Bouldering 101

Problem Solving
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Bouldering is rock climbing. It comes in all shapes and sizes—from poised one-move wonders to today's trend of long, strenuous highball routes that more closely resemble free soloing—and the moves and techniques are much the same. A boulder problem is like the crux, or several cruxes, of a roped climbing pitch. It's all the good stuff concentrated within a few feet of the ground, and because of its short length and often minimal exposure you can try moves much harder than you might dare while tiptoeing out on the sharp end of a 200-foot rope. Like climbing, it comes in varied flavors. Find a splitter sandstone finger crack that arches for 35 feet off the deck, or a sloping granite slab that traverses barely six inches off the ground. Use bouldering to build your fitness level for rock climbing, or just use it to clear your mind.

The essence of bouldering is problem solving, and it has a zen-like quality that exercises your mind as much as your grip strength. It also requires practiced technique. A challenging problem won't leave room for slipshod movements, and as your bouldering improves you'll see your balance grow more delicate and your movements more graceful. A good problem is anything but straightforward, and after experimenting, exploring, and ultimately failing on the rock, you might be surprised to find yourself up late that night dreaming of alternative strategies for the next day's attempt. It's addictive.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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