Yes You Can: Boulder Alone
Maybe your work schedule doesn’t coincide with your climbing partners’. Or maybe you simply need a little time alone to clear your head. Whatever your reason, if you’re considering going bouldering alone for the first time, it might feel intimidating. Especially outdoors. But it can be an empowering and refreshing experience. We chatted with Nik Berry to get a few tips. He has chalked up for solo sessions at every one of his favorite spots, from Bishop to Fontainebleau and has suggestions for how to have the most fun while also staying safe.
“I like bouldering by myself and also with a crew,” Nik says. “Both have their positives and negatives.”
It might just come down to whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, he says. For example, maybe you feel intimidated or distracted when there’s a whole group of people watching and you prefer solitude. “Others need the psych and support of a crew to get motivated,” he says. “If you’re feeling less motivated, a crew helps to psych you up, uoii have good conversation when resting, and it adds minds to work out beta and know someone has your back if you are timid.”
Bouldering alone means you have to figure out all the moves on your own. For better or worse, there’s nobody else there to help you figure out where to put your hands and feet, or help you think of alternative options when you’re stuck. So be sure to pack your guidebook and/or your phone for information. And maybe cut yourself a little slack. Aiming for easier grades to get started can help build your confidence. If you find yourself feeling stuck or frustrated, it can help to take a step back and simply look at the rock as something to move on—letting go of preconceived notions about how to get to the top.
If you have a project you’ve been working on, a solo session could be just what you need to work through the tough parts. “I am more focused alone and can take time to brush holds, spend as long as I need on the problem and reflect on the movement,” Nik says.
The downside to this is that it's hard to rest long enough when you are by yourself, he says. Making yourself chill out and relax between tries can make you feel antsy with nobody else around to spot in the meantime. Nik recommends setting a timer on your phone to force yourself to rest for at least one minute for every move.
Another thing to consider when you’re bouldering alone is whether the problem you’re working on has a flat landing zone and is free of awkward fall potential, Nik says. If there’s nobody there to help guide your landing, you’ve got to stick it. Nik keeps himself to problems under around 10 feet high when he’s alone. He also tells a friend where he’s going and steers more toward areas with cell coverage in case something were to happen.
Also, he says, the more pads, the better. Of course, carrying all those pads when you’re all alone can be tricky. Nik suggests using a ratcheting tie-down system to stack as many as you can carry together. Also, don’t forget your stick brush.
Solo bouldering can also be a great way to meet new partners, if you head to a popular area. “The most amazing part of climbing is our inclusive community,” Nik says. “We all support and encourage each other to do our best. As a professional cimber I am always inspired and motivated when climbers giving their best effort, whether it be on a V0 or V15.”
Just remember to be respectful of other people’s bouldering experience, too. Be aware of other climbers, he says. Let everyone have their turn on the wall, use any music responsibly, and be open to making new friends.