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Naturally bad faller


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sherb · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 60

Part of climbing is falling, and it turns out I'm naturally bad at falling. Nothing like a cat. My theory is I'm really dense/thick for my height (like a solid rubber/lead ball), and maybe have a heavy head. How are some people so naturally talented at falling? One of my friends started climbing the same time as me, she constantly pushed her grade and kept falling and they were all beautiful falls.

I know there are things you have to be aware of when falling (pushing off, thinking about soft landings) but it gets such little attention, I'm not sure most people have to think about it until it becomes habit. My friend didn't think about it, and she never practiced beforehand. If someone is bad and they continuously fall, then they would just injure themselves. Few people other than me ever say "let's have a practice falling session."

My 2nd lead climb outdoors was a steep juggy route (so not a slab issue) I fell while clipping, landed upside down hitting my head. The rope was not behind my leg, my partner said it looked like I just tumbled backwards. I don't take many lead falls, but then it happened 2 more times outside, where when I take a lead fall I hit my head. Needless to say, I'm now afraid of lead falls. I've fallen indoors (both intentional & unintentional) and don't land backwards.

This past spring I unexpectedly fell from the top of a bouldering problem and fully dislocated my right elbow. It was indoors and the hold was probably 15-ish feet up, so it wasn't an uneven ground issue, and wasn't highball bouldering. I see competitions where people constantly fall and they are fine.

I need to get better at falling, because it's costly to keep falling like this. If the elbow is dislocated a second time, I'll need surgery. Also, if I fear lead falling, I won't be able to improve.

Anyone else had to practice falling?

Thomas Beck · · Las Vegas, Nevada · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 1,040

What I see most often: people tie in too low. Your harness tie in point should be at or above your navel. Your leg loops should be snug but not so constricting your feet go numb hanging for 90 seconds..

Second item...practice taking falls off the fall line. People tend to lay down; leads to massive road rash. keep your feet separated and knees unlocked. Make your body into a gentle "c" shape

At the moment of falling relax. I know this easier said than done. The best fall practice is when you don't know it's coming. Meanwhile pretend.

Select a safe fall zone..not all climbs qualify. Know and trust your belayer to give you a soft catch above where you'd ground or ledge out.

Keep the lead rope generally outside your legs unless going straight up. Lead rope caused inversions happen often to beginners who don't realize they are in peril. As a developer I try to keep the clips on a sport route all on one side but it is not always possible.

I've actively climbed over 40 years without a helmet except where the objective danger is very high. Current helmet technology helmets don't protect side cranial injuries only impacts from above.

Bouldering is a whole other arena. Know your spotters and as said before relax if you can. One of my worst injuries ever was being muscularly loaded on a small gritty 4th class step up and having a wrenching fall of about 3 feet. I actually never fell. Took 6 months to heal. I think only practice helps with the confidence. Cut loose and fall from lower then higher heights.

ChapelPondGirl · · Keene, NY · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 20

May I suggest badminton as an alternative hobby? :).

Seriously though. I'm a bad faller too. I always see these videos of people who land like a cat, holding the rope gently with their fingers. I'm like a yard sale when I fall. Things flailing all over the place. I don't understand how I'm supposed to push off the wall when I fall because almost every one of my falls happens at maximum energy output. Very rarely do I know I am about to come off.

The only thing I try to be fastidious about is that darned rope behind my leg. One major rope burn across the back of the knee will cure you of that bad habit!

The other important thing is the sound you make while falling. This will convince people that you know what you are doing. If you can just blurt out "Falling" as you go instead of "WHOAFUCKFALLINGAHHHEEK!!!!!!l", you will look much cooler.

Thomas Gilmore · · Red River Gorge, KY · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 85

http://warriorsway.com/training/training-info/

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

^^What he just linked. Training falling is absolutely a thing and something all of the pros do. For most people, it is less about falling technique (though this is important, especially on slabs) and more about the psychological training of learning to commit and accept falls in order to push your grade, but I'm sure practicing will help you.

Falling backwards and flipping without back stepping is pretty extreme unless you were truly horizontal on a roof. Are you absolutely sure the rope wasn't involved? Many times, the ideal position for the rope changes on severely steep angles. That said, falling while clipping is never fun, so maybe there was just so much slack in the system that you managed to flip. Normally, when I fall when I'm on an overhang, the rope pulls me forward and straightens me out as soon as it hits the last QuickDraw I clipped.

Jon Marek · · Sioux Falls, SD · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 2,505

Both people who mention bad falls allude to this idea of "pushing off" which is a surefire way to make your falls worse. Pushing away from the wall will both slap you back into the wall harder and push your upper body into a backflip.

Best bet is to spot your landing and drop.

KevinCO · · Loveland, CO · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 60

Maybe add a chest harness.

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 451
Jon Marek wrote:Both people who mention bad falls allude to this idea of "pushing off" which is a surefire way to make your falls worse. Pushing away from the wall will both slap you back into the wall harder and push your upper body into a backflip. Best bet is to spot your landing and drop.
Sorry but in general, you're wrong.

If you push-off HARD with just your hands and have a belayer who short-ropes you, then what you say may well be true.

But if you use your hands and feet to push off to maintain control, you are much more likely to be unhurt. For example:

1) You want to clear the bulge just below you.
2) If you're off to the side of your last piece, you push/jump towards it to minimize the pendulum.
3) If your foot pops, pushing with your hands will keep your face away from the rock. Vice versa for if a hand pops to avoid ankle injury.
4) Pushing with one hand to prevent a twisting (around the rope) fall.
5) Ensure you don't get a leg/arm caught behind the rope.
6) Etc. (long list)

Basically, you want to fall like a cat. You want to maintain control of your body's orientation (head up) and watch where you are going. This requires, as many above have mentioned, staying relaxed and practicing in a safe place.

Having a belayer who short-ropes you is, IMO, the Number One reason you get slammed into the wall. If you're consistently getting slammed into the wall, it's almost certainly your belayer.

Check out one or both of Warrior's Way (Ilgner) or Vertical Mind (McGrath & Elison).
Jon Nelson · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 4,675
Ana Tine wrote:Part of climbing is falling, and it turns out I'm naturally bad at falling. ... my partner said it looked like I just tumbled backwards. Anyone else had to practice falling?
I wonder if you can reduce the tumbling by kicking your toes against the face, just after you peel?

I've also wondered, as Kevin above suggests, whether or not chest harnesses help reduce the backwards tumble. I suppose though that, being so much above one's center of mass, it is possible that a chest harness could also make it worse.

Thomas Beck's suggestion about tie-in position sounds right. But even in the old days climbing with a swami (that tended to ride up pretty high) one could still smack one's head against the wall pretty hard. It happened to my partner back when we were starting out.

Finally, instead of practice falls, one might try just practice jumps to the mat. That could help reduce bouldering landing injuries as well. I hope the elbow is better now.
Ancent · · Reno, NV · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 42

What grades are you falling on? Or really, how steep are the climbs? Sub 5.8 trad climbs are usually pretty low-angle and those fall may never be as clean as the pros falling on steep overhanging routes.

I didn't become a good "faller" until I finally joined a gym and fell regularly on indoor lead climbs. This has given me some confidence that falling outside is ok and I am in control. It also taught me some things about how much to push off or not push off, and I have a better sense of how my body falls. Some climbs will inevitably have nasty falls however, so I would avoid those until you gain some confidence.

Also, you mentioned a fall on a clip. That obviously caused you to go for a longer ride, and it makes me think you need to work on staying in a better headspace. Don't clip way above your head or when you're about to peel off. Relax and find good stances before tugging up 3-4 ft of extra slack. You see this all the time (especially in easier areas) where the leader is hanging on a jug with great feet, but is fumbling with the rope because they are fearing the fall. This is where gym climbing helped me become a relaxed clipper.

Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300

I can also recommend Warriors Way training as a starting point, both in terms of the mental aspects of climbing as well as the technical aspects of falling. The training is just a starting point (you have to practice), but it is a very good step in terms of learning how to practice falling safely.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 125

You are not going to attain circus acrobat skills and do triple twisting flips in the air to keep yourself upright. But I do suspect that part of why you land the way you do is when you are falling. If you are lying back a bit (like on a steep juggy route) and peel, your body will pivot around your feet and you could end up upside down.

I suspect that since you don't like to fall, you don't fall, even when your should. So you hold on the extra second, maybe lean back to try and get your extended arms to take the weight instead of your hands, and when you do peel, you are immediately tumbling backward.

So if you can't make the move, bail. Tell your belayer you are falling and then push off with your feet so you stay upright when you fall.

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 70

Here is my, totally unsubstantiated, theory. When beginners fall, or those that don't fall often fall, they fall because they let go after hanging on for some time. Rather than mid move, or because a foot pops. Hence, because their feet are still on holds, they rotate backwards.

Try it at a bouldering wall with good mats. You will land on your back, not feet first.

Noah Yetter · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 105

People say to spot your landing... but how do you actually do that? When I fall my vision blanks out. I have no visual perception while in motion, my visual brain seems to pass instantly from the moment I let go to when I stop at the bottom.

ChrisHau · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 325

I agree with Ancent. Falling while clipping isn't an okay, normal thing to do, and if it happens, you really have to evaluate what went wrong. It seems that other mental/technique aspects are more pressing concerns rather than 'I'm bad at falling'.

Brassmonkey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 115

Not going to add too much, because honestly I don't think climbing is for everybody, and maybe you are simply finding that out.

I will add though that I've taken thousands of falls, and can't think of a time I've intentionally pushed off. John Byrnes, I'm inclined to say you're wrong about telling a newbie to intentionally push-off, except for the very rare occurrence. Tapping a wall to change the angle of a fall is very, very different from "pushing off".

jcm537 · · Broomfield, Co. · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 0

Maybe you could practice not falling.

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 451
Brassmonkey wrote:Not going to add too much, because honestly I don't think climbing is for everybody, and maybe you are simply finding that out. I will add though that I've taken thousands of falls, and can't think of a time I've intentionally pushed off. John Byrnes, I'm inclined to say you're wrong about telling a newbie to intentionally push-off, except for the very rare occurrence. Tapping a wall to change the angle of a fall is very, very different from "pushing off".
Then someone should define "pushing off". To me, it means maintaining my orientation before I'm airborne, and thus staying in control. You can't do anything once you lose contact with the wall.

If you mean pushing with your hands for all your worth and trying to do a backflip, well then yeah, don't do that.
Jon Marek · · Sioux Falls, SD · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 2,505

Wrong

The only buldge you'll need to avoid is the one between my legs flying toward you at 9.8m/s^2.

Seriously though I think it comes down to semantics. And I would hesitate to tell a new climber to push off when they fall. The fine tuned mechanics are more nuanced and probably just need to be practiced.

1. Avoiding my buldge...ahem...I mean ledges. - are we still talking about modern sport intermediate routes? If so I think this point gets overplayed. Bolts usually get placed at intervals to keep you off ledges, or to allow you to fall past a small ledge safely. Most ledges on sport routes are more perceived than real danger. In any case, it would take an experienced and alert belayer to keep you safe in the scenario where you really do need to push off to avoid a ledge (btw we ought to consider downclimbing/retreat before running it out over big ledges). *different advice for trad/old routes.

2. Falling toward the bolt line on pendulum falls - Here is where i imagine a new climber saying to themselves "just push off, it's gonna be ok". In reality the nuanced body position to do this maneuver is hard to explain and I'm not even sure exactly what I do. This is when I tell new leaders to spot and drop. My reason being I think spotting your landing will generally keep your head up, shoulders /hips squared to the wall with respect to the swing, and bring you gently back toward the line of fall. Pushing or jumping away from the rock is particularly bad in this scenario.

3.Unexpected falls. - I don't know about you but when this happens to me it is almost always unexpected. Protecting your face and ankles sound like noble causes to me, but pushing the rock will only make it angry, I opt for self-defence. Say no to violence, kids.

4.the one-handed push -off - less impressive than a one-handed push-up....edit to add:...more impressive than a one-handed jack-off...

5. Pushing to avoid getting rope behind leg - Now I don't want to brag but I fall alot, like alot alot. So believe me when I tell you, no amount of pushing is gonna get that rope back in front of you. If you fall with the rope behind your leg, you are what the experts call fucked.

6. TL;DR I am sure this is a very long list indeed.

Whatever you do, do not, I repeat, DO NOT land like a cat. Cats are not bipedal and if you attempt to land like one it could be very bad. Instead, try to land like a ninja, or gymnast, or dancer, or some other coordinated human being.

IMHO all bad falls are the belayer's fault.

+1 for the warriors way. Lots of good info that makes climbing more fun and full of easily accessible philosophy on how to live a more meaningful life.

Edit to add: will rgold please chime in so this thread can have a logical, evidenced based, conclusion with indexed citations?

Jon Marek · · Sioux Falls, SD · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 2,505

This thread needs some memes...total snoozefest...

ChapelPondGirl · · Keene, NY · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 20

I have to ask, how the f*** do you people have time to do all this fall pre planning in the fraction of a second that it takes to realize you are falling? When I take air, I am coming to a stop as begin to realize that I have fallen. Seriously, all my concentration prior to airtime was dedicated to NOT FALLING!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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