The bouldering start.

After reading forum discussions and blogs commenting on bouldering starts and how they can be confusing, convoluted, contrived, illogical, or just plain ridiculous, I decided to add this page on how we, our modest crew, do things. Also, when I teach kids, I make it abundantly clear there is a healthy way to keep things simple and honest. Ok, it’s opinionated, but for kids, I think things should be clear and simple, honest and logical, and if they compete, they have to adhere to rule anyways. Bleh.

Basically, we have two “rules”: one, all points have to be off BEFORE one progresses on the problem; two, once all points are off the ground, the start originates AFTER all movement has ceased. Dang, one more rule: the starting holds must or should be designated if such a condition is relevant. In other words, designate starting holds and then follow the first two rules.

The start of many older problems, and I suspect the reason why Mari Gingery didn’t bother with designated holds, were defined by what was in front of you. This same situation occurred in Fontainebleau as my friend, Thierry Plaud, explained to me. He’s a respected and long time boulderer of Font residing in the north of the forest, and he explained how sit starts began in the forest. I recorded him in my video Shut Up and Climb, as he articulated Fred Nicole’s influence in Font. Nicole started putting up the first sit starts and, therefore, needed to articulate what the starting holds would be. That action stipulated that clarity was needed as anyone not accustomed to a lower start could be confused as to why one would even do it, and if the “why” is acceptable, then in what way. Well, that “way” is to climb, but that climb just starts from so and so holds. Get it? The new Joshua Tree Bouldering Guide should now address this issue, but time will tell with the third edition, if one becomes reality… (update: no change in the third edition)

Bouldering has few moves. Why cheat the number? Some starts are the crux, so why cheat the crux? As far as I see it, what’s the difference between this and a dab? Routes or lines have always been attributed to the first ascentionist; whereas, in bouldering, the line is so minimal and the moves so few that the parameters of the “line” include the location of the exit (on non-pure lines), what’s off (on contrived lines or eliminits), and, in my opinion, the exact start. What one does between or within those parameters is up to each person. Moves are subjective and so are which holds one uses to gain the summit. This minimalist style of climbing, as bouldering is most known for, makes every facet fundamentally important. And the most aesthetic lines tend to be the ones with an obvious start and only one way to summit.

Peace out,

ps. The subtitle of Joshua Tree Bouldering is Revisionist Trad Bouldering in the Park. As I’m sure most of you are aware of is that trad denotes the past and in the past there were no crash pads. Also, top roping wasn’t excluded from sending some lines with solo ascents as the best way to “finish” the line. So why do I state what we are practicing is Trad Bouldering? Because if pads were available, another form of ascent might have taken hold… Working the line from the ground instead of first TRing it before soloing. Might have is the operative word, and since headpointing has issues (solopointing seems more apropos), we decided to keep it childishly simple. It’s bold, it respects the environment and it doesn’t put padding or landscaping above mental fortitude. Therefore it’s revisionist in the looses sense.

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