Climbing styles: Highballing

Highballing is a climbing style that is an offshoot of bouldering. It is a more dangerous variant of a fairly common style of climbing - bouldering. Belaying, movements and technique are bouldering, only the height of the stones is a little (much) higher.

Žabák, Divoká Šárka, VARP, TOPO, topo, skály, rocks, highballing
Divoka Šárka – Frog

How does it work?

How does highballing actually work? In practice, it is "only" bouldering with two main differences. The first is that highball routes are longer and higher than normal bouldering. The second difference is in securing, namely that highballing requires a lot more mats and better catchers.

Height of rocks

How big is the rock that the highball boulder is on? The lower limit is 5 meters. Anything below that is often only considered "high trouble". Above 5 meters it is clearly a highball problem.  

But what about the other side of the spectrum? When is it no longer about highball, but about regular free solo climbing? It is generally stated that the highballing limit is 10 meters. The highest and heaviest highball is "Too big to Flail„, V10 (7C+). It was introduced by none other than, of course free solo legend Alex Honnold, which also explains why this line is more of a free solo than a highball. It is a little over 15 meters.


Belaying is understandably somewhat challenging and controversial for this style of climbing. There are two main methods to deal with the output. These are dependent on climbing ethics and of course with how big is the problem you are going to tackle.

Bouldering mothers + friends

The first, and also the most common method, is to use a large number of boulders and good catchers to cushion the fall. Fat mothers like Uncle Dominator or Moonwalk they are ideal for this. Easily up to three or four layers of mats on top of each other serve to save the climber's life and joints in the event of a fall. A team of good belayers is then there to guide the climber to the correct fall. It is definitely desirable that experienced climbers catch and not just recruits from the street.


The second way to not die on a highball is to use toprope. Here, of course, is the dilemma, whether it is still a bowdler climb or it is already a rope trip. The community is debating a bit here, but we'll leave the decision up to you. What is certain, however, is that practicing the ascent on a rope and then abseiling without it is an established and accepted practice.

What's so great about it?

Like us a year ago, you're probably wondering what's so interesting about this style. It is practically a lower free solo. And yes, you are right. At the same time, it is a very clean and beautiful climbing option. Let's face it, we're all different the movie Free Solo they wanted to try to climb the rock just like that, without a rope and perfectly. Experience the pure feeling of winning and amazing performance. That's exactly what highballing offers. Falling here won't kill you, and if you do it right, it won't hurt you either. The only thing that matters here is fear and performance.

We have one big advantage for Prague climbers. IN Wild Sharks is a sector called Highball. An eight meter high rock on which there are several paths. The lightest of them is simply VB (III). Perfect for trying out what it's really like.

Highball Džbán, Divoká Šárka, VARP, topo, bouldering, boulder
Highball sector – easy route No. 2


As you may have guessed, there are certain risks involved in highball climbing. In addition to falling and injury, which is somehow inherent, there is of course the risk of "getting stuck". That fear or insecurity overwhelms you and you get stuck on a rock. It's more likely to happen up high, so it's a really annoying thing. The second risk is tearing or breaking off grips or steps. However, both risks have preventive options that can be taken.


1. Scouting

Scouting the problem and the rock will go a long way in the process of reducing risk and injury. It is ideal to check the surroundings of the rock and the rock itself. We are looking for possible problems for falling, impurities on the rock, bad and good holds and so on. It is best to find out if the boulder can be climbed on a rope first. Inspect and clean everything before you start climbing.

2. Fall planning

Fall planning is almost vital. Have catchers who know where to throw the climber if he really falls. Which dangerous places on the ground are covered, if there are enough boulders and if one of the belayers is ready to call for help (in the worst case) are basic things that will help climbers. Not only will they boost morale, but they will also reduce the threat of injury.

3. Reliable friends

Having catchers who know what they are doing always helps. The partners with whom you already climb on Fridays are priceless at highball. Being able to rely on friends below you is a necessity, both on the rope and without it.

Jan "Mrkev" and Patrik "Eggplant" on the Highball route Skluzavka

At the very end

The article is dedicated to our friend Honzo, known as Patizón, who has been climbing, suffering and climbing with us for two years. He's been blowing us away with the Highball article for a month, so it's only right that everyone knows who he's here for.
Cheers John!


Vlákno uzavřeno.