Bouldering is a style of rock climbing undertaken without a rope and normally limited to very short climbs so that a fall will not result in serious injury. It is typically practiced on large boulders or artificial man-made boulders. However, it may also be practiced at the base of larger rock faces, or even on buildings or public architecture (see buildering).
Bouldering is a style of climbing emphasizing power, strength, and dynamics. Its focus is on individual moves or short sequences of moves, unlike traditional climbing or sport climbing, which generally demand more endurance over longer stretches of rock where the difficulty of individual moves is not as great. Boulder routes are commonly referred to as problems (a British appellation) because the nature of the climb is often short, curious, and much like problem solving. Sometimes these problems are eliminates, meaning certain artificial restrictions are imposed.
To reduce the risk of injury from a fall, climbers rarely go higher than 3-5 meters above the ground. Anything over 7 meters is generally considered to be free-soloing (or simply 'soloing' in the United Kingdom), although such climbs might also be termed high-ball bouldering problems. For further protection, climbers typically put a bouldering mat (crash pad) on the ground to break their fall. Lastly, climbers often have one or more spotters, who work to direct the climber's body toward the crash pad during a fall, while protecting the climber's head from hazards.
Bouldering is increasing in popularity; bouldering areas are common in indoor climbing gyms and some climbing gyms are dedicated solely to bouldering. Children are joining the sport now as well as adults. In fact, studies have found that young climbers develop better skills as adults from their experience with youthful disadvantages such as height and strength.
One of the major appeals of bouldering is its relatively scant equipment requirements. It is not uncommon to see people bouldering with shoes, a chalkbag, and a small mat to wipe their feet on. Although nothing is actually required, common equipment includes:
- Loose, powdered chalk as a hand drying agent while climbing.
- A mattress-like object called a crash pad. These are generally thick, rectangular foam pads with a heavy-duty fabric shell. They are opened and placed at the base of a boulder to cover irregularities in the landing and provide some cushion if the climber falls.
- Climbing shoes, for better traction and edging capabilities.
- A brush, or several brushes of differing sizes, typically with nylon bristles but sometimes coarse animal hair, is used to clean holds and is often mounted on a telescopic pole to allow greater reach.
- Sports tape is useful for covering cuts or blisters, as well as providing support for joints that may have been strained.
- Clothing usually include a sleeveless shirt and shorts, though anything that's comfortable and flexible enough will generally work