Bouldering is generally regarded as a safe form of climbing. However, statistics show that more accidents occur when bouldering than when climbing with rope. However, the crashes are much less severe as the analyses of KLEVER and DAV show.
In bouldering, every jump, every fall is a fall from the ground. Two aspects are therefore relevant: the single fall with an unfavorable fall and a large number of falls. In both cases, injuries or damage can occur either immediately or permanently.
The forces exerted by jumping when bouldering are considerable. After only two meters of free fall, you will hit the ground at a speed of over 22 km/h. The rate of the bouldering jumps is very high. From 3.5 meters, a not at all unusual exit height in bouldering halls, it is almost 30 km/h.
This graph illustrates the forces involved in a fall, even if the correct physical quantity is the energy and not the mass. The voltage at impact can be calculated correctly here
To avoid injuries from falling and jumping when bouldering, the following should be observed:
- Preparing the fall area (outdoor)
- Keep the area free from falls
- Spotter? Clarify whether a spotter is useful and necessary.
- Depending on the height, land correctly or climb down.
- Fall room indoor/bouldering area
When bouldering in a hall, mats conforming to standards are available. Here it is essential to assess the fall area correctly and to keep it free from objects and persons. Unfortunately, many indoor boulderers take drinking bottles and other objects with them on the mats. Caution is also required when people walk under boulderers and cannot recognize possible fall areas or sit in the fall area watching.
Outdoor fall area
When bouldering outdoors, the fall area must be prepared by laying out boulder mats. Stones, roots and other unevenness on the ground must be covered. Lateral obstacles such as rocks or trees must also be shielded. This often requires several different mats. Starter pads are good for seat starts, but also for securing lateral obstacles. Thick mats are suitable for falls/jumps from greater heights. The necessary equipment should include a thicker mat and 1-2 starter pads.
It often happens that the mats are not sufficient to cover the entire fall area. Then a partner may have to slip the mats.
The mats are not always sufficient. By skillful laying out, one can secure the fall area nevertheless. Thin mats at the less dangerous places, thick mats here at the foothook, the most compressed mat at the high exit at the far right.
Important! Also, cover lateral obstacles. Thick mats, where you land unfavorably from a greater height.
Keep the crash area clear
Unfortunately not self-evident: the fall area must be kept free of objects and persons. This starts with bottles, brushes, chalk bags etc., which have not lost anything in the fall area, and ends with people who are here. An untrained or unnecessary spotter can also be an obstacle.
In the boulder hall, it often happens that people run through the crash area out of ignorance or thoughtlessness. Here it helps to ask a partner to keep the falling space free during the bouldering.
Keep the fall area free, no persons in the area.
Bottles do not belong in the climbing area. Particularly dangerous: knees in the fall area.
Mocking aims to avoid head and back injuries by hitting the ground. The spotter steers the boulderer in such a way that he lands on his feet if possible, but at least not with his back or head on the mats or hits obstacles.
When to mock? Indoor
From the aim of the spotting it follows, that spots when bouldering indoor with mats conforming to standards and obstacle-free fall spaces are not necessary as a rule. For example, there is no mocking in the bouldering world cup and other competitions. Indoor mocking is only required if there is a high probability of landing uncontrollably on the head or back or of colliding with immobile obstacles. A fall on the head is possible, for example, with hanging hooks. The danger of collision exists in unfavorably designed bouldering halls and boulderers, for instance at archways.
When to mock? Outdoor
When bouldering outdoors, the spotting has to be considered more differentiated. There are often obstacles in the crash area, the jump area is uneven or sloping, and the landing area is less safe than in indoor bouldering due to the smaller and thinner crash pads. Spotting is therefore much more useful or even necessary. When to mock outdoors during bouldering should be well considered. In general, there is no need to mock.
How do you mock?
Due to the enormous energy generated by free fall, spotting is only possible in a certain height range, the spot zone. Below a height of 1 meter, there is practically no chance to spot the boulderer correctly. Here safety can only be achieved by using mats. To steer someone onto his feet, you have to be very close to the back of the boulderer.
This raises the limit. The torso of the boulderer must be at or just above the height of the spotter, i.e., up to 3 meters. The spot zone is about 1 to 3 meters above the hip of the boulderer. One meter is the height from which a kneeling spotter can intervene. Three meters is the height of the last possibility of intervention of a standing spotter with outstretched arms plus 50-80 cm of contactless fall.
Above the spot zone, the spotting becomes dangerous also for the spotter. The risk of being injured by the boulderer’s arms or legs in an uncontrolled fall increases with the height of the fall. Here the dangers have to be weighed up.
Due to the available mats and the obstacle-free fall space, spotting above the spot zone is usually unnecessary in the hall. However, it can still be useful outdoors if obstacles are present. Under certain circumstances, you may also have to make a decision not to use a boulder that is too dangerous.
Spot zone between approx. 1-3 meters.
The aim of the spotting is not to catch the boulder, but to steer it to the feet and the mat. Spotters and boulderers should be aware of this. The spotter should have enough power, i.e., about the same size and weight or bigger and heavier than the boulderer.
Basic posture: The spotter stands in a stable foot position with slightly bent knees, the arms are slightly bent and pointing upwards. The hands should be as close as possible to the back, just below the shoulder blades. The thumbs are placed on the index fingers to avoid injuries during spotters. When spotting at a low height, the spotter must kneel.
Arrangement: Discuss beforehand with the boulderer if you want to mock at all and if so, at which move. Otherwise, a moral impulse can become a dangerous “push.”
Be attentive: Observe the boulderer during the mockery and anticipate the possible course of the fall. Important! In all exercises, as in bouldering itself, the falling person needs sufficient body tension.
The boulderer is standing straight on the ground with his arms put on and can fall backward with high body tension (firm like a board), the spotter is standing behind the falling and catches him.
As above from 1-meter foot height (shoulder blades are slightly above the reach height of the mocker).
Spotting in the big overhang or roof at reach height. The spotting with direction impulse must be practiced separately. It should only be used by a well-rehearsed team boulderer-spotter.