What makes people want to climb up a rock? What makes people want to take the most complicated route up that rock that they could possibly imagine? These were the questions I hoped to find out with my first foray into bouldering. Here at We Go Wild UK we are always up for a challenge and the team as a whole live for adventure. However, rock climbing in general is just something I’d never done personally, so I took the plunge and I was in for a treat.
If you’re sitting there, wondering ‘well what exactly is bouldering?’ don’t worry, its not a silly question. Put simply its similar to rock climbing, in that you still climb a rock, but in this case its without a rope, and lower down. Alongside this the route, or ‘problem’ as its known, is much shorter than a traditional wall climb, with perhaps just a few key moves put together to test your abilities. These problems vary in difficulty across the boulder, including on the flat, incline or overhang.
I was fitted with the standard issue, rental climbing shoes, which took a little getting used to, as they require a ‘snug’ fit to allow you the sensitivity on the rock face, so I was told. I walked to the climbing floor and immediately felt out of my depth. Men, women and even children were swinging around with careless abandon, completing moves that spiderman would be proud of. I stood at the base of the wooden wall, staring at a lot of colourful plastic, hoping it was easier than it looked.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of climbing up something for the first time since you were a child, when you scaled that tree you were told not to climb. But what I can tell you is it was a mixture of absolute freedom, and sheer terror. I scaled the wall, eventually reaching the top, and then realised I somehow had to make the transition from horizontal to vertical. Glancing around whilst poised at the precipice I saw others make this movement with the fluidity of a carefree stream. My movement felt more akin to a seal moving across land. But I’d done it, completed my first problem. It was ticked off, and in that moment, I’m sure I was already hooked and didn’t even know it.
I came down from the boulder and immediately wanted to know what grade the route I had accomplished was. Finding out it was a kids route didn’t dampen my vigour. I wanted more. I wanted to tick off every god damn route in the place.
I’ve now had the pleasure of bouldering over the last few months and have grown in confidence, and more importantly, in skill. This hasn’t come quickly or with ease. Bouldering is very simple to get into and easy to take part in, but very difficult to master. I have progressed through the kids routes and now even dabble in the adult problems! After training on indoor boulders for weeks we were finally lucky enough to find a sunny day to head outdoors. And obviously, thats what we are always aiming to do.
The beauty of the surroundings on Helman Tor really added to our day. We had a full day of blistering sunshine, along with a cool breeze being so high up compared to the surrounding area. The difference between indoor and outdoor bouldering is vast. I am, on reflection, glad that I started in an indoor setting. It gave me the chance to learn the basics in a relatively safe environment, with a lot of people around to offer friendly pointers and advice should you be struggling with a problem. Having said that, its really fulfilling to get outdoors and enjoy the surroundings whilst challenging yourself.
Here you can see us bouldering, mostly with less that perfect technique, but that is something that you are always looking to improve and with every session I do, I find myself pushing myself further and managing to progress each month.
The next video shows the same boulder and problem, just from different angles. One is shot from a standard camera fixed on a tripod, the other is mounted on my head. It seemed a good idea at the bottom, but as you can see, it wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped to top out on this route!
Bouldering has become a passion of mine from a standing start just a few months ago. It gives me focus, exercise and yet another great reason to just get outdoors. If you are looking to get involved yourself, you can use the British Mountaineering Council’s website to find a wall/boulder near you by looking here. There is also a good article from UK Climbing, which gives some good advice on the basics, which you can find here.