If you’re used to bouldering at a gym, your first trip outdoors can feel a little intimidating. The rocks might be bigger, there are no planned out routes you can take and no colored tape showing different skill levels. At the same time, it’s really incredible to climb up a rock with the sun on your back, all the while breathing in fresh air in a gorgeous location. And it’s a hell of a great time, so long as you’re prepared. Here are some tips to keep your bouldering trip smooth:
Choose a location that’s right for your skill level
Most outdoor bouldering sites will have different rocks good for a variety of skill levels, but not all. So do your research before you go. There are plenty of forums out there where other climbers have weighed in and plenty of advice to be found in just a few Google searches. There are also a variety of guides you can find at your local bookstore that’ll help you pick the perfect spot.
Bring the right gear
Much like your indoor climbs, you’ll need climbing shoes and chalk. But since you’re headed to the great outdoors, where the ground isn’t naturally soft and spongy for falls, you’ll also need to bring a crash pad and it’s probably a good idea to get a climbing helmet for your first trip, at least. You don’t want to crack your noodle on the ground.
Plan your routes
Just like you do at the gym, make sure you visualize your routes before you try to tackle them. While you won’t have colored tape to help, you should still be able to see a good way up before you go. If you can’t, maybe it isn’t the best boulder for you to try and scramble up.
Everyone falls and that’s OK. But be sure you have an idea of where your spotter is (make sure you have a friend spotting you) and where the crash pad is before you need to know. Also, be sure to fall away from the rock face so you don’t bump any jutting rocks on the way down. Falling poorly will end poorly.
Pack snacks and water
Your body dehydrates and gets tired much faster when exposed to sunshine and heat on a climb. So be sure to have some food and plenty of water to keep hunger away and to stay hydrated. Bouldering can go from fun to lousy and dangerous really quickly if you let your blood sugar drop too much.
Let yourself rest
Along those lines, don’t just try to go, go, go and take breaks in between climbs. Not only can it be nice to let your feet out of those tight climbing shoes, but your arms will appreciate the break. Taking turns spotting with friends can definitely help enforce resting periods.