Fall is in the air and now is the best time to be enjoying the beautiful Truckee outdoors. Some of you may be at a loss of what to do with your kids now that they have so much extra time outside school. Bouldering is an exciting sport that gets you and the kids outside and exploring with minimal cost or expertise needed.
What is Bouldering?
If your kids love monkeying around on rocks, climbing trees and generally exploring, bouldering is a great sport to try. It is low risk, relatively inexpensive and requires little expertise. What is bouldering? Bouldering is where you are protected by crash pads rather than a rope and harness. Bouldering “problems” are no more than 12-15 feet tall. A problem is a path of foot and hand holds up the rock face. These problems don’t always go to the top of the boulder but sometimes traverse the face and require focus and problem solving skills to solve.
Why is it great for kids?
Bouldering is a great activity for kids because it burns energy and requires them to be highly focused for short amounts of time. Solving a bouldering problem is not always easy so it can teach perseverance and creative thinking. Bouldering also requires short bursts of energy rather than long term endurance like sport climbing. And unlike sport climbing, you don’t need tons of gear or expertise. Anyone can go bouldering with just a pair of climbing shoes, chalk, and a bouldering pad! The best part of bouldering is getting away from the computer and exploring places you may have never gone.
What gear and skills you need to get started:
All you need to get started is a crash mat, climbing shoes, chalk and a boulder (guide books make finding routes easy). We love the Petzl Alto crashpad because it is easy to carry with adjustable backpack straps and features shock-absorbing foam that is firm enough to protect you and your kid if you fall but soft enough to make falling a little more comfortable.
Climbing shoes are not necessary but are extremely helpful. They have sticky soles and pointy toes that make it easier to use small ledges and cracks as footholds. We sell and rent a variety of kid and adult size climbing shoes.
Chalk makes it easier to grip the rock and keeps your hands from slipping off the rock. A chalk bag and chalk block can easily be shared between climbers.
Spotting and Crash Pads
Bouldering requires that every climber has a spotter to keep him or her from hitting the ground instead of the crash pad. The spotter’s job is to move the pad so it is always under the climber and to make sure the climber lands on the pad if he or she falls. This means keeping your hands up and guiding the climber towards the pad or preventing him or her from bouncing off the pad. Catching a falling person is the job of the crash pad, not the spotter.
It is a good idea to practice spotting and falling from very low heights before moving on to taller or more challenging routes. Check out the first half of this video to learn more about how to fall, spot and set up your crash pad.
Now that you have your gear, where do you go?
The best way to find boulder spots in the Truckee area is by purchasing the Bouldering Lake Tahoe North Shore guidebook. This book provides driving and hiking directions to boulders along with descriptions of the different problems. Boulder problems are rated from VB or V0 to V16 in difficulty, VB being the easiest. We recommend starting with VB or V0 before progressing to more difficult problems. Start slow and easy with the kids to make it fun and rewarding rather than frustrating.
Here are a few recommendations of kid-friendly local bouldering spots in Truckee: