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What is a Bouldering Wall?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A bouldering wall is a type of rock climbing wall designed specifically for the practice of bouldering. Like a conventional climbing wall, a bouldering wall is constructed with a sturdy wooden backing, and is designed to accommodate climbing holds of various shapes and sizes. Both indoor and outdoor versions can be found around the world for practice, fitness, and recreation, and it is also possible to build your own bouldering wall. If you are new to the sport, an orientation session with an experienced climber may be beneficial for you.

Bouldering is a branch of rock climbing which involves climbing low rocks and boulders. It is often designed to be highly technically challenging, so that while the climber may not go very high, he or she will have to be physically fit and very skilled. Bouldering is usually practiced with a large mat, so that if the climber falls, he or she will not be injured. It is also generally done in pairs, in case an emergency arises.

When a rock climbing wall is built, the primary objective is height. The wall may include a few angles or turns designed to provide complexity. A bouldering wall is usually designed with more angles, overhangs, and other features which will make climbing it more difficult. Holds are bolted onto the bouldering wall, and many climbers map out challenges on the wall of varying difficulties. An easy route will integrate well spaced large holds which are easy to grip, while a difficult one will force the climber into physically demanding positions with smaller, less easily accessible holds.

In severe climates, an indoor bouldering wall allows people to practice the sport even in bad weather. Indoor climbing gyms with bouldering walls may also offer rock climbing walls and fitness equipment. An outdoor bouldering wall can be installed in an urban area, or a location where there are no good natural bouldering spots. Outdoor walls require more careful construction and maintenance, to ensure that they are not degraded by the elements.

A simple bouldering wall can be built by bolting sturdy sheets of wood onto a strong framework. Holes can be drilled into the wood for climbing holds, which can be ordered from a supply company. A mat should be installed under the bouldering wall for safety. To locate a gym with a bouldering wall near you, you can search for a climbing gym in your area with your favorite search engine.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Sports n' Hobbies researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By ValleyFiah — On Jul 14, 2011

@Comparables- I built a bouldering wall off my balcony and it was easy enough. The cost was well under $1000, and I designed the wall based on other walls I saw online and in videos. My balcony is about 12 feet off the ground, and there is nothing underneath it. I built the wall with a little cave, a couple of concave sections, and a straight section that wraps around the corner post.

I reinforced the patio before I began, and it has held up very well to the elements. One thing I will tell you is that you should use old concrete forms. My friend told me this is a great material and he was right. Old concrete forms are saturated with concrete, making them extremely heavy, sturdy, and weather proof. They are a pain to cut though.

You could easily make a similar wall in your garage that balls over to the rafters. I am sure you can even find plans online that will help you build your garage bouldering wall. Either way, building it yourself will save you thousands over buying one premade.

By Comparables — On Jul 14, 2011

@Amphibious54- How did you go about building a bouldering wall? Did you buy plans, or did you buy a pre-fabricated bouldering wall? I live in the northeast and the winters are long. I would love to build a bouldering wall that wraps around my garage, but I have no idea how to get started. How much did it cost to put together your bouldering wall? Can one be built with basic construction tools (that's what I do for work)?

By Amphibious54 — On Jul 13, 2011

@Cougars- I built myself a home bouldering wall in my backyard for those days that I cannot get out, but there are a number of awesome bouldering sites in and around phoenix.

I like the Tomahawk boulders towards Mesa. Tomahawk has a ton of mapped routes that range in difficulty level. Camelback Mountain has a couple of cool bouldering sites, but more climbing for those that want to rope in.

McDowell Mountain also has some cool bouldering sites. Something fun and easy at McDowell Mountain is a route called Chiminey Cricket. Chiminey Cricket is basically a 25-foot chimney that you can wedge your body in and climb up. You can walk off at the top.

My advice is to frequent these places, meet some people who like to climb, and learn from them where new spots are. Almost anyone you ask can direct you to McDowell Mountain or Camelback, but Tomahawk will probably require a web search to find. Good luck, and bring a buddy...the desert can be a brutal place to climb.

By cougars — On Jul 12, 2011

@Parmnparsley- The Phoenix Rock Gym is a great place to climb and boulder, especially when the temps top 100 degrees. They have one of the few boulder walls I have seen in the state.

There is also another indoor rock climbing gym in Scottsdale called AZ on the Rocks that is cool, but it is a little outside of downtown phoenix. I prefer the Scottsdale facility for bouldering, and but they are both nice facilities for all ages and abilities.

If you are interested in climbing with a top rope, both of these facilities will rent you the equipment for about five dollars or so. I take my daughter to these rock gyms on hot summer weekends and she has a blast. Check them out and you may be pleasantly surprised.

By parmnparsley — On Jul 11, 2011

A friend that I used to kayak with introduced me to bouldering a couple years ago in Vermont. I love bouldering, although I have never seen a bouldering wall. I have only seen the fairly straight rock climbing walls and the occasional treadmill wall.

I love bouldering because it requires very little equipment and skill to get involved. I started with a pair of climbing shoes, a climbing mat, and a few huge granite boulders that calved off Mount Mansfield.

The only problem is I recently moved to Arizona and I do not know any good places to go bouldering. Does anyone know of any good bouldering sites in Phoenix Arizona? Does anyone know of any indoor facilities with bouldering walls? I do not have the harnesses and other equipment necessary for climbing, so I only need information on bouldering please.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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