You’ve heard about Top Rope Climbing and Lead Climbing, but I bet you’ve seen people climbing without harnesses on as well! But don’t be alarmed, because these are boulderers.
Bouldering basically involves scaling of a wall of a shorter height of up to 3-4 metres without the use of any protective equipment, with thick layers of crash pad beneath the climber to protect the climber should they fall while attempting the problem.
Of course, having a crash pad does not necessarily mean no injuries will be incurred, as improper landings and amateurs may sustain injuries from poor “landing techniques”. Ideally, boulderers are not recommended to try and break their fall using their arms, as it may result in dislocated elbows and shoulders (or even fractures!). Instead, they are recommended to just land and use the momentum to roll over so that the impact is minimized to the back, or even try to land on their feet whenever possible. Of course, saying is easy, but actually doing it is pretty tough. Even the best of boulderers have super unglam fall moments where they do a “face-plant” or fall awkwardly on their back. That is why occasionally, we enlist the help of our friends to help “spot” us, especially on overhangs or dangerous portions where injury may be sustained more easily. They function somewhat like spotters in lead climbing as well at the start of the climb.
Bouldering outdoors is a whole different ballgame altogether and can be pretty fun with new challenges. Boulderers carry their own crash pads to the boulder sites and place them strategically to help catch the fall of the climber should he/she fall. These crash pads are moved as the climber goes along as the dimensions of each crash pad is typically not large enough to cover the whole area. Spotters are extremely important in outdoor climbing as injuries sustained may be more severe.
Some new climbers prefer to start with bouldering as it involves less equipment (just shoes, and a chalkbag!) and they can assess they are interested in pursuing climbing further. 🙂