/ Is indoor bouldering still 'climbing'

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Wiley Coyote2 10 Jul 2019

First off this is not an attack on indoor bouldering  which I thoroughly enjoy and I'm a member at four indoor bouldering centres. However,  that said, three of us were at the bouldering wall today, larking about on  (or to be honest more off than on) big volumes and giant slopers and generally enjoying making idiots of ourselves . One of the lads then said: "Exactly the sort of moves you do on the crag all the time" which prompted another to say: "Well, of course this has f*ck all to do with climbing, it's just keeping us  away from the rain and midges"

Obviously some moves mimic outdoor climbing more  than others but we generally agreed that apart from some finger training indoor bouldering (as opposed to outdoor) has evolved into a whole new sport/game in its own right, increasingly separate from cragging, albeit with some crossover benefits but best treated as cross training  or general conditioning rather than climbing per se.

Do others agree? Or is it still 'proper climbing'?

Post edited at 23:22
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Ramblin dave 10 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

> Obviously some moves mimic outdoor climbing more  than others but we generally agreed that apart from some finger training indoor bouldering (as opposed to outdoor) has evolved into a whole new sport/game in its own right, increasingly separate from cragging, albeit with some crossover benefits but best treated as cross training  or general conditioning rather than climbing per se.

A bit like how trad climbing evolved into a game in its own right and not just training for the Alps and the Greater Ranges? Or how bouldering evolved into a game in its own right and not just training for trad climbing?

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buxtoncoffeelover 10 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

No rain or midges at Burbage today, but plenty of bouldering/climbing.

The Tour de France, velodrome racing & BMX riding are all very different, but all still cycling.

Indoor, outdoor, trad, sport, DWS, alpine - it's all still climbing surely. Just variations on a theme 

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Michael Hood 10 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Bendcrete walls related to climbing on rock, plastic walls much less so.

Competition bouldering seems to be even further divorced; e.g. the men's fourth problem in the final of the BBC. Where is there anything like those moves (admittedly very impressive) on real rock.

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In reply to Michael Hood:

> Bendcrete walls related to climbing on rock, plastic walls much less so.

I've never got the nostalgia for Bencrete walls.  I climbed at plenty and would be happy never to again - I always found them a greasey and limited.

Anyway, on topic; I agree that modern "parkour" style setting leaves me cold.  I suspect that's mainly because I am absolutely rubbish at it.  I started climbing by bouldering outdoors, alone in slightly esoteric venues - which seems to have given me an irretrievably static and conservative style (so I can reverse every move and avoid having to crawl back to my car with a broken leg!). 

But there must be some carry-over from the modern, volume based dynamic indoor style to "real" climbing.  There's a growing list of climbers previously known as indoor comp bouldering who have suddenly turned up at crags with no fanfare and made short work of test pieces.  I guess the setting has amplified the bouncey, momentum based style climbers like Ondra have. 

That said, whilst "jumping between blobs" indoor problems might build useful skills / strengths for rock, I personally prefer practicing on problems with a less "metaphorical" realationship to it.  I reckon for me at the least, time spent indoor bouldering is most efficiently spent on woodies.  To me, woodies have a more direct relationship to the character of climbing outdoors: steep, poor handholds, even poorer footholds, snatchy but semi-controlled climbing - they're basically limestone bouldering simulators.

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Jon Stewart 11 Jul 2019
In reply to thebigfriendlymoose:

What a well-written post. Plus, I totally agree: I too "trad climb" indoor boulder problems with absolutely no use of momentum or timing. So I much prefer snatching between crimps on the 30 degree board as this seems a more useful skill to develop rather than spending time working on my blob-jumping (not a euphemism). 

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john arran 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Yes.

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Jaytaylor 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Definitely Jim, just not as we know it

Its one branch of an ever growing tree. 

Comp style bouldering (while being slightly frustrating), can help hugely in refining strength, co-ordination & movement.

Tie that in with a good old woody sesh for the fingers, and the crossover benefits can be pretty noticeable. 

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Elsier 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

I've often wondered about this. Outdoor climbing is more restricted in terms of scope for different styles by the nature of the rock which is available, but at the same time it's also partly about imagination and what people choose to climb and I think this has changed over time.

I understand that there weren't so many steep juggy endurance routes before indoor walls made this style of climbing so popular and people sought out this style of route and much more of them were bolted.

I'm not saying we will start seeing lots of new routes with triple dynos outside. Maybe finding rock that lends itself to that is not so common, but I don't see why some of the modern volume style climbing can't be transferred to outdoor routes. Maybe we will see more boulders and routes like this outside being established, we just haven't seen it yet? 

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Wiley Coyote2 11 Jul 2019
In reply to buxtoncoffeelover:

>

> The Tour de France, velodrome racing & BMX riding are all very different, but all still cycling.

> Indoor, outdoor, trad, sport, DWS, alpine - it's all still climbing surely. Just variations on a theme 

Well that is the question we were asking really. To take your cycling analogy; yes they are all done on a bike but does that make them the same sport anymore? Could a BMX trick rider or a downhill MTB racer  even survive the Tour or Chris Froome compete in MTB? At what point do the 'variations on a theme' diverge so much that they actually become different sports? To stretch your analogy a bit further table tennis and golf are both essentially 'bat and ball' games but no one would pretend they are linked. As someone else said up the thread, the double - let alone triple - dynos do seem to have more in common with parcour  than they do with any other branch of climbing.

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Ramblin dave 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

> Well that is the question we were asking really. To take your cycling analogy; yes they are all done on a bike but does that make them the same sport anymore? Could a BMX trick rider or a downhill MTB racer  even survive the Tour or Chris Froome compete in MTB? At what point do the 'variations on a theme' diverge so much that they actually become different sports? To stretch your analogy a bit further table tennis and golf are both essentially 'bat and ball' games but no one would pretend they are linked.

But I'd say that as terms, "climbing" and "cycling" are more like "bat and ball games" than "golf". I mean, technical Himalayan mountaineering and hard sport climbing also have very little in common in terms of the moves, the hazards, the kit, the type of fitness required and so on, you'd struggle to call them "the same sport" in any meaningful sense, but they're unarguably both still climbing.

Also, I don't watch a lot of bouldering comps but AFAICT talking like it's all just big run-and-jump dynos is misleading. That stuff is in there, but people are still doing the sort of moves that you'd see in hard outdoor sport or bouldering (and not at all in parkour or anything similar) as well...

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Mike Stretford 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Yes.

The parkour style problems that don't relate to route climbing can be avoiding in favour of more relevant stuff. However, I'm pretty sure outdoor boulderers find similar eliminates.

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string arms 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Mike Stretford:

This is just my experience guys. It's no more than the ponderings of an old fart

For me indoor bouldering is a completely different kettle of fish. It forces you to only be able to the use the specific holds with footholds in specific positions to do the problem. This makes them very body/height/build dependent which doesn't usually translate to rock. Outside I tend to use friction or intermediate nubbins between holds which allows me to adopt very different body positions when solving  problems. This means that most of the time indoor climbing doesn't equate to what I can achieve outside. At my local wall I can't do much more than f6b but outside I've managed f7c. Bonkers!

I think that indoor climbing trains you to climb perhaps in a very specified way which is very measurable in terms of progression indoors but not immediately grade transferable to outdoors. It's climbing Jim but not as we know it .

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Neil Williams 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

I'd say yes, of course it's climbing.

Running is an almost similarly broad church - you can spend half an hour on a treadmill (much as I'd rather shove my head down the bog than do that) or you can run a mountain ultramarathon (now that's more like it) or anything in between.

The only thing that gets called climbing that isn't really climbing is when it's used to refer to what is really hillwalking, e.g. "climbing Snowdon", I'd say.

Post edited at 18:26
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Wiley Coyote2 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

>

> The only thing that gets called climbing that isn't really climbing is when it's used to refer to what is really hillwalking, e.g. "climbing Snowdon", I'd say.

Bloody Hell! I thought I was pushing my luck with the OP but if what you said leaks onto UKH you are really for it. If I were you I would put on my helmet sharpish. You could need it

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axor 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Surely anything you ascend using your own steam is technically climbing.. the stairs, a ladder, a hill (walking, running or cycling), an indoor/outdoor boulder, a crag, indoor wall etc.

However, I do understand what people mean when they say indoor bouldering isn't really climbing. They usually mean they like to treat it as training for 'real' climbing outside as it's an easier and safer way to build your power/strength.

Indoor bouldering competitions are a great way to pit climbers skills and techniques against each other as it would be impractical to do them outside obviously.

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AlanLittle 12 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Surely he must have meant "climbing MOUNT Snowdon"?

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DerwentDiluted 12 Jul 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

> Surely he must have meant "climbing MOUNT Snowdon"?

Which raises the obvious question of are 'scaling' and 'climbing' the same thing?

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HansStuttgart 12 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Indoor climbing and bouldering makes the complexity of movement that is present in outdoor routes accessible to climbers at a much lower level. This is both why it is fun (in terms of movement most 7a routes in my gym are much better than most 7a routes outdoors) and effective training.

The parkour stuff isn't that new, Johnny Dawes was there before

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MischaHY 12 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

I've got a recently refined opinion on it which is often not a popular one when voiced at the gym, but here we go: 

Comp style climbing isn't at fault, you* are.

I used to be rubbish at the coordination dynos, the big compression slopers, the dodgy smearing slabs - the whole spectrum of 'comp' problems. I also used to say 'oh, it's because it's got no relevance to outdoor climbing, it's just technique...' etc etc. 

I was wrong

The big difference with competition style problems is that they require all the aspects of hard outdoor climbing, plus a much higher level of physical conditioning and coordination. You need strong core, strong arms, strong fingers, strong head - the whole nine. You also need to understand how and why climbing in a more dynamic, explosive way can be advantageous, and then figure out how to do it with your unique body. 

Once you take some steps along this road, you'll quickly realise that not only does the comp style require a lot of specificity and training on its own, but it also feeds back massively into your everyday climbing. That extra power, that body tension, that explosive movement - it all relates to the climbing you do on rock. 

On slabs, learning to smear and hold body tension on bad footholds, then generate momentum to move dynamically from that position is a game changer for harder slab climbing. If you don't believe me, take a look at how arguably one of the best slab climbers the UK has ever produced moves - Johnny Dawes. Unlike a lot of people, Johnny is known for moving delicately but dynamically, springing fluidly between holds and smearing easily on nothings. You can imagine how he would have stormed the competition slabs if he'd started in the current climbing scene. 

On steeper routes, the advantage of moving fast and dynamically between holds becomes obvious. Look at how Adam Ondra climbs in this video of the first ascent of Silence: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRTNHDd0gL8 

He moves rapidly, launching between holds and engaging incredibly physical and unobvious sequences. Flatanger is mostly open sloping holds, so the process of climbing powerful compression moves on slopers clearly translates extremely well here. 

The only aspect that is more lacking in outdoor climbing is the coordination dynos - but there's a really good reason for that - it's pretty dangerous without a padded floor! Still, you see more and more outrageous dynos being done in places like Rocklands, and I suspect we'll see this becoming more prolific in the future as people realise they can translate their indoor style to rock problems and stay safe with large amounts of boulder pads. 

My personal experience is that the stronger I've got on competition problems, the stronger I've got on rock. Obviously if you spend all day jumping around you won't be any good on crimp ladders - but don't kid yourself that the top guys wouldn't destroy that crimp ladder just because in the comps they're on the dynamic problems. The top climbers are well rounded, which is proven in buckets when they take the time to project some routes on rock. 

My advice to anyone who is nurturing a hatred for more comp style problems is to take a deep breath, put your ego to one side, and consider that you may not be a well rounded climber. If it's hard for you, then you're going to make fast gains. What's not to like? 

*('You' in the general sense, obviously!)

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AlanLittle 12 Jul 2019
In reply to MischaHY:

Excellent reply, pretty much all of which I agree with. 

And would add: competition routesetters have introduce all that extra complexity of coordination, body tension, controllled dynamic movement etc. and it's not just to make the problems audience friendly & photogenic.

Even if they tried to make comp problems into fingerboarding/campusing contests, there is basically no micro-crimp in the world, no matter how micro, that the top comp climbers couldn't just lock off at hip level and move on from.  I was delighted when I switched the telly on for the Chonqing final and saw that W1 was a ladder of tiny crimps ... until everybody cruised it.

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Offwidth 12 Jul 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

I've done a move at Font on a problem I was struggling with that was almost identical in style to the BBC final problem 4, albeit many grades easier. Left hand swing up dyno to a sloper locked in with an undercut toe hook (semi accidental so unintentional but welcomed  in my case). I can't recall a bouldering move I've done indoors that I've not done outdoors.

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Misha 12 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Like climbing but different. Saw that in a logbook comment once (can’t remember the route). I sometimes think this when engaged in some weird back and foot chimney shuffle or some other deeply traditional pitch. Or when attempting an indoor boulder problem on weird blobs. It’s all climbing, just not as we know it...

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MischaHY 12 Jul 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

This is pretty much the situation. When you're dealing with really strong people, it's very hard to set a hard problem on crimps without also making it very risky in terms of injury potential. Making the holds slopey and the moves insecure increases the difficulty of flashing/topping without pushing the injury risk up much. 

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Iamgregp 12 Jul 2019
In reply to MischaHY:

This is a really good and well put answer, spot on!

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Iamgregp 12 Jul 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

My only beef with modern comp style boulder setting is that it all trends towards that huge dyno to balencey volume kind of setting, which is understandable as it's great for audiences but is only one style of climbing.

For example, could you ever imagine seeing a boulder comp (or lead for that matter) where the final problem is a technical slab requiring micro movements on tiny nubbins?  How about a greasy off-width where you can't see the half the competitor and have no vision of what they're doing in there to slither up it?  I think it's unlikely as they're no gun to watch, but both of these are really important and valid styles of climber which most punters (i.e. me!) will spend far more time doing rather than doing a huge dyno then doing an inverted kneebar to rest!

So yes, it's certainly climbing, and a really valid and important part of climbing (see Mischa's reply) but it's often only representative of a small part of climbing.

That said.  I love watching climbing comps.  And who wants to watch boring stuff anyways!?!?!? 

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MischaHY 12 Jul 2019
In reply to Iamgregp:

Check out this: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yiDqrUVcJMt=40 

From Munich this year. Those look like mingers to me! 

The grim crimping and delicate movement does feature - it just shares the stage with all the other styles of movement on offer. 

Oh, and remember Meiringen this year? Not an offwidth but an example of how cracks are starting to spread into bouldering: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY0QFlCIpFIt=6093

One problem I see with cracks is that often like crimping the key to success is being brutally well conditioned, having the right technique and being willing to try really hard. It's tricky to make a 'low-percentage' crack move meaning athletes with enough stamina can simply go on a sufferfest until they gurn their way up. 

I'd love to see a good offwidth or off-fists style crack in the bouldering circuit! I'm sure it'll come as well. The route setters have clocked on that this is a weakness they can currently exploit and the volumes are at a stage where this is now possible without cheese-grating the athletes. 

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HansStuttgart 12 Jul 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

> Even if they tried to make comp problems into fingerboarding/campusing contests, there is basically no micro-crimp in the world, no matter how micro, that the top comp climbers couldn't just lock off at hip level and move on from.  I was delighted when I switched the telly on for the Chonqing final and saw that W1 was a ladder of tiny crimps ... until everybody cruised it.

To add to this: the other problem with straightforward (meaning no involvement of complex dynamic movement) is that the athletes won't make many mistakes, both in reading and in executing the problem. This implies their first go will generally be their best go, because they become more and more tired. For the competition it is better when athletes make progress on a boulder.

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