You can start bouldering at any centre without doing a course, but what actually is it?
Low-level climbing without ropes
Bouldering is one of many types of climbing. It is a form of low-level climbing on rocks or artificial walls without the use of ropes. Bouldering problems are typically only a few metres tall and can be on walls of varied angles from overhangs to balancy slabs. A “problem” refers to the sequence of moves a climber must complete in order to top (or finish) the climb. You can also traverse across a wall by climbing horizontally from one side to the other and staying even closer to the ground.
Bouldering is an easy entry into climbing as you don’t need to learn knots or use a harness and ropes. You do not need to do a course to start bouldering, you simply complete forms, watch a safety video and off you go. You can start from any age as long as under 16s are supervised by a registered adult. Adults (over 18) may supervise up to 2 under 16s per visit. 16-17 year olds can climb independently. Over 70s climb for free.
How did it start
Historically, bouldering was invented as a method of training for roped climbing. By setting specific problems on a wall, people could practice the moves from a climb they were hoping to complete outdoors. It also served as a form of training to improve finger strength and power. However, bouldering developed into a sport in its own right and now we tend to differentiate between boulderers and roped climbers. Of course, many of us practice and enjoy both.
Do I need a partner?
No. If you’re new to climbing and you don’t know any other climbers yet, bouldering is the perfect point of access. It is relatively easy to pick up as a sport and you don’t need a partner or a lot of gear. You can be as social or as antisocial as you like! Although you will probably find that climbing centres are very community-oriented spaces and you’ll make lots of friends easily if you want to. The independent aspect also means that you won’t end up frustrated if your friend is running late.
The easiest way to meet people bouldering is when trying the same or adjacent problems. Just ask “have you tried this problem?”, “how did you do this one?”. Very often climbers are happy to share advice or offer support for your attempts.
What do I need?
The Kit List
All you will need is a pair of climbing shoes to help secure your feet on holds – which you can hire at the centre. You may also want to use chalk to improve your grip. Not every climber ‘chalks-up’, but it can come in handy if your hands get sweaty. You can buy chalk and chalk bags in centres. We also have liquid chalk, this is applied to your hands just before a climb and lasts longer. Why not experiment with different types and find your own favourite?
If you do end up bouldering outdoors, you will also need to get yourself a bouldering mat to avoid injuries from falls. We usually stock these at The Newsroom in Glasgow, but there are plenty of suppliers online. Indoor centres will already be equipped with mats. But it is important to remember that these do not remove the risk of injury completely!
How do the grades work?
It’s simple: the higher the number, the harder the climb.
In our centres you will see colours assigned to a grade range or a single grade shown on the start holds. Always start with the easiest grades, which are generally easy to spot as they tend to have bigger holds.
If you’re not sure how to find the start or finish holds, ask a member of staff. You must complete all of the moves, finishing with 2 hands on the last hold to tick a problem. There are various grading systems in bouldering, although today most centres will use either the V-scale or the Fontainebleau scale (the latter is used at TCA).
Just have fun
Although our grades will guide you through levels of difficulty, you don’t have to stick to this. As long as you are not getting in anyone’s way, feel free to move around on any colour. We call it rainbowing. You don’t have to climb to the top. Just go as far as you feel comfortable and remember to have fun!
Plan your visit
Find opening times and addresses for your nearest locations, see prices or complete your form before your first visit. We hope to welcome you soon. Our staff will be happy to talk you through everything you need to know.
Tips for improving
And, if you’re struggling to move up the grades or to feel confident, why not try our Movement and Technique course? This first step in coaching is packed with tips and tricks to make climbs easier. This course is recommended for those that have been climbing at least five times.
All TCA centres have bouldering facilities, although please note that The Church is primarily a roped climbing centre.