Indoor Bouldering on Plastic
In my youth, I joined my school’s climbing club and climbed almost exclusively on plastic. It wasn’t because I adored plastic – mind you, handholds and climbing walls were nowhere near as creative or exciting as today’s offerings; rather, climbing on plastic was the only option available to me. Here in sunny Singapore’s concrete jungle, we didn’t have much good quality climbing outdoors, with perhaps the exception of Dairy Farm Quarry. So in order for climbers to blow off some steam, the only outlet was climbing in climbing gyms and on plastic.
Bouldering indoors is a great way to get started in climbing. The environment is controlled and safe. You aren’t affected by weather conditions. Dismounting after you have finished a climb is comfortable because safety mattresses are generously laid out over the entire landing zone.
Indoor Bouldering is Fun
After you get a firm grasp of the basics and naturally start exploring more advanced movements, bouldering starts to become a whole lot more fun.
Once you master the correct application of climbing skills, you will naturally find yourself growing physically stronger. I particularly love how climbing practice is a holistic workout for the entire body. There isn’t a singular emphasis on either the lower or upper body because all the various muscle groups need to work in unison to help you overcome the problem. On top of simply being a physical activity, trying to overcome new climbing challenges is also a mental workout.
After a few months of climbing and practising indoors, I became curious about climbing beyond the gym – what else, and where else, could I put my new skills to the test? You can imagine my excitement when my coach brought our club to our first outdoor climbing trip – on real rocks! We were introduced to the Batu Caves climbing area, just north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was hooked immediately! To my young mind, a world of endless possibilities opened up. It’s amazing how a human body can use the crevices and imperfections in the rock to ease its way up the wall.. My mind was blown.
Since then, I’ve gone on to explore bouldering in many different places across the world. Some amazing bouldering spots that are accessible to everyone include Fontainbleu (France), Hampi (India), Grampians (Australia), Rocklands (South Africa), just to name a few.
Closer to home, Khon Kean in northern Thailand has in recent years been opened by some passionate Europeans and locals. These pioneers say that this region has the potential to be quite the mecca for bouldering in South-east Asia.
A Different Way to Travel
If bouldering indoors is fun, and bouldering outdoors is mind-blowing; outdoor boulder trips are the “next level” way to travel. Where regular tourists pack their itineraries with busy and commercialized tourist spots, I optimize my climbing days for peak performance and seek out the experiences that money just can’t buy.
Going on outdoor boulder trips has allowed me to go off the beaten track, to explore and interesting observations. It allows me to embark on new adventures, on my own terms and in my own time. Each trip is another step forward on the process of self-discovery.
When I get to each boulder, I start an (unspoken) conversation with the original person who “founded” the boulder. What was he thinking? What possibilities did he see in the rock? What amazing movements are waiting to be unlocked? The original founder may not there with me, but I feel a kinship with him through our shared connection with the rock. This is a timeless feeling that many climbers share.
Climbing as a Way of Life
Because everyone has a different way to overcome each boulder problem, nobody has a monopoly on climbing methods or styles. The outdoor bouldering experience naturally isn’t a competition on who did what. Rather, it’s a way for us to express our identity on the rocks.
When my friends and I go on a trip, and we get to the top of the boulders we encounter, we celebrate and cheer each other hoarse. I feel like through their success, I’ve succeeded too.
I love the feeling of hanging out (literally – on the rocks) with friends for an entire day, then heading off for a meal together to close the experience. I certainly look forward to every outdoor boulder trip I get, and I can’t recommend it enough.
It’s never too early (or late) to start thinking about or planning for a trip. Give it a try, I’m sure you’ll love it too!