Bouldering 101: What you need to know

By: Staff Writer, 24 Sep, 2018

Photograph: chrisontour84 / Shutterstock.com

Climbing boulders without ropes or a harness sounds incredibly dangerous – but it’s not as death defying as it seems. Sure, you’re not going to be able to scale rockfaces on your first shot, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it! Bouldering still isn’t mainstream in India, but there are a number of experts who are pushing the boundaries. And in most cases, they’re willing to show you the ropes. We spoke to Praveen C.M., who’s been climbing and bouldering since 1999, to get the lowdown on all you need to know before you go. 

WCH: What is bouldering and how is it different from rock-climbing? 

PCM: When you climb a boulder less than 15ft in height without any hard gear, we call it bouldering. The equipment includes your climbing shoes, chalk bag and crash pad (to cushion your fall). You could do bouldering on natural rocks or on artificial walls. Rock-climbing simply means climbing on rocks. 

WCH: What is the bouldering scene like in India? Where can we go bouldering? 

PCM: There are plenty of bouldering options in India. People tend to have more fun bouldering than climbing. You can go bouldering in places like Hampi, Badami, Manali etc., climbing gyms like Equilibrium (Bangalore), Greater Hyderabad (Hyderabad) or even a public climbing wall (which is present in every state).

Photograph: Jyothy Karat

WCH: Is there a season that’s best for bouldering? 

PCM: If you choose your locations wisely, you can climb outdoors throughout the year. Winter is great for Hampi and Badami. For summer, you could head to Manali.

WCH: Do I need to be of a certain fitness level?

PCM: Anybody can climb. We climb to become fit, not the other way around. When you are a beginner you can choose easy boulders and as you become stronger, you can take harder routes.

WCH: What are the risks involved? 

PCM: Climbing without an expert can be risky. Climbers with a lot of experience follow safety procedures to a T. Most accidents happen when amateur climbers go with a beginner climber and try to climb a route that is beyond their ability.

Photograph: Jyothy Karat

WCH: How can I start as a beginner? How long does it take to learn to boulder? 

PCM: Once you’ve got a taste for bouldering, I would recommend you start at your local climbing gym or wall. Time is relative, and each individual learns at a different pace. But as you improve your skill, you will also find there are more routes to challenge you!
 
WCH: What should I look out for when choosing a bouldering expert to learn with? 

PCM: It may be difficult for a rookie to find a really good climbing partner. Certified guides and instructors are usually safe to climb with, outdoors. Many adventure companies and gyms employ them. My advice would be to do your research and make sure you climb with a reputed company/ gym, or make friends with professional athletes and climb with them!

WCH: Who can I learn with in India? 

PCM: If you plan to visit Badami, you can climb with my team of climbing guides and instructors. Our company is called Sport Climbing India (www.sportclimbingindia.com; climberpraveen@gmail.com; 9844035741). And, as I said before, you could start with your local climbing gym or climbing wall.  

WCH: What else should I know before bouldering? 

PCM: Safety should always come first. There is a fine line between pushing yourself to try harder and doing something stupid. Remember, you can always climb hard routes or fun routes at a safe height. Make sure that your partner knows how to 'spot' you (a technique in breaking the climber's fall while bouldering). This is why I stress on partnering up with professionals. You will also benefit from climbing with different groups. You will learn from each other and will also learn best practices faster.


Praveen C.M. has been climbing for almost 20 years, and still makes new and exciting discoveries out on the rocks. He runs Sport Climbing India and trains the Madras Regiment Centre (Indian Army) and the Special Forces.  

Want to go bouldering? Hampi's got some of the best climbing in the country - check out our trip here
 

More Travel Stories