Precariously placing all my bodyweight on my right toes against a tiny indent in the rock face, I leapt up in a bid to reach a section of rock which may or may not provide a nice grip for my right hand.
It turned out to be the latter. My toes slipped during the dynamic move and my hands had nothing to hold onto. With my heart pounding against my chest I fell back. Luckily my two spotters were very attentive and caught me. The landing on the mats was soft too.
I wasn’t particularly high but the feeling of dropping and missing the mats was somewhat daunting.
Nonetheless, this did not stop me. I needed to complete the route. Time to try again. With guidance from my brother and friend I kept my foot very still and found another indent on the rock face for my hand.
I then made it to the top, panting from the physical exertion and adrenaline. I smiled for a photo and lay down on the top needing a minute to gather myself.
We were following routes outlined in the book: ‘Peak Bouldering’ by Rockfax.
‘Peak Bouldering’ provides a fantastic guide describing different bouldering routes with varying levels of difficulty. Happy that we were all able to complete climbs on the scale (even if the routes were supposedly Vb, beginner or v-1 lower level), we tried out several slabs of rock.
Climbing outdoors is harder than the indoor climbing I am used to. This is because you have to find natural rock indents to use as holds, rather than have colourful holds pre planned for you.
However, outdoor climbing is great fun. When mounting the top, not only do you gain the satisfaction of conquering a climb but you are rewarded with some wonderful views.
Better still, we were out during golden hour (6.30 pm-9.30 pm). The sun was descending in the sky causing shafts of light to seep through the tree branches.
A dappling of light fell on the grey carboniferous limestone, casting angular shadows. Leaves rustled in the early evening breeze.
Following our book, we located the recommended parking spot on Cliff Lane, DE4 2LY and carried the mats to the boulders at Cratcliffe, Matlock. It was very easy.
Moving from each climb we grabbed the kit and found the rocks we wanted to tackle.
I would recommend giving climbing a go. It is lots of fun.
Top tips for outdoor bouldering:
Have the right kit – you will need at least one soft crash mat. We were lucky as our friend had one and his office let us borrow a couple of mats for free. Otherwise mats are approx £10 to hire or £150 to buy. You will also need a pair of climbing shoes. These can be hired or bought too. Mine cost £60 brand new in a sale. Otherwise second hand shoes on ebay range between £20-£150. Climbing shoes are expensive. If you don’t buy them you will pay £3 per climb to hire. So if you think you will climb 15-25 times it is worth buying a new pair.
Weather – don’t climb outside when it is raining or has been raining. Wet rock makes climbing almost impossible and very dangerous. When the rock is dry it is hard enough to get a good grip.
Practice indoors first – while climbing outdoors is very different to indoor climbing, it is a good idea to test your strength and ability indoors where there are no hazardous rocks to get scraped by.
Start easy – build up your confidence and strength slowly with an easy climb to begin with. Take your time, there is no rush. Outdoor climbing is chilled, you don’t need to pressure yourself to do everything at once.
First aid kit – bring some antiseptic wipes and plasters for those scrapes and bumps (probably won’t be needed but best to be prepared).
Wear comfy, flexible clothes that you don’t care too much about – wear long trousers to protect your legs from any scrapes. You want to be able to stretch your legs out comfortably. Climbing is harder in jeans. They are also more likely to rip.
Snacks and water – time seems to fly by when climbing. Stay hydrated and energised with a bottle of water and a snack.
Be safe and enjoy – last but not least, go with your gut instinct. If you feel super unsafe, stop, breath and slowly return to the ground. Have fun and share your tips below.
Has anyone else tried outdoor bouldering?
If so, where and how was it?