Peak Performance Bailey Men’s Shortsleeved T-shirt use quick-wicking fabrics to keep you high and dry, $90
Mesh panels and stretchy Lavvu Printed Short Leggings use quick-wicking fabrics to keep you high and dry, $120
A snug fit, assertively downturned arch for hooking and Vibram rubber soles for extra grip give La Sportiva Solution Shoes the edge on the edge, $175
Chalk cuts moisture on hands and holds. With a stable base, the Mammut Boulder Chalk Bag stands up on tough terrain, $35
The Black Diamond Mondo Crash Pad has you covered with a jumbo-size landing zone and lots of grab handles, US$400
Set designer: Olivier Charland (Folio); Makeup & Hair: Nisha Gulati (Folio); Model: Michael Tong (graphic designer, Spafax)
“Bouldering develops upper-body strength. Plan to work your forearms and shoulders, because there are often a lot of overhangs on boulders. And be prepared to fall – a lot.”
– Emilisa Frirdich, co-owner, Squamish Rock Guides, Squamish, British Columbia
While mountain climbers scale the cliffs above, SpongeBob SquarePants lookalikes, crash pads strapped to their backs with legs sticking out below, wander among boulders looking for “problems”: routes that require side pulls, digging toes into crevices, swinging to the next hold. No ropes, no harness, no big walls here. Bouldering began as training for alpine ascents. Its beauty is that it only requires rock shoes, chalk, pads and maybe friends to spot you. These are problems you want to have.
Where to go
Stawamus Chief Provincial Park
A few Sprinter vans are the only clue to what’s afoot at the base of the Chief, in this popular yet tranquil rainforest just 60 gorgeous kilometres from Vancouver. Forget about getting to the top and focus on the low-lying opportunities in the semi-shaded mossy playground of granite routes like Crack Slabbath and Cheese Grater.
Forêt de Fontainebleau
The French have been bouldering since the 1930s. And Font (or Bleau, if you’re local), a day trip from Paris, is one of the world’s top spots. Colour-coded routes for different skill levels lead through some 30,000 unusual sandstone shapes – most famously, L’Éléphant, trunk and all – clustered in the wooded gorges surrounding a medieval château.
Cracked blocks of Castlegate sandstone are easy to access on the Wasatch Plateau, two and a half hours from Salt Lake City. More than 600 routes include entry-level climbs (Warm Me Up, Scotty) and many mid-level to serious challenges (Incredible Hulk and Black Lung). In summer, seek shade and creeks; fall is aflame with aspens.