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Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team

Bouldering with multiple mats

By Ashleigh Naysmith
13, Aug, 2014

Given the option to have one mat or the use of multiple mats when bouldering, I would without fail go for multiple mats every time!

Bouldering mats at Magic Wood

What could be better than a nice, large, firm bouldering mat to land on? Even more bouldering mats of course! Given the option to have one mat or the use of multiple mats when bouldering, I would without fail go for multiple mats every time! It is safer to cover a larger area rather than having to guess exactly where I am most likely to fall and protect myself from perilous objects such as surrounding rocks and trees as well as the ground.

The first thing I do is read the problem that I am going to attempt in order to work out where I think I will hit the ground if I so happen to fall off. I take into consideration the angle of the wall and direction of the climb. On problems where there is a falling area that is larger than one mat, I deem it to be highly advantageous to use multiple mats. If this is not an option, placing the mat under the part of the climb where I think I’m most likely to fall is the next best option.

I find the Waffa particularly useful to protect sit starts, traverses and other low level parts of a problem. It protects my ankles if my foot slips off those early moves and helps keep my shoes clean. This frees up my main mat to protect the higher part of the climb. On traverses I would probably put the Waffa in an area where I am least likely to fall or where I can just just step off. I will put the main mat in an area where I might have an uncontrolled fall on to my back.

The main thing I look out for when using more than one mat is for any gaps between the mats. The perfect protection would have the mats flush against one another with no wiggle room with a continuous layer of foam, just like at The Climbing Unit! In reality, this is really difficult to ensure. I tend to overlap the mats to reduce the risk of twisted (or broken) ankles from landing in the gap. I think this is a good option but even the ridge created by overlapping mats creates a risk for ankles by landing on uneven ground. Another thing I take care to do is make sure that any straps and buckles are tucked away, it stops any embarassing trip ups!

Multiple mats are also very useful in confined areas where there may be a jumble of boulders. A mat folded over a protruding rock or tree stump can save your back if you fall awkwardly. I find the hinged mats particulary useful for this as the fold helps it to stay in place more securely than a flat slab of foam.

Another advantage of taking more than one mat to the crag is when the landing zone is uneven, sloping or stepped. The surface can be smoothed out by stacking mats on top of each other, however you need to be careful because mats can easily slide on top of each other. I tend just to make a small jump on the mats before setting off to see how they are going to move, forewarned is forearmed!

Nothing is going to be completely safe, bouldering is an inherently dangerous sport and it takes a good deal of experience to master the art of placing bouldering mats to minimise that risk.

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