chalk (if they’re marked at all). Dynos and deadpoints – the big, Instagram-friendly jumping moves that World Cup-style bouldering is so fond of – are much rarer, especially at the easier grades. Expect more delicate footwork and balance, and you’ll be better prepared.
CAN I CRASH HERE?
When we boulder indoors, we fall. Taking your bouldering practice outside is no different. Fun fact: the landing zones at most outdoor bouldering spots aren’t much softer than the rocks themselves. In an effort to prevent injury, climbers have been using portable crash pads – large foam mats that fold up for portability.
The best thing you can do is bring more crash pads than you think you need. A long approach may make this a pain in the sitting muscle, but the alternative is much worse. There’s nothing more terrifying than having a jacked outcrop in your landing zone. It also never hurts to practice your falling technique. Pads may make the ground a little softer, but poor landings can still lead to rolled ankles and buckled knees and elbows.
DUDE, WHERE’S MY BOULDER?
An eternal struggle of the outdoor climber is finding the right climb. Since we’re climbing shorter rocks, it can be especially hard to find the right boulder, especially in heavily wooded areas.
The solution? Guidebooks, guidebooks, guidebooks. Most popular crags will have dedicated books filled with info on the best way to get to your problem of choice, helpful tips like climbing beta and local crag best practices. If you can find someone, it also pays to have a veteran of the crag come with you. It’s like having a guidebook that can carry gear for you!
This all may sound pretty intimidating, but it’s really just meant to set you up for success. Transitioning to bouldering outside is a lot cheaper and easier than doing the same for roped climbing areas, especially if you keep these tips in mind.
Now, go get out there and wrassle some rubble.