Yesterday I visited Northside Boulders in Northcote to learn about bouldering. This particular gym only recently opened (mid-October 2017), and so far access has been exclusively for members. I met with Reuben, the manager, to quiz him on bouldering and what people can expect when visiting Northside Boulders.
What is bouldering?
Bouldering is a form of unassisted rock climbing, and may take place outdoors or indoors. There are no harnesses or ropes involved. At Northside Boulders an indoor, artificial rock wall presents boulderers (people who climb) with several “problems” to choose from; colour coded according to level of difficulty. Boulderers thoughtfully select and test climbing holds (artificial boulders/rock) choosing those which are most useful to complete a climb, thus solving the puzzle. Bouldering requires a combination of upper-body, lower-body, core and finger strength; it is definitely a mind – body workout!
Is bouldering safe?
Bouldering is much safer that free soloing however there are still risks involved. Artificial rock walls in gyms, including those at Northside Boulders, are generally no more than six meters high. Foam crash pads completely surround the walls which offer a soft support in the case of a fall or a jump from the wall (take care of your ankles and keep your knees bent when landing). Gym rules dictate etiquette to keep climbers safe. For example; one person climbing a wall section at a time, with spectators positioned off the mats. Warming up and stretching is highly recommended prior to climbing. Climbing shoes are also available which offer traction when placing your feet on the holds. Bouldering is recommended for people with a reasonable level of fitness. More information is available from staff at gyms. All new members at Northside Boulders must read and sign a waiver form when registering.
A social activity
My favourite aspect of bouldering is the opportunity to chat to people between climb attempts. After a climb – which generally involves a short burst of intense activity – your body likes the chance to recover before going again. So, in most gyms, you will see few people climbing the walls while others stand around the crash pad perimeter observing and chatting. Observation is also a short-cut way to help solve bouldering problems for you next climb. Discussing approaches amongst those around you, may help you reach the top of the bouldering wall (“topping out”) sooner rather than later.
How much does bouldering cost?
Casual $17 | Concession $15 | Under 15 $12
Shoe hire $4.50 | Chalk bag $2
Great value membership options are available for regular boulderers.
ORGANIC FUSIONS Events
ORGANIC FUSIONS plans to host monthly events for newbies and experienced boulderers. Such events allow attendees to take part in a fun activity whilst getting to know each other. For details of upcoming events, log in to the view the events calendar. The best part? ORGANIC FUSIONS is free to join. You can also watch the video below to see my first bouldering experience.
For a more detailed description and a bit of bouldering history, read “The Art of Bouldering” by John P. Gill; an American, who compared bouldering to gymnastics and introduced the use of chalk to the sport.