Requiring neither a harness nor a rope, bouldering involves routes that are close to the ground. A thick padded floor as a protective mat below you. We recommend spotters, people who help prevent falls from injuring your head and neck.
Bouldering is a great way to build skill because you can focus solely on using your strength and balance to keep yourself on the wall. Novices appreciate the simplicity of it; skilled climbers like the challenge of more difficult routes.
This is where a novice enters the world of harness-and-rope climbing. When you’re top-rope climbing, the rope is secured to an overhead anchor in the climbing area. You tie into one end of the rope; the other end of the rope is held by a belayer, who manages the rope to catch you in case of a fall. The belayer can be a trained staff person or a friend with belay certification.
Once you’ve become a skilled top-rope climber, your next step is lead climbing. When lead climbing, you’ll tie into one end of the rope and clip it into a series of quickdraws that are already attached to bolts on the climbing area’s wall. Again, you’ll have a belayer.
Lead climbing indoors is very much like sport climbing outside, except that indoors the quickdraws are already in place.
The challenge with lead climbing is that if you slip or miss the next quickdraw, you’ll fall a short distance back to the previous clipped–in point. That’s a farther, harder fall than you’d have when top-roping.