Has the bouldering bubble burst? This is the question asked by Francis Holland. After the massive explosion of bouldering in the late Nineties and into the 21st Century, is its rapid growth waning? Some might say the signs are there. Chris Sharma, poster boy for the bouldering revolution, has now embraced deep water soloing as the ultimate free-expression of climbing movement. But more significant signs are perhaps at the grassroots level that often drive celebrity trends. At the website ukbouldering.com where Francis Holland asked this question about the 'bubble bursting' they have set up a sub-forum entitled 'Chuffing'. For those not in the know 'chuffing' is a slightly disparaging term for climbing with a rope which as far as we know originated at the USA bouldering website boldering.com. Sacrilege some might say, but no, there has been hardly a murmur of dissent on the bouldering message boards and the boys are chatting gaily about their favourite 'chuffing' routes. Even Simon Panton, Mr. Bouldering UK, has been spraying about his roped antics, “I haven't bouldered for nearly 6 weeks. Just been out every day doing loads of classic trad' routes.”
But just as the sport climbing revolution of the Eighties changed climbing forever, so has the bouldering revolution with nearly 70% of the nearly 17,000 registered climbers at UKC.com going bouldering. Bouldering is now mainstream and bouldering pads, dodgy knees and bouldering guides are now part of every climbers bag of tricks.