I have had a few laughs with people about our experiences trying to explain to people what we do and why we do it. We love bouldering. But it can be hard getting across to non-climbers why we love bouldering. I have met a few people who were a bit embarrassed to tell unknowing strangers/friends what their beloved hobby was. “Oh you’re a climber. What mountains have you climbed?” is a typical response. This if followed by a sinking feeling and a sigh…. What do you say? Fear not my friends, I’m here to help!

Never Ending Story- Magic Wood One classic that I am defiantly having a go at this summer!

Never Ending Story- Magic Wood
One classic that I am defiantly having a go at this summer!

As far as I can work out you have four broad response options, depending on how well you know the person and how likely they are to check their facts.

Lying – option 1: You don’t boulder. Don’t even bother trying to explain. It’s not worth it. You are in fact a rugged mountain man/woman.  Said stranger just happens to have caught you on a clean shaven day (only an option for men who don’t already have a good beard). You are definitely too hard core for oxygen and your grandfather was actually Sir Edmund Percival Hillary.

  • Best used at posh functions to impress when you fail to think of any other suitable upper-class sports for which you can genuinely portray enthusiasm (e.g. polo, croquet)
  • Potentially requires good BS skills and a confident persona when lying through your teeth
  • May require a knowledge of at least a few mountains
  • Should be able to make up an exciting story on the spot


Lying – option 2: You do boulder but bending the truth is required for said stranger to understand/ respect you. You scale massive erratic’s, like those in the Buttermilks, gracefully and with no fear. You climb massive rocks because ropes are for losers and you require a modicum of excitement in your life. You basically solo stuff.

  • Best used on none-the-wiser acquaintances or rarely seen family friends. People who are never likely to realise the truth but might see photos occasionally.
  • This still requires a steady hand for heavy exaggeration
  • It is also great if you are proficient with deceiving camera angles.

Lying – option 3: You boulder. Bouldering is not that impressive but it’s very accessible and a good form of training. You just do lot of short hard climbs in a row you see. Pretend you use bouldering as a form of supplementary strength training for bigger and more impressive projects. This may include big walls in America, or at least an impressive sea stack in Scotland. You must never admit bouldering is your true love.

  • Best used on friends/acquaintances and other climbers (non-boulderers) who you see semi-regularly. These people are still not that interested to check up on you and exactly what you’re doing.
  • You may not need to lie that much, but exaggeration is a must.
  • May occasionally require a good knowledge of photo-shop
  • Requires good memory of past white lies under the influence of a few pints


Option 4: The truth! This may still be tainted with small lies about how good you are and what grade you boulder if you choose. Explain that you actually only like climbing short ‘problems’, which require a lot of thought and power. You are basically trying to do the few hardest moves possible. A good analogy might be chess-boxing. You have a good old fight, then think about things, only to go in for another short fight. Or to put things more simply – a sprint instead of a marathon, only with lots of differently shaped hurdles. I’m sure you can think of something better.

  • Suited for anyone you choose, when you can’t be bothered to lie, or when you are with someone for whom you have enough respect to paint an honest picture
  • Normally good to explain to people who know you well enough to understand you’re not a fool and who do some sort of sports.
  • Must have sufficient shameless confidence in what you do (not for the faint hearted with complete strangers and non-sporty people)

betamonkeys bouldering tribes

You might want to leave out some things…

Like the fact that you spend hours trying to get on top of an extremely small rock and then go home, have multiple beers and sleep in a comfy bed. Most of your day is spent watching other people and lying around sunbathing/chatting/eating cake, and your fingers are sensitive enough most the time to warrant a rest day. You never go out in bad weather. You stroll in comfortable trainers and even bring a bed to sleep on under your small rock. After coffee-fuelled warm ups, heavy workout music and endless hours watching climbing videos with friends, your feet leave the ground for a few seconds, fall off, then have lunch. If you’re feeling particularly energetic you might have many goes before pretending to stretch and go to the pub. Linking two hard moves constitutes a good day. Occasionally you get up your small rock and shout about it for a few minutes. Do you look for a bigger climb? NO. You find another boulder with equally good potential as a lunching spot and start the whole process again.

What they will never know (unless you take them bouldering to try and back up your points, which is a great idea more often than not) – bouldering is great! It’s addictive, purposeful, accessible and endlessly creative. There is something about doing hard moves, strolling around forests and lounging around with other boulderers that makes it a bit special. I think so anyway. So it’s worth taking the odd, “Can’t you just jump to the top?”. Yes. Yes, you could, but where is the fun in that.

Happy climbing,


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