When I first learned about bouldering, I was instantly hooked on the idea that I could go out and climb like I did when I was a kid, only this time it would be socially accepted for adults too! As I did not know whether I had any friends that liked bouldering and I couldn’t wait to get started, I wondered: can you go bouldering alone? And is it normal to go bouldering by yourself?
The answer is: emphatically YES! You can go bouldering all by yourself. As opposed to climbing, you don’t need a rappelling partner to boulder. And even if you wanted to go climbing instead of bouldering, you could still climb by yourself, all you have to do in that case, is to find a climbing gym with automatic rappelling machines.
Now that I’m a couple of years in and have lots of friends that like bouldering (I might have told everyone I know about how awesome bouldering is), I don’t have to boulder by myself any more.
Nevertheless, I still like to go to our local bouldering hall and train by myself quite often. Want to know why?
Here are my reasons:
Meeting New People
When you’re climbing with friends, you often don’t pay as much attention to the people outside of your group. That way you’re missing out on meeting a lot of cool new people. From my experience, bouldering gyms are crowded with them.
Apart from the social aspect, however, there are benefits to meet and climb with climbers formerly unknown to you. Each individual has his or her own climbing techniques, and it is most often with strangers that you really learn something new.
Of course, your Jolly Good ol’ Climbing Friend can still help you improve your bouldering technique, e.g. by pointing out mistakes or suggesting the beta. The most valuable suggestions, however, often come from someone who you’ve never met before.
Bouldering Alone can Help You Focus
Sometimes I bump into a nemesis bouldering problem. I spend all day trying to complete it, and I just can’t do it.
Whenever this happens, I’m likely to set out to the bouldering gym the next day by myself, to work on the problem undisturbed.
I may go and practise at the fingerboard to strengthen a particular muscle group that I need to complete the problem. Or I’ll go and fight the windmills like Don Quichot until I finally summit the climb.
In scenarios like these, I find it’s often best to climb alone, as friends may want to move on to the next problem, while you’re still obsessing over what’s the right beta.
Bouldering Alone Allows You to Focus on Your Mindset
As you become a better climber, you quickly learn that it’s not all about strength. Even both strength and an impeccable technique won’t quite get you there. The third element that is vital to bouldering succesfully is: mindset.
Bouldering alone allows you to work on your mindset, something that is quite more difficult when you’re climbing with a climbing partner. Bouldering by yourself allows you to cut out all the chit chat and to engage courageously in an epic Clash of the Titans with yourself, as you would in the mountains. For often, we are our own greatest enemy.
In conclusion: There’s a time and place for bouldering by yourself, and for climbing with a partner or in a group. Because in bouldering there are no ropes involved, there’s nothing that can withhold you from going solo on the wall. If, instead of bouldering, you want to go climb by yourself, look for a gym with an automated belaying device. In any case, it is completely socially accepted to boulder without any comrades and often quite fun too!