Here’s Why Bouldering is the Perfect Activity for Kids

By: Shannon Hawthorne

Take your family bouldering in Truckee and Lake Tahoe

 Photo Credit: Allison Timms

Fall is in the air and now is the best time to be enjoying the beautiful Truckee outdoors. With school back in session, some of you may be at a loss of what to do with your kids afterward. Bouldering is an exciting sport that gets you and the kids outside and exploring with minimal cost or expertise needed.

What is Bouldering?

If your kids love monkeying around on rocks, climbing trees and generally exploring, bouldering is a great sport to try. It is low risk, relatively inexpensive and requires little expertise. What is bouldering? Bouldering is where you are protected by crash pads rather than a rope and harness. Bouldering “problems” are no more than 12-15 feet tall. A problem is a path of foot and hand holds up the rock face. These problems don’t always go to the top of the boulder but sometimes traverse the face and require focus and problem solving skills to solve.

Bouldering is great for kids!
Bouldering is great for kids!
Photo Credit: Allison Timms

Why is it great for kids?

Bouldering is a great activity for kids because it burns energy and requires them to be highly focused for short amounts of time. Solving a bouldering problem is not always easy so it can teach perseverance and creative thinking. Bouldering also requires short bursts of energy rather than long term endurance like sport climbing. And unlike sport climbing, you don’t need tons of gear or expertise. Anyone can go bouldering with just a pair of climbing shoes, chalk, and a bouldering pad! The best part of bouldering is getting away from the computer and exploring places you may have never gone.

Climbing shoes for bouldering.

What gear and skills you need to get started:

All you need to get started is a crash mat, climbing shoes, chalk and a boulder (guide books make finding routes easy). We love the Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad because it is easy to carry with adjustable backpack straps and features shock-absorbing foam that is firm enough to protect you and your kid if you fall but soft enough to make falling a little more comfortable. 

Climbing shoes are not necessary but are extremely helpful. They have sticky soles and pointy toes that make it easier to use small ledges and cracks as footholds. We sell and rent a variety of kid and adult size climbing shoes.

Chalk makes it easier to grip the rock and keeps your hands from slipping off the rock. A chalk bag and chalk block can easily be shared between climbers.

You'll need a spotter for bouldering in Truckee-Tahoe.

Spotting and Crash Pads

Bouldering requires that every climber has a spotter to keep him or her from hitting the ground instead of the crash pad. The spotter’s job is to move the pad so it is always under the climber and to make sure the climber lands on the pad if he or she falls. This means keeping your hands up and guiding the climber towards the pad or preventing him or her from bouncing off the pad. Catching a falling person is the job of the crash pad, not the spotter.

It is a good idea to practice spotting and falling from very low heights before moving on to taller or more challenging routes. Check out the first half of this video to learn more about how to fall, spot and set up your crash pad

Where to go climbing and bouldering in Truckee with kids?
Photo Credit: Allison Timms

Now that you have your gear, where do you go?

The best way to find boulder spots in the Truckee area is by purchasing the Bouldering Lake Tahoe North Shore guidebook. This book provides driving and hiking directions to boulders along with descriptions of the different problems. Boulder problems are rated from VB or V0 to V16 in difficulty, VB being the easiest. We recommend starting with VB or V0 before progressing to more difficult problems. Start slow and easy with the kids to make it fun and rewarding rather than frustrating.

Here are a few recommendations of kid-friendly local bouldering spots in Truckee:

  1. Truckee River Legacy Trail
  2. Donner Pass
  3. Donner Memorial State Park

That is it! A crash pad, shoes and directions or guidebook to a local bouldering spot are all you need to get started with this fun sport. Rent gear here!

Keep reading: 7 Exciting Family Outdoor Activities, Here’s What it’s Like to Go Climbing with NASTC

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