Some of my friends like bouldering but because schedules conflict, we don’t go together very often. This got me thinking about if you actually need a friend to go bouldering.
Unlike rope climbing, you don’t need a belayer for bouldering so can you do it alone? Bouldering indoors alone is very common due to the significant amount of padding provided by gyms. However, bouldering outdoors alone is dependent on having the crash pads needed to keep you safe wherever you are on the wall. With that being the case, bouldering indoors alone is much more safe than bouldering outdoors.
Not only are you able to boulder on your own at the climbing gym, it can actually be more beneficial while improving your bouldering performance.
Bouldering Alone Helps You Focus On Technique
While bouldering with friends is super fun, it is uncommon for friends bouldering to spend an entire climbing session on footwork. In fact, most climbers have found that climbing with friends is usually all about the route and technique is usually a secondary means of completing the route.
In comparison, climbers that boulder by themselves can focus on a specific technique and then make the route a secondary means of practicing that technique. This allows them to improve their technique faster and better than if they were to just climb with friends.
Bouldering Alone Promotes Zen
According to Vertical Mind, a book about mental training for climbing, zen is reported more in bouldering than any other climbing discipline and significantly more than any other sport. Climbers focus their body and mind on the problem/route and through such focus, they are able to reach zen.
When you are climbing with friends, you are often considering your friends perspective and how you look while climbing instead of focusing on just the wall. This separation between you and the wall makes it harder to reach a state of zen.
You don’t have outside sources that you are concerning yourself with when you boulder by yourself. Therefore, it is easier to reach a state of zen when you are bouldering by yourself.
Bouldering Alone Gives You A Great Workout
My bouldering sessions at the gym are by myself 75% of the time. It isn’t because I like being by myself (though I don’t mind it), it’s because when I’m by myself, I can train how I want, do whatever route I want and at whatever intensity I want.
When you are bouldering with other people, it is common to watch each other climb. While you are watching another climber, your heart-rate returns to normal and the intensity that you would get from continued climbing is lowered.
In addition, you are more likely to climb routes that you would normally skip because it is “too easy” for you or doesn’t work the abs as intensely as you want in the climbing session because your friend is climbing that route.
This makes it so that climbing with other people decreases the quality of workout that you’d get from climbing.
In comparison, if you climbed by yourself, you can keep your heart-rate up by getting back on the wall as quickly (or slowly) as you want. You can also focus on your abs if you need to focus on your abs by climbing overhangs more instead of climbing easy routes that don’t give you the return on your time that you want.
Bouldering Alone Helps You Meet New Climbers
It is common that when you do an activity with a certain person or group, that you stay with that person or group throughout the activity. There have been so many times at the climbing gym with friends that we mostly chat among ourselves and don’t even notice other people (unless they’re on the route we want to do).
When you are at the bouldering gym on your own, however, you are more likely to approach other climbers. This has been a great way for me to grow my climbing circle and even helped me get introduced to some outdoor climbing areas that I didn’t know about because the people at the gym invited me to join them.
Bouldering Alone Can Open You To New Ways Of Climbing
I would have thought that bouldering by yourself would make it harder for you to learn new ways of climbing because you are by yourself. I always thought that by climbing with other people, you’d see the way they climb and learn how they climb.
Though it is true you will learn how they climb, you will also be subject to only learning how they climb and you’ll be less likely to see people outside of your group climb or talk to people outside of your climbing group about their recommended solution.
There have been many times that I can’t figure out how to make a specific move or complete a route. My solution was actually watching complete strangers do the route and then mimic or ask them how they did that move.
When you are with friends, you’re less likely to notice or have a conversation with a stranger about how they did a move or climb.
Climbing by yourself, however, opens the door a little wider so it is less awkward for the stranger to walk you through it. This is likely because people feel more comfortable talking to one person about the climb instead of walking an entire group of people through it.
Bouldering Alone Can Build Your Confidence
When I started bouldering, I was climbing with people 3-4 grades higher than me and it was a little embarrassing (though they were super nice about it). I started to boulder by myself so that I could level up and be able to climb at their same level and it really helped with my confidence.
Bouldering by myself made it easier for me to work on the lower-level climbs that were at my level. This not only made it so that I was actually able to improve my climbing, but I also benefited from the sense of accomplishment when I completed each climb.
Feeling accomplished and seeing my skill-level improve so quickly helped build my confidence and encouraged me to keep climbing.
Bouldering Alone Allows You To Listen To Your Favorite Audio Book or Podcast
I feel like I’m getting stuff done while I’m also getting exercise when I climb alone.
This may seem ultra-specific but ever since I started bouldering by myself, I’ve been able to listen to over 10 books and multiple seasons of my favorite podcasts. Now when I go to the gym alone, I’m not only getting a good workout but I’m also checking things off my book list.
The reason for this is because I wear non-noise-canceling headphones (apple airpods) so that I can listen to my book instead of the loud music that my gym blasts. If I was climbing with my friends, I’m not able to stick in headphones and keep my head down.
You Don’t Have To Hear Complaining When You Boulder Alone
This may seem like a silly benefit of bouldering alone, but your mental power makes up 1/3rd of your climbing performance, according to Eric Horst in his Training for Climbing book. That means that you’ll be able to perform better if you have a better mental confidence and power. One of the easiest ways to damage your mental confidence is by complaining and hearing complaining or negative comments while bouldering.
How many times have you gone climbing with a friend and they’ve said something like “wow, I’m really weak today” or “I can’t do that climb because my feet hurt?” You’ve probably heard that a few times the last time you went climbing with your friends.
The climbing culture promotes putting yourself down and being negative (though that isn’t good for your mental game), so it is common to hear your friends or even yourself say that.
When you boulder on your own, no one complains or puts that negative vibe out around you because it is just you and the wall. Thus, you can perform better.