A few months ago, I went rock climbing for the first time in my life (I’m not counting that time at summer camp when I was 11 and the ‘rocks’ were literally chunks of wood nailed to a tree.) I’m pretty terrified of heights, so it was a big feat for me to climb all the way to the top of the wall, which was about 3 stories high. By the end of it, my whole body was trembling with adrenaline and excitement and fear and pride. The thrill is addicting, so a few weeks later I decided to try another form of rock climbing that is lesser known: bouldering.
Basically, bouldering is rock climbing without harnesses. Sounds dangerous, right? Who would do such a thing?
Because of the lack of safety gear, bouldering walls are about 1/4th of the height of average rock climbing walls, and there are large mats at the bottom for soft landings. You also wear special grippy shoes like these:
With rock climbing, we had a whole introduction lesson on how to use the harnesses and ropes, but since none of that is necessary with bouldering, they kind of just wished us luck and sent us out there. We were pretty much all beginners, so a lot us spent the next few minutes just walking around and watching other people. It seems easy, to just go up to a wall and start climbing, but it does take some courage at first.
Different ‘paths’ are marked by the different colored rocks, and they are all different levels of difficulty. I stuck with the yellow ones, which were the easiest, and also literally designed for children. (I bet you would do the same.) The goal is to get both hands to hold the (in my case yellow) rock at the very top. That means you’ve conquered that one.
The walls don’t LOOK very high when you’re looking at pictures of them, or even standing beside them. But once you are on the wall, it’s a whole different perspective. I thought bouldering would be less scary for me than rock climbing because of the height, but it was actually really nerve wrecking not having the safety of a harness to fall back on. I never actually fell, but I watched a few other people, and the few times I felt like I was going to were enough to make me weak in the knees. A few times, though, I did let go from the top, just to see what it would feel like to fall the whole way. ……It wasn’t great. However, it wasn’t terrible.
In case the regular walls are too basic for you, there are also some that are inverted! (And no, I didn’t try.)
The place we went was called Monk, located in the Amsterdam Nord. For a few hours of climbing + shoe rental, it was around 12 euros. It was really fun, and although my arms were sore for the next 4 days, I would definitely do it again. However, I will say I think it was more challenging than rock climbing overall, and I think before I go bouldering again, I would go rock climbing a few more times.