[O]AQ: What’s that short wall? Is that the practice wall?

[Occasionally] Asked Questions is Peak’s resource for all of those random climbing questions you always wanted to know the answer to.  Got something you’re wondering? Email Erin and she’ll find out the answer!

Q. What’s that short wall? Is that the practice wall? 

Bouldering Cave | Peak Experiences

It only looks friendly. It will actually eat you alive.

A. Nope.

We know the bouldering wall looks less intimidating, because it’s shorter. Shorter means easier, right? Unfortunately, no – most of our veteran members who aren’t named Andrew Palmer will tell you that they’ve been spit off our bouldering wall more times than they care to admit. So why is it so short?

Unlike roped climbing, bouldering is exactly what it sounds like (although I suppose ‘rope climbing’ is too).  People who didn’t want to shell out for a full trad rack and rope started climbing the smaller rocks – the boulders – and whole new division of the sport of climbing was born. Because the boulders are so short, the climbs (on boulders, they’re called ‘problems’) tend to be much more intense. Imagine if we’d condensed your favorite 40-foot route into a handful of moves. Each move would be far more strenuous, right? That’s the gist of bouldering. Short, powerful moves fairly close to the ground.

Bouldering | Peak Experiences

Honkey Tonk, V4, HP40. Don’t worry, we spotted him when he got past the second move. He sent it, too.

Bouldering carries with it its own inherent risks.  Every fall (and you will fall) is all the way to the ground, whether you like it or not. As the boulders get bigger, the risk increases.  Pads and spotters become crucial, and a keeping a cool head is a must. The line between highball bouldering and free soloing is a blurry one; climbers are pushing the limits of their mental game every day with higher and higher problems.

Bouldering has a fairly low gear requirement – shoes, chalk, and a pad, plus some friends to spot you.  The ability to go outside and climb all day without having to worry about ropes and quickdraws and runouts is refreshing to some, and stressful for others.  Some people will tell you that bouldering is a sport all by itself, totally distinct from sport and trad climbing.  We might just agree with them.

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About Peak Experiences

Love rock climbing? Me too. Peak is a giant box of climbing and fun, located in Midlothian Virginia, and has been around since 1998. Stronger Than Yesterday is our online resource for all things climbing, in Richmond and out in the wider world.
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