When it comes to climbing, you get to see several terms that most people use interchangeably. However, in the case of bouldering and belaying, the difference is pretty clear.
If you lack prior knowledge about both terms, this article promises to enlighten you on all you need to know about bouldering and belaying.
In the course of this article, I will state the differences between bouldering and belaying. In addition, I’ll highlight which is harder and a better climber’s discipline.
Let’s dive in!
What Is The Difference Between Bouldering And Belaying
Before rushing into the differences between both climbing terms, I will explain what these terms mean. Like you, I was curious about the differences, and that led me to my research.
What is bouldering?
Based on my research and few years of engaging in the climbing sport, bouldering is a climber’s discipline.
Unlike other climber’s discipline (or technique), bouldering doesn’t require the use of a climbing rope or harness for climbs.
Although there isn’t a rope attached to climbers, there is a pad on the ground to soften the impact force if they fall. This makes bouldering less scary and more fun.
The main goal of this climbing discipline remains like the others – to reach the top of a climb. This climb could be outdoors or an indoor replica.
What is belaying?
I take belaying to represent a two climber’s climbing technique. Primarily, the term “belaying” is an act of controlling the safety rope used by a climber to climb.
Belaying works correctly by using the rope to pass through a belay device. With the belay device attached to the belayer’s (other climber’s harness).
Generally, you need to perform this technique correctly as the climber’s life rests on the belay device and belayer’s hands.
Regardless, it might sound challenging, but it is pretty easy once you understand.
Yes, they are both climbing terms, but they are two different techniques. How are they different? Let’s take a look!
- Rope Use
This is the most obvious differentiating factor between both climbing techniques. Bouldering doesn’t require the use of rope as it is a free climbing discipline.
On the other hand, belaying requires rope used to support a climber in case of a fall. However, unlike belaying, bouldering has a pad on the ground to protect the climber from a fall.
I’m sure whenever you hear climbing, your mind might often think of a scary high climb. However, this isn’t really the case with bouldering – I’ll explain.
Bouldering climbs are high enough to be an exciting climb but not so tall that they become intimidating. For instance, bouldering routes are about 15 feet high or shorter.
While in contrast, belaying climbs can go pretty high (higher than that of bouldering). In fact, most climbers will likely find climbs requiring the belaying discipline more intimidating.
- Number of Climbers
From observations and research of both climbing disciplines, it is pretty clear that bouldering is a one-person technique. Whereas belaying requires a partner for the technique to work.
For instance, in bouldering, it is mainly the climber, the wall, chalk, and strength needed for each climb. No other person, except maybe an instructor, climbs alongside the climber.
But, for belaying, the climber works with a belayer to ensure a safer climb. They work together to ensure a climb by using a rope that clings to the belay device on the belayer.
- Safety Level
In terms of safety, both climbing disciplines are safe from a potential hurtful fall. In bouldering, climbers are safe through the spread pad on the ground.
Then, in belaying, the rope acts as a harness to keep climbers from falling should they lose their footing. But, I will consider belaying a safer approach for climbers.
Is Bouldering Harder Than Belaying
The difference in climbing techniques and carrying complexities between bouldering and belaying makes it challenging to state the harder discipline.
I believe the “harder” one varies and depends solely on the type of climber – don’t get confused, stick with me.
For a first-time climber having a phobia for heights, offering them the bouldering discipline might be an over-stunt.
There’s no telling someone with a phobia for heights to climb up a wall with no rope for support – regardless of the height.
However, I believe belaying might prove more difficult for someone without this fear because bouldering requires sheer muscle strength and endurance.
Regardless, I actually believe the harder climbing discipline here is belaying. What’s my reason? The belay device might not be an easy use for most persons when climbing.
And climbing in bouldering is similar to belaying; the only difference is the absence of rope. So, I will have to call belaying the harder technique because of the rope/device that might prove challenging to use.
Which Is Better, Bouldering or Belaying?
When selecting a better option between climbing techniques, I always believe the answer differs amongst climbers.
Deciding which is better between bouldering and belaying lies solely on a climber’s preference and take on both disciplines.
However, I will share the pros and cons of both disciplines, and at the end, give my take on which is better.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of bouldering? Let’s find out.
- Builds Muscles and Strengthens Grip
Undoubtedly, you can consider bouldering a great technique to help you build your muscles and strengthen your gripping.
The idea that there is no rope for support allows climbers to do their best to ensure they do not fall off the wall. In that way, they grow their muscles and grip through consistent practice.
- Burns Calories
According to some facts, climbing, especially bouldering, can allow a climber to burn up to 600 calories every hour. This happens because bouldering is an intensive activity and it requires anaerobic power bursts.
- Good for Weight Loss
As you already know that it burns calories, also know that bringing about weight loss is possible. Although overly weighted people may not be able to climb; however, it also helps streamline the climber’s body.
- Encourages Mindfulness
As humans, it is pretty common for our minds to become mentally distracted. However, bouldering can act as a way of keeping your thoughts and behaviour mindful.
For novice climbers, they will likely find bouldering as an overly lengthy and time-consuming activity. Because of the absence of a rope, climbers most often spend more time on the wall than in belaying.
Although there is pretty much a large pad to cushion climbers from a fall, bouldering offers several dangers.
For instance, climbers using the bouldering technique can suffer from wrist/ankle sprain, concussions, and more injuries during a fall.
This climbing technique can be good or bad. I’ll highlight the pros and cons attached to this climbing discipline.
- It Is Safe
Due to the presence of ropes, belaying often feels safer for novice climbers to engage. Belaying ropes act as a harness to protect the climber from falling to the ground should they slip.
Some expert climbers believe the belaying discipline is a faster way to climb, and I second this thinking. The belayer helps the climber, and this, in turn, increases the climbing speed.
- It Allows Heavy People To Climb
Unlike bouldering, which restricts heavily weighted individuals, belaying can support slightly heavy people. It all depends on the belayer and the belay device’s strengths to carry the climber.
For a novice, the belay device might seem pretty challenging to use – making climbing complex and challenging. However, with guidance and consistent practice, it will become much easier.
- Damage To The Belay Device Removes Safety
The entire climb when belaying is dependent on the belay device. If for any reason, the belay device begins to malfunction, the entire climb gets compromised.
In terms of safety and higher climb, I will state the better climbing discipline as belaying. As it encourages more safety and allows you to climb much higher walls.
If you still interchangeably use bouldering and belaying, you might be referring to two different things unknowingly.
In this article, I have distinctively differentiated between both terms. Additionally, I stated the harder and better climbing discipline to use.