Anyone that knows me well (or even a little bit) knows that I’m fixated on a new hobby almost weekly. The latest on the agenda; bouldering.
Bouldering is a style of rock climbing that focuses on skill and technique rather than sheer strength and vertical height. The walls are lower, maxing out at around 2-3metres. Also, instead of wearing a harness and climbing on ropes, there are giant padded mats under all of the climbs should you need to jump down or fall.
For those of you new to the sport, here’s what i’ve learnt;
1. 2-3 metres might not seem high looking up, but it’s scary as hell from the top!!
I’m not a regular climber but I enjoy the odd climbing sesh here and there. I’ve been told I’m great at trusting my legs and taking risks. Plus I do a mean job of abseiling down from the top (being lowered back down on the safety rope).
With my trusty rope and friend on belay (ensuring my rope is locked off in case I slip), fear of heights has never been an issue for me during my climbs.
But let me tell you; bouldering is something else!! As I start to work my way up the wall for the first time, harness-free, the exhilarating feeling of freedom quickly changes to panic. One false move, one missed foot hold and I’ll be tumbling down! The 1/2 metre drop suddenly seems much further.
To my relief, it only takes me a couple climbs to get over this initial crippling fear at the 1/2 metre mark, but the top can still be a little daunting.
2. Jumping from the top is a really dumb idea
Luckily this is not one that I have had to learn from experience. However I often watch in horror as countless others brave the height and drop/jump from the top.
When you start pushing yourself and getting onto more challenging climbs you’ll find yourself using every last ounce of energy to finish a “problem” (set course of rocks to follow from start to finish). It’s a proud moment getting to the finish, but it doesn’t mean you’re done. You’re at the top of a 3m wall, it’s scary as hell! So whilst most of us are driven by fear to summon the energy to find our way at least halfway back down before we jump; the braver few decide to drop from the top.
I’m not sure whether it’s from sheer exhaustion of not wanting to hold on any longer, or sheer confidence that it’s not that big of a jump. Either way, dropping from the top means taking all that extra load and impact through your ankles, hips and knees. It may feel like a good option at the time, and you may be all good the first 10, 20times that you do it. Rest assured, it’s a sure way to overload any or all of these joints over time and develop some serious issues!
The best advice; man up and climb back down to limit the excess load you’re putting through your joints. Secondly, when you do drop down, don’t land on stiff legs! Let your ankles, knees and hips bend to absorb the impact!
3. Chalk is gods gift to bouldering
If you’ve ever seen a well practised climber or boulderer you’ll notice they always have a little chalk filled pouch with them. The idea is to dip your hands into the bag to keep them chalk covered and grippy.
Entering into the bouldering world I didn’t have a chalk bag, and I remained firm that I wasn’t going to fork out extra cash when my hands were perfectly grippy on their own. My hands don’t sweat so I figured that I could live a comfortable chalk-free existence. How wrong I was.
I’ve invited a few friends to come along, they’re also new to bouldering but they’ve lashed out and rented a chalk bag. It doesn’t take long for me to notice I’m lagging behind. I hate to brag but I’m sure I’m stronger and I’m certainly more experienced so how is it that they’re smashing me?? There are a couple of holds that I just keep slipping off and I soon realise that the difference is the extra grip that their chalked up hands are providing.
I swallow my pride and go for the chalk and it’s the best thing I’ve done.
4. Wear socks with your climbing shoes!!
I roll up to my 4th day of climbing, pick out my shoe size off the shelf of climbing shoes, then start hunting through my bag for my socks. Damn - forgot my socks. No worries I’ll just climb without, I slip the shoes on and fasten them firmly. As I attempt my first wall I’m impressed by the heightened sensation I’ve discovered without the extra layer of material between my feet and the wall. Surely I’ve happened across a secret piece of genius that will help me conquer todays climb with ease and prowess!
Not so fast… it doesn’t take long until I’ve warmed up and starting to sweat. Now I’ve never been a super sweaty person, but something about the bouldering shoes and the constant pressure through my feet as I cling frantically to the walls means it’s not long until my feet start to become considerably sweatier than I thought possible. A few climbs later and I’m climbing with what feels like swimming pools in each shoe.
Lesson learnt. Always remember your socks.
Kristina or as we like to call her, Kris Kringle is our newest recruit here at Evolutio, flown in directly from Europe on the new Dreamliner. She’s been travelling and chasing winter snow seasons like the fellas off Hot Tub Time Machine since graduating Physio in 2012 and has worked at ski resorts as a physio in Japan and Austria in addition to the infamous Mt Hotham.
She now works at Evolutio on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, if you’re ever in need of a physio here in Richmond. Swing in and see her. Just make sure you bring sweet goods and sausage rolls as bribes.