Bouldering is one of the most beloved and fun rock climbing activities and its routes are called “problems”. In this article, we’ll explain why it is called a problem, what is boulder problem and how to solve it.
What Is A Bouldering Problem?
Bouldering problem is a term used to describe the route climber has to take to complete the climb. Most often it is between 7 and 15 feet high, and it can be performed without any safety equipment but some problems can go up to 20 feet.
Why Is It Called A Problem?
To successfully solve a boulder problem you’ll have to spend some time finding out the best sequence of moves and the best way to climb that will work for you depending on your strength, body size, technique, and experience. The vast majority of bouldering problems can be solved in 5-10 moves
- Sending a problem means the route has been completed without falling or making any contact with something besides the rock, like spotter or the crash pad.
- Touching anything else besides handles and the wall is called dab and finishing the problem after that is called subpar performance.
- The crux is the hardest section of the route.
- Barn-dooring means losing the grip and moving away from the wall.
- The circuit is a series of bouldering problems that should be taken in one try. It can mix the same type with increasing difficulty or different types so you may have to switch techniques along the way.
- Bouldering problems are graded using a V-scale.
Types Of Problems
Here are some of the most common bouldering problems:
- A slab means you’ll be climbing a wall that is as close to vertical as possible, but still slightly angled. This problem requires stiff bouldering shoes and improved footwork, so it is a great way to master this technique.
- The overhang problem is a type of problem where the wall will lean towards you. Great exercise for your upper body and core strength.
- A roof problem will have you climbing along the underside if a horizontal surface. It is considered to be among the hardest bouldering problems and it requires a lot of preparation.
- An arete is used to describe a problem where you’ll be climbing the corner.
Difference In Height
While the maximum problem height is limited to 20 feet, there is no low limit, so the problem can start basically from the bottom of the wall.
An 8-feet high problem is considered to be a tall problem, while problems above 15 feet are known as highballs. These problems require the usage of a spotter to prevent any injury.
How To Solve A Bouldering Problem
Solving a bouldering problem requires a lot of patience, ability to think ahead and figuring out as many moves as possible, if not all before you step on the rock. Here are some general guidelines that will help you solve any problem you run into, after or as you warm up.
Step 1 – Inspect The Route
The first thing you should do when you start working on a new problem is to find three points – the start holds, the finish holds and the crux. Different starting point requires a different technique – you may have to jump, stand, sit or in some extreme lowball cases, even lay down. Next, check how does it finish and how secure and reliable the holds are.
Step 2 – Look For Hidden Holds
Some holds can be a bit harder to spot, so go through the route as thoroughly as possible. If your problem is located outdoors, a good clue can be boot rubber or chalk marks from the previous climbers. Pay special attention to places around corners.
Step 3 – Look For The Rest Places
Look for places where it will be possible to take a break. Any bigger hold will do. Check their locations and see how is the best way to reach them.
Step 4 – Go Through The Route Again
Now that you know positions of the handholds, it is time to look at the whole route and find all the places that can serve as a foothold. Try to imagine the sequence of all your movements along the route.
Step 5 – Focus On The Path
Look between the holds and see which hold requires which move. Do it through the whole length of the route. This will help you organize the climb and make it way easier while helping you to maintain your stability. Also, it is good to know when and where you can rely mostly on your feet to save energy.
Step 6 – Picture It!
Head back to the start and play the film in your head of you performing all those moves along the route. Go from hold to hold, and find the best way to approach it. This step may require a bit of experience, but over time it will become routine and one of the bouldering essentials.
Step 7 – Work On A Problem
There are two ways to start working on a problem:
- Work on different segments. For instance, start your climb from the point near the top. Then, do the same with the lower harder sections. Once you go through all of them successfully, add the easier parts, link them together and try it out.
- Start from the bottom and work your way up, trying to solve the next move one at the time.
Step 8 – Don’t Jump
Instead of jumping, practice climbing down because jumping down even from the lowest problem can cause serious hip or leg injury if you don’t land properly. This will also give you the chance to see if there is an alternative to your climbing technique and to practice in case you find yourself in need to go down.
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about boulder problems:
Q: What is the hardest boulder problem in the world?
Currently, the title of the hardest boulder problem is shared between Burden of Dreams, located in Lappnor, Finland, and No Kpote Only, in Fontainebleau, France. Besides these, there are 19 V16 problems around the world. Countries with the most challenging problems (V15 and above) are France, Japan, Spain, and the USA.
Q: How do you read a boulder problem?
Learning how to read a bouldering problem means learning how to understand the sequence of actions needed to finish the climb with success. Take your time and go through the route, examine every handhold, foothold, and plan your movements. Also, find the best place for rest.
Q: What is the boulder problem El Capitan?
Once regarded unclimbable, El Capitan, located near Yosemite Valley in California, is considered to be one of the iconic climbing places in climbing history, and the part of it, called The Nose, is an excellent, thrilling and most fun bouldering problem you’ll ever try thanks to its magnificent surroundings and historical value. It is graded as VI.
Q: How do you set boulder problems?
To set a bouldering problem, you’ll need to find the right location, learn what type of holds you need, make a scheme, then put the holds on the wall while making sure there are no hazards in the case of the fall. Once done and secured, try to climb and grade it.
Globo Surf Overview
Learning how to read and how to solve the bouldering problem even before setting a foot on the wall will make the process way easier and less complicated, so you’ll be able to develop faster and challenge harder problems as soon as possible.