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Bouldering is a Lifesyle

What is bouldering you ask?  Does it have something to do with rolling rocks down a hillside?  Well no, but that’s kinda half right.  It does have to do with rocks, BIG rocks!

Bouldering

Bouldering 1Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that usually takes place well below 20ft.  It is geared toward hard moves and technique instead of the endurance required for long sports or trad climbs.  Some climbers boulder as a form of practice for higher and longer climbs.  But there is a large group of climbers that choose bouldering as their main style of climbing.

Why Boulder?

Bouldering is one of the most intense and enjoyable workouts that you will ever experience.  You really need to be in tune with your body and mind when you climb.  There is a reason that they call bouldering routes “problems”.  They may be short, but they require very specific and precise movements to complete them.  You become very aware of your body position and your balance.  The success of completing a hard problem keeps you motivated and coming back for more.

Bouldering is great, even for beginners, because it requires little investment in gear and less danger from a high fall than one could experience in other forms of climbing.  It still holds its dangers, of course, like falling from six feet and hitting your head off of a rock.  Ouch!  But with proper safety, these kind of injuries can be avoided.

Bouldering GearMost boulderers only have a chalk bag, a pair of climbing shoes, and a crash pad.

  • The chalk is used for keeping ones hands dry.  When your hands get sweaty or wet, climbing certain types of rock can become very difficult.
  • Climbing shoes are made with special rubber that is durable and sticky in comparison to your everyday kicks.
  • A crash pad is a thick piece of foam that works great for softening your fall.  Even though you may not be very high above the ground, many times your body is horizontal, or even upside-down.  Falling from those positions can be dangerous on rough terrain without a pad.

Bouldering 2Bouldering connects you with nature.  Of course you can boulder indoors at most climbing gyms, there are even huge gyms dedicated specifically to bouldering, but bouldering outdoors is where the magic happens.  It’s a time where you can leave behind technology and your everyday worries.  It’s a time to take in the world around you.  And it’s a great way to connect with the raw physical forces of the universe.  Man, one with rock.

Bouldering is also a great way to meet new and interesting people.  In the short amount of time that I have spent climbing I have found that other climbers are some of the friendliest and most helpful people that I have met.  You could be climbing a new route and someone that you never met will begin giving you encouragement and suggestions.  The passion for climbing is a glue that quickly builds bonds between fellow climbers.

Bouldering Videos!

Believe it or not, there are tons of great bouldering and climbing videos out there.  Most of them are also made using great style and technique.  For bouldering specific videos check out www.modump.com.  For all kinds of climbing videos check out www.ucmag.tv.  You can also search climbing and bouldering on YouTube and Vimeo and find plenty of great videos!

Here is one of my favorite Vimeo videos by sébastien montaz-rosset:

Where to Boulder

There are many places to go bouldering around the country and around the world!  You can start by finding a nearby climbing gym.  It’s a great way to get some climbing experience and meet people that know where good outdoor climbing is available.  This website, www.indoorclimbing.com, is a great reference for indoor gyms.

Unless you live in the middle of the Great Plains you are probably within a few minutes to a couple of hours of a great outdoor bouldering location.  Do a web search for your area and climbing or bouldering to find information on great locations.  Finding outdoor sites is where those friends you made at the gym can come in handy :)  Oh, yeah, and remember to obey trespassing laws.  Do not climb on private property without written permission!

Traventure Down South

The South East is a great area for winter climbing.  In fact that is where my friend Nick and I are going this week.  The temperature will be in the low 50s during the day and dip into the low 30s at night.  The colder the temperature, the better the friction on the rock.  We are going to go to Little Rock City in Tennessee and Horse Pens 40 in Alabama.  We are super exited to climb outdoors and meet some great people.  We will probably also check out some of the sites in Chattanooga and perhaps Birmingham.  So make sure to check back this week for posts, pictures and maybe some video :)

Call to action!!!

Stop sitting around and plan your first climbing experience!!!  See you on the rocks!

*Note:  The photos of climbers used on this site come from Google Images.  I do not own the rights to them and I’m using them for illustration only.  If you find that I am using your photos and you would like me to take them down, please let me know.  If not, send me your name and website and I’ll give you credit.  Thanks in advance :)

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Way Down Yonder in Chattanooga…

Okay, those aren’t exactly the lyrics, but that is where I will be going in a couple of weeks.  My good friend Nick and I are driving down I-75 from Bowling Green, Ohio to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Ever notice how many double letters are in that name???

Our new found indoor wall climbing addiction is what lead us to pick this location.  That and the fact that we have never been to this part of the country.  True we have done all of our climbing to date on fake rock, but we are hoping that the weather holds out so we can do some Southern Outdoor Bouldering.  Right now it’s pretty cold in TN (42°F), so we may have to go souther :)

Triple Crown Bouldering

Triple Crown BoulderingChattanooga is one of the homes of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series.  It’s a rock climbing event hosted by Southeastern Climbers’ Coalition and The Carolina Climbers’ Coalition.  It takes place in 3 locations within 3 months - Hound Ears in Boone, NC, Horse Pens-40 in Steele, AL, and then Stone Fort in Chattanooga, TN.  We will be missing the event by 2 weeks, but we hope to meet some awesome people and experience bouldering on real rock for the 1st time.

New Shoes

5.10 VMileI just got some new 5.10 VMILE climbing shoes in the mail today, and I’m going to break them in on Sunday at the wall.  Actually I’m wearing them right now!  They are pretty tight, but bearable, so hopefully they will break in just right.  It’s scary buying climbing shoes online without being able to try them on.  But there is no one that sells them near me.  A shame, I say!

We are also looking for some used crash pads.  Most of them are really expensive brand new, so if you know anyone that has one or two, let me know ASAP!

The PlansUrban Krag Wall

Our plans are pretty loose (I’m holding back from quoting The Office). If everything works out as planned, we are leaving Wednesday, December 16th.  First up, we are considering hitting up Urban Krag, a climbing gym in Dayton, Ohio.  It looks amazing!  It’s built in a renovated church and blows away the wall at BGSU in terms of size.  We want to scope it out for some future weekends of climbing, and get our blood flowing before the long push south.

Next we are going to continue down I-75 all the way to Chattanooga.  Along the way we may stop to see some sites and grab some food.  We will keep our eyes and iPhones open for exciting side trips.

Once in Chattanooga we will be looking for bouldering locations and people to climb with / interview.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that we get some sunny 60 degree weather!  If we can’t make it outside we have two options: Climb at some of the great indoor facilities in Chattanooga, or drive south into Georgia or Alabama to find better weather and dry rocks.

Either way it should be an adventure.  As always I will send you photos, video, and posts along the way.  If there is anything you want to know about climbing or the locations, let me know by commenting or tweeting me here.  If I don’t know the answer, I will find someone in Chattanooga that does!

Related Links

www.chattanoogafun.com
www.triplecrownbouldering.org
www.urbankrag.com

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Learning to Belay

Climbing WallWe finally did it!  My friend Nick and I joined the rock wall at Bowling Green State University.  We tried it out during one of their free weeks at the beginning of the school semester, and we have been talking about it ever since.  It was only $56 for the rest of the school year (May 2010), it’s open 5 days a week, and shoe rental is only $1.  So today we finally signed up!

The wall at the BGSU Rec Center is 35ft high and full of friendly staff and climbers.  There are multiple routes for the novice and intermediate climber.  One thing that I noticed on my first wall experience was that some routes were easier than I expected, and others seemed almost impossible.  There is more strength and technique required for the challenging routes than I imagined.  But I love it for it’s fun workout, and mental challenge.  You really need to think through your moves, or you’re probabley going to fall off.

Belaying

figure 8 knotToday we got our memberships and we took the 1 hour belaying class (pronounced /bi-ˈlā/ with a short i).  The first thing that we learned was how to tie a figure 8 knot.  At first I thought, “Oh, crap.  I have to learn a knot that my life will depend on!”  But it wasn’t too hard of a knot, and after a few attempts Nick and I both mastered it.

Next we learned how to properly use a grigri (pronounce /grē-grē/) and connect it to our rope and harness with a carabiner.  The grigri is a device designed to apply pressure to the rope when fast acceleration occurs.  When used properly it acts like a brake to stop a climbers fall.  It can also be slowly released to lower the climber safely to the ground.

GirgriThe most important thing to remember when belaying is to never let the slack go with your right hand.  You use your left hand to grab the rope above your right hand and then you slide the right hand down towards the grigri in order to release more slack.  You always need that right hand on the rope to catch your climber if he or she falls!  The grigri should lock even if the belayer fails to have a grip on the rope, but you never want to rely completely on the equipment.  Plus poor belaying technique can result in injury in the future when doing more complex climbs.  I know I don’t want a bad belayer holding my life in their hands.  So learn and use proper technique!

We took our little test at the end of our lesson and we passed with flying colors.  We are not the smoothest belayers, but we have the basics down.  Now all we need is practice.  We spent the rest of the night climbing and bouldering.  Everyone was friendly and helpful.  The more experienced climbers helped us locate footholds and gave us tips on how to move from one hold to the next.  Needless to say we had a blast!

I hope to climb at least 3 times a week now that I have a membership.  I will keep you posted on my experience.  As I get to know the staff and learn the sport I will take pictures and setup some interviews.

If you ever thought about climbing, now is the time to do it.  Look up the closest rock wall in your area and try it out.  It’s a great way to meet new people, and to get a great workout doing something that is challenging and exciting.

Happy climbing!

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