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How to face your fear of bouldering – by falling

Bouldering is scary. There’s no arguing that. Especially for newer climbers, or those who have more experience with roped climbing than bouldering — the concept of landing on the ground every time you fall is preeeeetty freaky. 

Objectively, bouldering (and climbing in general) is dangerous. Most climbers will know someone who’s gotten injured from bouldering. So it makes sense that we would be afraid of it; after all, fear is your mind telling you to be careful! 

But for a lot of climbers, they recognize that their fear is holding them back from doing the things they want to do: attempting harder climbs, making it to the top of the wall, trying hard moves, etc. In this case, there is value in learning how to work through the fear and improve your mindset.

For those familiar with the discipline of lead climbing, you may have heard people talk about doing lead fall practice, where one would practice taking falls on lead to build their comfort with it. This is a well-known strategy for getting lead climbers to get over their fear and feel more confident on the wall!

However, I’ve noticed something really interesting; I’ve pretty much never heard anyone talk about doing bouldering fall practice… despite the overwhelming majority of climbers I’ve talked to expressing some level of fear about bouldering falls. 

I’ve implemented bouldering fall practice with dozens of climbers I’ve worked with (and myself!) with overwhelmingly positive results. They’ve reported feeling more confident and less paralyzed by fear. And I’ve watched them start to commit to harder moves higher up on the wall than they did before. 

Yes, bouldering is scary. But I want you to know that you don’t have to feel this way forever. You CAN learn how to regulate your fear. You CAN learn how to commit to hard moves. You CAN learn how to not freak out at the top of the wall. You CAN learn to feel confident bouldering. And fall practice will help you get there. Let’s dive into how to do it!


  • You’ll become more familiar with how bouldering falls feel & happen by doing them frequently and safely. This lets your mind know that normal bouldering falls are not a threat.

  • You will build your body’s muscle memory through intentional falls, so that it will eventually act instinctively to do the right thing without having to think about it.

  • You will reinforce your confidence that you can rely on your body to fall & catch itself safely.

  • Your mindset will shift to feeling in control of your falls, both intentional and unintentional, instead of falling just being something that happens to you that you have little control over.


Bouldering fall practice is for anyone who wants to get more comfortable falling on boulders! It is especially useful for climbers who:

  • Are afraid of falling in bouldering

  • Find themselves often bailing out at the top of boulders

  • Rarely take unintentional bouldering falls 

  • Struggle to commit to hard moves

  • Are returning to bouldering after an injury and experience hesitation around falling


It is important to recognize that bouldering is inherently dangerous; and thus, that fall practice is too. You CAN get hurt doing fall practice. You should take every measure you can to ensure you are doing fall practice in a safe way. Use your discretion when taking falls, and be responsible. 

STEP 1: Ensure your falling technique is solid.

You should know how to properly land on your feet and "tuck and roll" to disperse the momentum. You should be confident in your ability to NOT instinctively put your arms out behind you to break your fall. If you have NOT mastered basic falling technique, practice falling from a standing position, or from the start holds of boulders. Do this until you instinctively fall with proper technique.

To fall with proper technique:

  1. First, make sure you have a safe, flat landing zone that is free of objects or people.

  2. Let go of the holds and gently push off the wall with your feet, to make sure you won't hit any holds on the way down. Gently; do not fling yourself backward!

  3. Land feet-first with your knees bent, cross your arms over your chest, and sit back onto your butt to absorb the impact. NEVER stick your arms out behind you to break your fall, as this can seriously injure your wrists, elbows, or shoulders.

  4. Tuck your chin to your chest and roll onto your back to fully disperse the momentum from your fall.

The progression of a proper fall.

STEP 2: Take a controlled fall.

Once you are proficient in falling technique, identify the height where you start to feel SOME discomfort or hesitation. It is important that this height is still within your comfort zone, just at the edge of it, not way out of it. You should feel some discomfort but you should NOT be panicking. If you begin to panic, climb down, and only continue when you have calmed down sufficiently (whether that’s in a few minutes, or the next session). 

Climb up to that height, either on an easy route or "rainbow" (using any color holds). It is crucial that however you get up the wall is well within your ability, so that you are in complete control of when and where you fall. 

Look down and identify your landing. Take a deep breath. Count down from 3. Then let go and fall, landing with proper technique. 

An example practice fall.

STEP 3: Assess and adjust.

After taking your fall, reflect on how you feel. Did the fall feel okay? Did you feel in control of your emotions? Did it feel like too much?

If the fall felt great, and you feel that you could push a bit more: do your next fall from one foot or hand move higher.

If the fall felt okay, and you’re unsure if you’re ready to push more: do your next fall from the same height.

If the fall felt like too much: do your next fall from one hand or foot move lower. 

The first fall felt good, so I went slightly higher for the second fall.

STEP 4: Rinse and repeat.

Continue to take falls, assess after each one, and adjust for the next fall. In a single session, I recommend taking between 4-6 practice falls total. Remember that these are separate from just your regular bouldering falls, where you are not as intentional about it. 

An example of fall practice progression over three falls.

STEP 5: Rinse and repeat… again, and again, and again.

The MOST important part of fall practice (besides safety) is doing it frequently and consistently. I recommend doing it ONE TO TWO times per week, for a MINIMUM of 8 sessions. Only doing it once or infrequently will not have a strong reinforcement effect on your body or your brain. 

For those who have relatively minor fear, this might be enough to experience very drastic results. For those who have moderate to severe fear, it could take much longer; more like 10, 12, 16, or more sessions. It will be a long-term process; and that’s okay!

For most of us this will be a recurring pursuit throughout our climbing careers; in different seasons of life we might require more or less fall practice as our mindset shifts over time. Fear of bouldering can return or grow stronger after experiencing an injury, taking time off, or other reasons. If this happens, you can always come back to the fall practice to help improve it again!


If you have questions about bouldering fall practice or how to implement it into your climbing, please reach out to me on Instagram @pinkpointclimbing or through the Contact Me page. If you implement it and see improvements in your bouldering confidence, please get in touch and share that with me as well!

As a final note – don’t forget to recognize that fear exists for a reason. Some of it is reasonable, some of it less so. The goal of fall practice is not to disregard the reasonable fear. It is to work through the unreasonable fear. Always use your discretion when taking falls and be responsible.


If this article helped you, you can help me out by sharing it on social media or sending it to someone who might also benefit from it. You can follow me on Instagram @pinkpointclimbing for more content about training for beginner & intermediate climbers!


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