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For starters #7: Scale new heights with bouldering

By Mai-Lan Bui, October 3 2023—

Bouldering is a thrilling sport that allows you to scale new heights, physically and mentally. Located on the basement floor of the Kinesiology Block A, the university has just renovated its bouldering wall on campus, creating a safe and fun space for everyone to take on new and challenging routes. It is perfect for newcomers and seasoned climbers eager to test it out as the routes range from beginner to advanced and get reset around every three weeks.

One of the unique highlights of bouldering is that it can be as high-impact as you want by utilizing dynamic moves on harder sets, or as low-impact as you want by going on beginner routes. It builds the upper body and core, provides a great cardiovascular workout, and increases balance and coordination. Bouldering extends beyond the physical benefits too — it is good for our mental wellness as it boosts self-esteem and builds confidence. It refines problem-solving skills as it requires climbers to strategize. All while encouraging climbers to push through difficulties and develop mental resilience. If these perks entice you, here are some tips to get you started on your bouldering journey. 

Before entering the bouldering wall, do not forget to collect an Active Living wristband at the Fitness Centre front desk (KNB 154), the Active Living Client Services desk (KNA 104), or the climbing office. If you want to rent climbing shoes, you can rent them for nine dollars at the Outdoor Centre (KNB180). 

As with any sport, safety is the main priority, and while the thick mats allow for soft landings, it is important to know the proper way to fall from the wall is to land on your butt and roll softly onto your back. Be aware of your surroundings because people could fall from the wall at any time. Unfortunately, the wall is not infinite so you may need to consider taking turns, but this creates the opportunity to collaborate on problems together. You can get optimal performance by trying out the routes with climbing shoes as the grip on the toe part of the shoe is perfect for getting on the holds. If you do not own one or do not want to rent out a pair, using your regular runners works just as well. There is detailed information on the bouldering wall regarding rules and safety.

The coloured holds are not just for art — there is actually some method to the madness as each colour corresponds to one route. Look for taped starting points which are usually at or below eye level. If there is one tape-marked hold, put both hands on it to start your climb and if there are two, use them both to start. Put your feet onto the footholds and from thereon, you will continue following that coloured path until you reach the top. To complete the route, you must touch the final hold with both hands. Seasoned climbers often jump down from the wall, but for some, being at the top can be understandably daunting so the grey handles are available and scattered along the wall to facilitate a safer descent.

You can find many other types of holds with different shapes. For example, jugs are large, easy-to-grip holds while crimps are thinner holds which require a lot of finger strength. Slopers are rounded holds and they are usually large, requiring more technique but they make for a good foothold. The list can go on, but these are just a few of the many holds you will learn to climb, some easier, some more challenging, but all the fun. 

As much as bouldering appears to be an individual sport, one of the most appealing aspects of bouldering is the sense of collaboration and community that it fosters. It does not matter what your level of experience is because everyone wants you to succeed, and it is undoubtedly easy to befriend fellow climbers. If you are interested in meeting other climbers, there is a bouldering club that goes beyond just bouldering. Check out the UCBoulder Club Instagram Page for more information on their social events, meet-ups, and other news related to bouldering. 

Whether you are looking to try new sports, aiming to gain confidence or make your workouts more interesting, bouldering is a well-rounded sport that does not require any frills and thrills — you just need to bring your body and brain and a good attitude.

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