Bouldering is nothing more than rock climbing without a rope on short boulder faces. You don't need a lot of gear to do it — just a pair of good rock shoes and gymnasts' chalk, to dry up the sweat on your hands. Even those two items are optional, though the experience won't be as fun without them. By focusing on the climbing moves instead of futzing about with a lot of equipment — not to mention worrying about dying an untimely death — bouldering can be a wonderfully liberating experience, mentally. And it's a heck of a workout, physically. Best of all, it's free. At least, it is at Camelback Mountain, which is part of the Phoenix parks system. Quite a few bouldering options exist at Camelback, but we like the big pyramid-like boulder at the top of the trail's first long set of railroad-tie stairs.
We've spent many an hour turning our hands into ground beef on this 25-foot-high boulder, especially the east-facing corner that wraps around into an overhanging cubby with tiny finger-pockets for handholds. Another traverse near the north side is where we like to practice our heel-hooking technique. Best of all, when our arms and hands are blown, we can jog up the 1.2-mile trail to the summit of Camelback to work out the rest of our body. For climbers, this combo workout is cross-training at its best.