So you’ve been in the climbing gym, you bought some shoes, a harness, and a chalk bag. Climbing in the gym is fun, but what next? How do you start climbing outside?
Bouldering is a great place to start.
Whether you like bouldering or not, it is an awesome way to start climbing outside. You’re closer to the ground, you don’t need as much equipment, and it is kinda similar to indoor bouldering.
First, you’ll have to pick a location. Tennessee is full of climbing, and you can surely find somewhere perfect for you. Stone Fort in Chattanooga and the Obed in Knoxville are some of the best places in Tennessee to boulder, and their guidebooks can easily be found at your local gym.
Second, you need to gather everything you will need for bouldering outside. As for climbing equipment, you need shoes, chalk, and a crash pad. Crash pads can get pricey, and if you’re unsure about buying one just yet, don’t worry. Usually people are more than willing to let you borrow one, or you can rent one. There are usually local gyms and businesses around bouldering fields that will rent them out at day rates. Make sure to do your research before leaving though, you don’t want to drive all the way out to Chattanooga or farther only to find that there are no rentals nearby.
You are also going to need a climbing partner or group. Bouldering outside can be dangerous, and you should have someone spotting you while you climb and vice versa. Getting a group together is even better, especially if someone in that group has bouldered outside before. Plus, more people means more fun.
Like mentioned earlier, you need a guide book. Once you figure out where you are going, you’ll want to pick up a guidebook for that area from REI, your local gym, or borrow one from a friend. Nothing is labelled outside, so you need a guidebook in order to see what a boulder’s grade is and how to climb it. Guidebooks also have maps and instructions on getting to the boulder field, so make sure to read through it before you get there!
Once you’ve got your equipment, guidebook, and group together, you’re ready to get outside! Make sure you understand that outdoor bouldering is much harder than indoors, so even if you can flash a V4 in the gym, you may not even be able to send a V1 outside. Take things slowly, start on the easiest boulders, and work your way up. Don’t get upset if you can’t send something that your friend can – everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, especially outside.
Last but not least, be safe! You won’t be surrounded by soft pads like in a gym. Be aware of those around you, and spot your friends (and make sure they’re spotting you). Practice falling a few times, and know what to do in case someone does get hurt.
Have fun, be safe, and send it!