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No Ropes? No Problem.

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Just about everyone in the known history of the world has adrenaline coursing though his or her bodies. So naturally, people are prone to adventure. The thrill of the chase or taking a flying leap are simple examples. But, if you thrill seekers are really looking for some pulse-pounding action, you don’t have to look very far. It’s called bouldering, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

If you’ve ever taken a trip to a fun park or climbing gym, chances are you’ve seen a traditional rock-climbing wall, or perhaps even climbed one yourself. The goal is simple: reach the top and try not to fall.

A climber is put into a harness that is secured to a rope to prevent falling or serious injury. This common form of rock climbing is also know as the “top-rope” method because the rope is looped through two rings at the very top of the route.

This way of climbing also calls for a person called a belayer, who pulls the slack out of the rope as the person climbs higher. Climbers additionally use special shoes with an exceptional amount of traction, as well as talcum chalk to prevent their hands from sweating.

A simple goal, and adequate amount of safety make for a relatively challenging yet fun experience, but bouldering brings slightly more risk to the table.
Bouldering is rock climbing without the use of ropes, harnesses, or a belayer. Essentially, all you need to “boulder” is a pair of decent shoes, some chalk, and yourself. However, it is wisest to bring a friend to join in on the fun in case something goes bad.

Also known as “free climbing,” bouldering is less restrictive in movement than top-rope rock climbing. Bouldering can consist of moving up on a wall or rock face, as well as moving side to side, or traversing. This variation in direction can lead to countless ways to climb one wall, which engages problem-solving skills and provides nearly hours of entertainment.

But, if you reach a creative block, and need cues from someone else, never fear! Some bouldering gym owners develop routes, which are designated rocks on a wall that a person can use to climb or traverse. Routes are usually distinguished by similarly colored rocks or flags next to them. For example, a route could consist of only purple rocks, or rocks with a white flag next to them. Be warned, though, when using designated routes, it is considered cheating if you use a rock not selected for that route.

However exhilarating, bouldering still has its own set of safety precautions. As previously mentioned, always take a friend with you. Disasters are avoided everyday this way, and it’s always good to have someone to catch you when (not if) you fall.

Also, many bouldering enthusiasts would recommend a crash pad for outdoor bouldering. This little lifesaver is placed directly under a climber that is working on a route, and can significantly reduce the impact of a fall.

Finally, when you go to boulder, know your limits. Height is not the goal in bouldering, so keep it low. Typically, climbing gyms put a height limit of about fifteen to eighteen feet to avoid serious injury in the event of a fall.

If you are looking for places to boulder, sometimes it’s as easy as going outside. In Oklahoma particularly, there are many outdoor opportunities to boulder in places like Turner Falls, the Wichita Mountains, and especially Chandler Park in Tulsa. If you are looking at the indoor route, bouldering is offered at RockTown climbing gym in Oklahoma City and New Heights gym in Tulsa. If you are a beginner, indoor places are a great starting point because they can provide you with climbing shoes and chalk.

Now that you’ve had the crash course in bouldering, let’s see how adventurous you really are. It’s time to slip on those shoes, slap on some chalk, and hit the rocks.


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About Frances Mooney