Learn these twelve bouldering commandments off by rote and you'll be on your way to bouldering heaven this autumn. Includes tips from Tom Greenall, Imogen Horrocks, Jim Pope, Tom Bunn and BMC readers.
1 Thou shalt not forget thy soft toothbrush
"Brushing holds in between attempts will help to keep the problem clean - and therefore easier. It also forces you to rest for a little while. In comps I'll sometimes be too psyched for the climb and forget to brush the holds, then slip off a greasy sloper"
- Jim Pope, young climbing wad
But no wire toothbrushes please, and no chisels or blowtorches either! Chipping isn't allowed in the British back garden, of course, and wet holds should be dried with towels only (or wait for the wind to dry them). Respect thy neighbours: use chalk sparingly, don't use pof (resin) and brush away build-up.
2 Respect crags with mats aplenty
Mats aren't just useful for minimising bodily breakages; they should also be used to protect the ground around a boulder from erosion and to protect any vegetation from damage. So bring plenty; especially because mats can move if you land on them the wrong way, and because you might not fall where you expected.
3 Think before you throw...
"Don’t forget to check for poo before launching your pad into a cave..."
- Tom Bunn, Cornish crusher
4 Thou shalt not forget your feet
Learning how to place your feet, how much pressure you need to put through them, and how to transfer your balance over them is crucial. Placing your toe, for example, will allow you to pivot your hips into the wall. Watch your feet and practice placing them exactly.
"Don't forget to look out all the footholds before setting off: missing obvious ones can make the difference between a flash and working a problem, and they can be easier to spot from below. It's also very embarrassing to miss a massive foothold during a comp!"
- Imogen Horrocks, pro climber
WATCH: How to land safely on BMC TV
5 Thou shalt not covet hard blocs too soon
Don't forget to warm up before leaping on your project. Get your heart rate up, do some stretches and start on easier problems. Stretching your hamstrings and working on opening your hips will improve your flexibility, too.
"It's easy to tweak a muscle or tendon by getting on a harder problem too soon."
- Charles Romijin, route-setter and personal trainer, Swansea
6 Thou shalt not commit gardening
Leave all vegetation in place please. And, of course, take all litter home including any foot-drying towels and carpet patches. Don't kid yourself it'll be useful for the next person - they kill vegetation and make a mess.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of bouldering in vain
"The most efficient way to get strong for climbing is bouldering. Ask the young, bulky looking lad at the climbing wall who lives under the campus board and he'll tell you differently. He's wrong ... campusers are good at campus boarding. [Campussing] has power in preparing you for climbing harder only when it's used in proportion to the real climbing."
- Dave MacLeod, in his book: 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes
8 Thou shalt not covet the crux and forsake the sequence
"On a trip to Rocklands South Africa, I blew what would have been my hardest ever flash by focussing on the crux and not paying much attention to the rest of the boulder. Once through the crux, I ground to a halt. Panic started to set in and then I fell, grasping a terrible hold which was right next to a good crimp..."
- Tom Greenall, GB Team coach
WATCH: How to spot on BMC TV
9 Thou shalt think outside the box
"Don't forget to think about alternative ways to do a move, just in case your original plan doesn't feel right when you get there. Also - it's easy to find yourself at the crux on a boulder wishing you had some energy left for the final moves. Practicing more efficient ways to move can make a real difference between a send and a fall."
- Imogen Horrocks
10 Master thy balance
“Imagine you’re in one of those old martial arts films, where the old master simply pushes the apprentice with one finger and they fall over - the lesson being one of balance.”
- Andy Kirkpatrick, in his book 1000+ Climbing Tips
11 In coveting the ascent, thou shalt not forget one vital thing...
"Not mentioning any names, but I have known a few people to get stranded on top of a boulder, faint cries of help heard through the trees..."
- Mandi Shipton, North Wales Sports Massage
12 Thou shalt not worry about making mistakes
Worrying about what other people think can result in doing the same style of route, or the same routes, over and over. Working on your weaknesses at least some of the time will really take your climbing to the next level. Pick routes that you can't do and work them. And climbing with people who are better than you may be tough on the ego, but it'll be great for your climbing.
WATCH: How to boulder responsibly on BMC TV:
DOWNLOAD: the shiny new BMC RAD app
Get all the info on crags with the newly updated RAD (Regional Access Database) app from the BMC! Available now for Android and iOS, it's free and comes with a host of new features like navigation and parking, weather and tidal updates, and of course information on restrictions or notes on access advice. Get it here now!
RAD is community led and your comments help keep it up to date so don’t be afraid to add any relevant information after a crag visit which might be useful for other visitors – anything from conditions on the crag, favourite routes or reports of rockfall/other recent changes to the crag are all useful for other climbers visiting.