Bouldering is rock climbing in its simplest form. I love that it is accessible and available for anyone motivated to learn. It requires the least amount of gear: rock climbing shoes, chalk bag and a crash pad. No rope or harness required for this style of climbing. You can go bouldering anywhere outdoors where there is solid rock and at most indoor rock climbing facilities like Shasta Rock Club.
Bouldering focuses on linking difficult movements together that create a "boulder problem", a defined route, up the rock face. These movements can be very dynamic and athletic at times, or very delicate and balanced. To be well rounded at this sport, one must learn to be both physical and mentally sharp at problem solving. It's great practice for learning technique and movement on the rock while building strength and endurance for other types of climbing.
This type of rock climbing has often been misunderstood, as it differs in scope compared to climbing tall 30 to 1,000 ft cliffs. But therein lies the beauty- bouldering is both intense and challenging, precise and nuanced, which equips climbers with the necessary strength and confidence to climb bigger rock faces & mountains.
In my experience, the quintessential attraction to bouldering is the shared experience of problem solving and friendly competition that results as a group of climbers attempt a boulder problem. The reasons for its popularity are clear: its an affordable, accessible, community-oriented activity that promotes health and fitness.
If you are new to climbing, bouldering is a great way to get started. Climb on!
Photo: V4 Patio Arete - Boone, North Carolina circa 2003.