What is Bouldering?


Bouldering is a climbing sport most often performed indoors. Participants do not use rope or a harness to climb surfaces. Bouldering is not the same as free climbing because the maximum height of a surface is usually around 20 feet.


The sport initially served as stamina and finger training for mountaineers. Bouldering was established in the late 1950s by an American mathematician named John Gill. He introduced the use of chalk into climbing so that hands could stay dry. The 1980s sprung bouldering to new heights with the invention of bouldering mats and indoor climbing walls. These advances allowed climbers to practice year round and not worry about injury while falling.

Playing Surface

Bouldering Playing Surface

Bouldering can be performed both outdoors and indoors. The types of outdoors boulders most commonly climbed are granite, sandstone, limestone, and volcanic rock. Indoor walls are made of wood, cement, and molds of actual climbing formations. Holds are made of plastic and simulate areas for hand placement. Indoor walls are most often located in climbing gyms.

Bouldering Equipment

Bouldering Equipment

Bouldering does not utilize much equipment. Climbers want to reduce their load to conserve strength and stamina. The list below will highlight some common equipment used while bouldering.

Here is the essential bouldering equipment you should have:

  • Bouldering Pad
  • Brushes
  • Chalk
  • Chalk Bag
  • Mat
  • Shoes
  • Skin Care Kit
  • Waist Bag


The main goal of bouldering is to climb and summit the chosen surface safely. While bouldering pads are meant to cushion a fall, climbers focus on completing the climb on the first try.


Bouldering is the most dynamic among other climbing sports, and training properly is essential. Routines that strengthen fingers and forearms reduce injuries when climbing. Footwork is also vital when climbing, as the legs are the main source of power that pushes the climber up. Bouldering maneuvers are dynamic because climbers use their momentum to reach for hold points, which increases the risk of a fall.


Bouldering Lingo

Here is the common lingo and slang in bouldering:

  • Crimp: A small edge where a climber has to wrap their thumb around their index finger and pull with the fingertips in order to ascend.
  • Flapper: When the calluses a climber develops on their hands begin to tear off the skin.
  • Flash: Successfully climbing a surface in the first attempt.
  • Jug: A secure holding area that is large enough for a climber to fit their hand inside of it.


The best boulderers attempt to climb surfaces rated high on the difficulty scale. They started climbing when they were young and have perfected various techniques. The list below will highlight some of the greatest bouldering athletes.

Here are the most famous boulderers you should know:

  • Daniel Woods
  • Nalle Hukkataival
  • Charles Albert
  • Shauna Coxsey
  • Jimmy Webb

Events and Competitions

Bouldering Events and Competitions

Bouldering is governed by the International Federation of Sport Climbing, or IFSC. They host indoor competitions that are broken into 3 rounds; qualifications, semi-finals, and finals. Each round has 4 to 6 surfaces. A climber has a limited amount of time to climb all of them.

Here are the most popular tournaments in bouldering:

  • IFSC World Cup
  • IFSC Climbing World Championships
  • IFSC Climbing European Championships

Olympic Bouldering

In 2012, the IFSC submitted a proposal to introduce climbing to the Olympics. The sport was scheduled to appear in the 2020 games but was rejected. Climbing would later be approved to be in future Olympic competitions in 2016. Bouldering, along with lead and speed climbing, is one of the variations approved for Olympic competition.


What are some similar sports to bouldering?

Rock climbing, mountaineering, and ice climbing are all similar sports to bouldering.

What countries have the best areas for bouldering?

The United States, France, South Africa, and Canada are known to have great spots for bouldering.

How are boulders measured for difficulty?

In North America boulders are measured on the V-scale, while European and Asian countries use the Font scale.

Is bouldering slow or fast paced?

Beginners should take their time while climbing but the goal is to conserve energy and strength. Most experienced boulderers climb quickly.