Climbing vs bouldering – same same but different

When I started climbing 2 decades back, bouldering was just a form of training at home or at the gym when you aren’t climbing. You make little boulder walls in your cellar, room, roof, stairway to resemble a particular crux that you are looking on to solve, or it’s just a wall to work on your endurance. In that way weekdays can be used efficiently to train yourselves fit for the weekend trips. Training or bouldering is the key to staying in touch with the weekends.

Today, bouldering has taken a new dynamic twist and turned into a discipline of its own. This style of climbing has just boomed out of no where. It s just … so easy!

There are countless bouldering gyms that runs successfully even in the middle of climbing meccas. You guessed right, it’s a great alternative to turn to when it’s too wet or cold to climb outdoors.

Training in traditional methods to climb better, harder, safer have changed too. Other types of exercises used by gymnasts, body builders, runners and even yoga are now playing a role in this sport.

The climber of this generation excels when he is trimmed to the last muscle, the last bone on the finger. And the new generation that appears on the scene are better prepared in earlier stages than those who  started out on their own years back. It’s a wonderful thing to see so many girls so strong in their heads and body, leading a route like nobody business. We are all privileged today to have countless possibilities to train ourselves before entering the outdoor world.

Whats the difference between climbing and bouldering?

Of Gears and Thrills

The list is long: Harness, shoes, quickdraws, security device, helmets, rope are some of the basics.  A climbers pack weighs anything from 10 – 12 kg easily. Sports climbing routes are pre-bolted, allowing you to clip as you ascend the wall vertically in 12- 40 m height. Trad climbers would need friends, cams and slings to climb on a rock “clean” – i.e. without any bolt. It’s exhilarating if you arrive at a certain part of the wall where you are at your uttermost limit, and you can’t put the biner in the bolt. The mind gets a knot, you feel like your pants is full and you die ten deaths. This is the thrill that many look for – imagine the adrenaline kick when you finally hear that click sound after solving the crux and reaching the anchor.

To boulder, all you actually need is your shoes. A chalkbag, crash pad, and a brush makes bouldering a little easier. The thrill factor while bouldering doesn’t come with a click but when you solve the problem. The finest feeling for me is when I touch the crash pad with my feet safe and sound on the ground. I hope one day, the joy of bouldering will look differently. A boulder a day keeps the doc away.

Style and Technique

As you might have guessed, the movements between climbing and bouldering are similar. Precision, strength , endurance or maximum and most important, a perfect technique is the key to success in both games.

Climbing: A climber is secured by a rope and a belayer. They stop you from making a ground fall while you climb.  The goal is always the same – to reach the anchor or the peak at the top. The routes can be till 40 m (single pitch) or 300 m (multi-pitch) long. Are you gamed enough to climb a 19 pitch route in one day?  How you move is up to you. Be it gracious or jittery – reaching the anchor is your goal.

Bouldering is solo climbing a piece of rock that’s about 3-6  meters high. The higher it gets, the more prominent it is to get injured. A boulderer will land on the back, the bum, but ideally on the feet. And on a crash pad.

The moves are  intense, very maximum but shorter. A boulder could also sometimes be just as much as 5 moves and you’re done.


When you boulder, you do a lot of toe, foot and heel hooks, sit starts, dynos, mantles, traverse. Remember I mentioned earlier the crux in a climbing route? Imagine that short crux now on the ground, and you boulder around it until you have found a solution to the “problem”.  Success is when you finish the boulder in one stretch without falling on your crash pad. It’s much shorter than climbing. And more tiring.

I have so much head and physical problems using my feet to pull and climb actively. Bouldering on an edge happens so often I will never get used to this.

Edges for babies
Wheres the anchor?

Reaching the top, you will often have to mantle up the boulder, or take a few slopers to get off the route.  There is no anchor that you can clip into (remember, you have no rope?) and fall in safe. Personally, this is for me the scariest part. You have reached the highest point of the rock, are totally pumped.  Either do it or fall back down on the ground. Thats one of the biggest reasons why I’ve still yet to complete many of my projects. I just can’t mantle. I always think I would topple off and make a backward flip. It’s a head thing. And my body stops working, the brains smokes out right at the edge, even after I have climbed the crux successfully!

Dynamic moves
In the middle of the dyno flight

They often talk about static moves, or doing a Dyno. Dynamic moves is when you jump to the next far off hold,  Foot, heal and toe  hooks are used often when you move along an edge. 

In short, bouldering is like coming to the point, without all the unnecessary “plaisir” before and after the crux in a climb. 

Hurting yourself & Injuries

It’s probably not justified to mention this. But getting injured while you practice a sport is one of my biggest fears. It happens when not properly warmed up, or when the muscles and tendons are over-exhausted. Injured Finger ligaments, tennis elbows, a dislocated shoulder, broken ankles, cuts and bruises from sharp rocks, a torn skin are just some of the typical injuries of climbing.

Big injuries while climbing happen when you hurt yourself through a bad fall, a certain move, or when you make mistakes while you’re untieing your knot at the anchor to rappel down.  Third party injuries like rock fall from the cliff or from the neighboring climber are other ways of getting possibly hurt. But chances are, sports climbing is actually one of the safest sports to do if you’re concentrating well and making no mistakes.

When you boulder, you seldom meet with rock falls. Bouldering injuries happen when you fall to the ground or through a certain movement. A crash pad functions to keep you safe from any ankle, back or wrist injury (i.e. that your feet are protected from hitting the ground). However, if you land beside the crash pad, that’s bad luck, bad judgment or a sleeping spotter. I still feel always more secure when I have a spotter behind me.

Grade conversions

I’ve always thought that the grade of these two disciplines is equivalent. Nope.

Fact: A FB 7a is never equivalent to a French 7a route. And if you ever think that a 5c boulder is something for babies, you might be quite surprised that you won’t even make it up after the sit start.

There are a number of grade conversions in different parts of the world. While the Americans use the V-Scale, the Font Scale (Fontainebleau) is more common in Europe.  In any case, all these grades are subjective and vary according to the areas and set of climbers. Here’s a table based on my research to get the idea.

[table id=2 /]
Note: Liable to changes / Grades may differ

Types of rock

You will find in both climbing and bouldering the same diversity of rocks in Europe. You can boulder and climb in Granite, Limestone, Sandstone, Gneis, etc. There are countless possibilities if you know where

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  1. Are techniques used in bouldering a basis set of techniques utilized for trad climbing?

    1. yes, why not. There are several techniques and movements which criscrosses all the style in climbing. However, the equipment used in this case,is different.

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