bouldering basics

photo by @krisugarriza

photo by @krisugarriza

recently, i’ve been afforded the opportunity of getting newbie climbers out of the gym and onto some real rock! as exciting as it’s been, it’s also had me thinking a lot about responsibilities; educating friends on maintaining the planet, putting safety as a priority, and general respect for the sport. after the hype is said and done, my peers have been very inquisitive, and a little timid. so, here are a few ways to boost your confidence in getting on top of things, pun intended.

  1. plan ahead & do your research

    • look up areas that are obvious approaches, and have plenty of options for beginners. it may say, “warm up,” section on mountain project, but there’s no shame in spending your entire session there. even now, i have days where i go out with no intention of doing anything higher than a v2 just to gain volume and really focus on understanding movements rather than muscle f*cking my way through a problem.

    • check the weather and make sure you’re giving yourself a decent time of day to play, theres nothing worse than being on something that scares you and to start sweating your hide off. check the traffic report, eat with enough time to start digesting and actually use the fuel, bring sunscreen and if needed rain gear.

  2. better to be safe than sorry

    • i am so thrilled that helmets are becoming cool to post on instagram about when biking/sport climbing/snowboarding, because safety isn’t a, “cool,” or, “uncool,” thing. it’s literally life or death. while helmets aren’t a bouldering necessity, crash pads are. it may feel silly to carry two or three strapped together, or tiring to make a few trips back and forth, but i am a huge advocate for too many pads. if you’re in overkill and they just don’t all fit appropriately in your landing zone, set one to the side for when you rest and glare down the move that rejected you. basically setting up camp is so much better than hiking out on a broken ankle.

    • i will be very personal and target this at you, the reader, in this moment: i do not care how embarrassed/shy you are, go with a group. when you feel more confident in your skills you can try going solo, but until you feel adequate enough to project something by yourself, take literally anyone. more experienced climbers preferably, but photographers, friends, your granny, literally anyone who will go with you in the off chance that you get hurt and need assistance. stick with your buddy.

  3. try something out of your comfort zone

    • don’t throw yourself on a high baller that’s four grades higher than you’ve ever done or anything, but do something that you don’t think you can flash. you learn to fall properly, to stay calm in panic situations, and to respect the process by getting shot down. you never know, you might even surprise yourself and do something you never thought possible!

  4. respect the planet

    • leaving no trace is not only a courtesy to others around you, but is literally a mean to save mother earth. use reusable straws, cantines, lunch bags, whatever! and for the things you simply cannot, bring a trash bag in your crash pad. you’re still carrying out less weight than you brought in by stuffing your granola wrapper in your pocket.

    • the uncomfortable conversation is always, “but what if i have to go?” and i will say this as family-friendly as possible; you poop, you scoop. if you’re one of those regular movers on the dot, then bring an extra disposal bag to drop your sanitary bag in before you carry it out. saves on making a disgusting mess later, and you still carry your sh*t out. no pun, meant that in a literal sense.

  5. brush your ticks

    • aside from keeping the area clean, keep the boulder clean. if you mark good feet or hidden holds, maybe use an excessive amount of chalk, brush it before you leave. the whole point of bouldering is problem solving, and you’re kind of taking away the lesson for someone if you leave them footnotes the whole way. let other climbers grow, make them work for it a little. that’s the fun of the sport!

of course, always have fun and what all, so long as you are respectful of; the planet, yourself, and those around you. but get outside, go somewhere that inspires you and do the d*mn thing!

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stay positive,


KariDane Matlock