That Time I Tried Bouldering

Bouldering is a form of low-level rock climbing on boulders, small rock formations or artificial walls usually measuring up to 30 feet. It does not require a harness or ropework and the focus is on movement rather than getting to the top.

There is a growing community of boulderers in Cebu and I got to experience my first bouldering session with them. Tiki Allado (we call him Master Tiki), Neo Legaspi and some friends decided to have an indoor bouldering wall built so they could indulge in the sport while also sharing their experience to newbies like me. For a beginner’s fee of 125Php (25Php for Beginner Seminar, 25Php for use of rock shoes, 75Php for wall maintenance), one can already enjoy a 3-4 hour session of Indoor Bouldering. And I’ve got to say; it was a cool, fun way to spend my Saturday.

 

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The “Red Chili” wall is about 15 feet high with numerous artificial rock holds bolted on it. I think it looked pretty badass especially with the “tiki” (lizard) logo on it. The rocks had several stickers plastered beside them, which I would later learn would be the indicators of the different bouldering problems. Problems? Yup, more on that in a bit.

 

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We started off with a short course on the history of bouldering, how it differs with rock climbing, its benefits and the different equipment needed.

Master Tiki said that when rock climbers scale a cliff for the first time, they would sometimes encounter a certain part of the mountain that is just tough to get past at. They call this the crux. It’s the most pivotal part of the climb because it’s where the natural obstacle is the hardest but when overcome, it becomes the most fulfilling.

It can take even the most experienced climbers hours, even days, to figure out the best way to overcome the crux. So they’d memorize the rock terrain, climb down, go home and simulate how the rocks were positioned on an artificial climbing wall. This allowed them to rehearse specific moves to get through the obstacle. This became what is now an emerging sport called Bouldering.

It needs very minimal equipment. No harness, carabiners, helmets or ropes! All you need is a pair of climbing shoes to protect your feet and to help you gain a good foothold. Chalk is used to absorb sweat and keep your hands dry. A crash pad is also positioned near the wall for a softer landing. Plus, one never climbs without a spotter (another person who stands by and redirects you to the crash pad to help you land safely).

 

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Bouldering is not about getting to the top but using specific moves to traverse from one point to another. The route a climber takes on the bouldering wall is called a problem. Problems are determined through the stickers plastered beside the rock holds. Rock holds with the same sticker color and symbol signify the only holds one is allowed to use to “solve” a problem. Master Tiki and the others spend several hours coming up with new bouldering problems for everyone.

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I’m not scared of heights but I felt really hesitant to try this. I wasn’t feeling very confident that I was strong enough to pull myself up on the holds. After the beginner’s seminar, I kept staring at the wall with my heart pounding.

But I got to solve my first bouldering problem, Nonami, easy, hehe. I had to take note of the holds with the stickers for the Nonami route first because those were the only ones I could use. And then I started and the next thing I know I was about to finish and solve the route. It was an exhilarating feeling hanging on both hands on the last rock of the route with background cheering and clapping from everyone. Everyone was really supportive of each other. I was thinking, “Okay, so maybe I can actually do this!”

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Second T0 problem was Santosima. The level of difficulty in Bouldering problems is graded in international standards using the V scale. In Payag Bouldering House, T(stands for “tiki”) scale is used. T0 routes are the easiest ones while the T8 routes are the toughest. I was using my legs and arms but my arms were the ones starting to hurt. Master Tiki kept reminding us to shake them from time to time to prevent muscle spasms. He said that ones the forearm muscles spasm, it will be next to impossible to continue through the session because you’d lose your grip on the rocks easily. So rest in between routes is important. Plus, it helps to keep yourself hydrated.

 

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Kalayaan was my third. It was also the last T0 problem I needed to solve so I could get an orange band. An orange band is given when one completes 3 T0 problems. You get a black band if you solve 3 T8 routes. I finished Kalayaan without any hitch! Woohoo!

My friends and I took turns conquering the wall. I’m mighty proud of everyone because they’re really good at it. It’s a great way to bond among each other. We were cheering, clapping, even sharing ideas on which holds or moves to do next.

 

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And then, L sword.

This was where I got stuck. Somehow I just couldn’t maintain my hold on the last rock of the route. It was frustrating as hell. I must have tried it 5 times then ended up failing to grab hold of the last rock. Urgh!

I didn’t give up on L-sword until I felt that I had already lost most of the strength from my arms. It was hard enough holding up my water bottle. It was even harder to hold a pen and write. Master Tiki told us to write the problems we were able to solve on his journal and this is what happened:

 

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I never knew my handwriting could get any worse! Haha!

Because we got to solve all 3 T0 problems, we get to have our orange bands. Yey!

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Tired but determined, we ended the session with a group picture. I had to have a picture with the master too.

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I had a great time. It was the first time I got to try Bouldering and I loved it. And then I bonded with friends and made new ones. I got to meet Master Tiki and learned the ropes (no pun intended) of bouldering from him. I also met a new friend, Rhye, whose hobby is mountain climbing. It was Apple’s first session back after a 2-month hiatus. Rabo and Touro came back from their previous sessions to solve the routes they had difficulty completing before. I’m definitely going back for L sword (grudge mode hihi) and maybe have my own black band someday.

Bouldering: Crossed off the Bucket List!

 

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