Nicholas Foster Answers FAQ’s About Bouldering

Boulders:  We love them.  We climb them.  And inevitably, we fall off them.  Here’s what Nicholas Foster (Head Route Setter at EVO Portland) said about risks while bouldering.

Disclaimer – this is but one human’s opinion.

What’s the proper way to spot?

“Keep your thumbs in, and don’t try to catch the climber- just try to push them toward the crash pad.  The goal is to let the crash pad do its job.”

Why “keep your thumbs in?”

“Because if not, the climber can fall on them (your thumbs) and bend them backwards.  This hurts.”

Do I need a spot for all the boulders I climb on?

“Depends on your experience level; if you’re an experienced outdoor climber, I’d say no.  I boulder alone sometimes, but if I don’t have a spotter, I’m sure to have a crash pad and ensure it’s properly situated.

The pad isn’t for protecting every single spot you might fall; it’s for protecting the spot you’re most likely to fall; assess each boulder before climbing, and think about where that point might be.  The pad should be placed where you’re most likely to get hurt in the event of a fall, mitigating the most potential danger.”

What else should I know about crash pads?

“Potentially the highest cause of injury while bouldering is due to neglected seam coverage or improper spotting. Some companies aim to mitigate the hazard of seams.  For instance, Mad Rock has Velcro flaps that can attach to the adjacent pad, therefore eliminating the seam. Want one? Just stop by our gear shop and pick one up!”

Why are seams so dangerous?

“If your foot goes in between two pads or the fold of a pad, your foot and ankle will stay there while the rest of your body travels in the fall line.  This can result in a slew of tendon related injuries.”

 Overall, what’s the best way to stay safe while bouldering outside?

Go with someone who is experienced. Climbing is a community, be part of it.


Featured image—Nicholas Foster chalks up for King Troll at Red Rocks Canyon, Nevada, March 2016.   EVO Portland member Alan Brackett waits to spot.  Photo cred: Steven Barry  

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