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Falling when clipping


NathanC · · Logan, UT · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 10

I blew a reachy clip the first day I took up leading.  It was between bolts 3&4 on Lacto Mangulation at Wall Street - bad place to blow it.  Hit the ledge hard but luckily didn't break anything.  Thank goodness I had an attentive belayer who can run backwards quickly.  

Lessons learned:  Don't hop on a 5.10 if you're a noob, and if you've got a good spot for pro - might as well use it.

Evan Crumpecker · · Colorado Springs · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 169
NathanC wrote:

I blew a reachy clip the first day I took up leading.  It was between bolts 3&4 on Lacto Mangulation at Wall Street - bad place to blow it.  Hit the ledge hard but luckily didn't break anything.  Thank goodness I had an attentive belayer who can run backwards quickly.  

Lessons learned:  Don't hop on a 5.10 if you're a noob, and if you've got a good spot for pro - might as well use it.

Lol I sprained my ankle back in the day on Dr Strange Flake at Wall Street. Didn't bring any gear besides draws and backed off before the first bolt, tried to downclimb and ended up hopping off 10 feet or so up...Moral of the story is, don't go chasing booty unless you have the proper protection or like to live dangerously.

Mark Verosky · · Columbus, OH · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 20
Parker Wrozek wrote:

What are you talking about? you can see the climber pick the draw off the harness and clip it to the bolt at 3 and 4 seconds of the clip. then reach down to grab the rope. There is no extra rope pulled out that you can see in the video. I know you say you saw differently but the video is pretty clear. 

It looks like a big fall with an unprepared belayer. 


I was with that group of people and another group that day, about 17 people at that crag, and we left the draws hanging if we knew another party was going to climb next. Must have removed the draws for some reason, thought they were already placed, apologies. After talking to the guy though, he said that he was pulling up slack and then fell immediately after he pulled up the slack giving the belayer no time to take it in. Just saying what I gathered from talking to the people involved, my own experience there, and not analyzing a cell phone video. The main point isn't to argue about the tiny nuances but rather learn something from a situation that could have gone very wrong. 

Slartibartfast · · Magrathea · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 0

Just be careful if you plan on grabbing a draw. A biner punching a hole through your palm will leave some interesting stigmata.

Helen L · · Toronto, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 212
NathanC wrote:

I blew a reachy clip the first day I took up leading.  It was between bolts 3&4 on Lacto Mangulation at Wall Street - bad place to blow it.  Hit the ledge hard but luckily didn't break anything.  Thank goodness I had an attentive belayer who can run backwards quickly.  

Wondering about the running backwards thing. This would only work for someone that is heavier than the climber or about the same, am I right? A lighter belayer would get pulled into the wall, maybe even slamming into it before being pulled up (not good)..

BrokenChairs BrettC · · Sultan, WA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 235
Helen L wrote:

Wondering about the running backwards thing. This would only work for someone that is heavier than the climber or about the same, am I right? A lighter belayer would get pulled into the wall, maybe even slamming into it before being pulled up (not good)..

I believe it's called the running belay and it is an actual technique. It would be violent for all involved but it might keep the leader off the ground. I've never done it but have read about it. Better than a guaranteed deck but will probably ruin the day for both. I decked once and would probably have avoided it if my belay had ran back. (Or if I hadn't blown it clipping the second bolt) 

Peter Lewis · · Bridgton, Maine · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 160
BrokenChairs BrettC wrote:

I believe it's called the running belay and it is an actual technique. It would be violent for all involved but it might keep the leader off the ground. I've never done it but have read about it. Better than a guaranteed deck but will probably ruin the day for both. I decked once and would probably have avoided it if my belay had ran back. (Or if I hadn't blown it clipping the second bolt) 

See my earlier comment farther back in this stream. On certain types of climbs (low-angle, friction), where the leader is going to take a controlled slide on the balls of their feet, locking off the belay device and running downhill can be very effective in shortening a fall. Clearly, everyone must be on the same page and the terrain must be perfectly suited to this (rather extreme), belay technique. From firsthand experience I can tell you, yes indeedy, it works, and it doesn't ruin anyone's day.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 456
Helen L wrote:

Wondering about the running backwards thing. This would only work for someone that is heavier than the climber or about the same, am I right? A lighter belayer would get pulled into the wall, maybe even slamming into it before being pulled up (not good)..

Helen L, anyone can try this, depending on the circumstances. I've not run backward, but I've been prepared to step off a block I'm standing on, or to drop down to the ground. Yes, I would expect to get dragged back up, but you are still starting lower and raise the end point for your climber. If decking is possible (first three clips I'm really watching), this has to be part of the plan.

Watch the slack, feed it as the climber takes it, and no extra. Stay close to the cliff, consider ahead what will happen when you go airborne, and position yourself appropriately.

Getting some of that slack back is the flip side of a hop for a soft catch, timed just as soon as you see the fall, before the rope comes taut. Even a step or two back and sitting into it will help. Lock your hands and be ready to fly, also.

Practice catching falls in a gym, with some guidance. Going air born is not a big deal, nor is giving a soft catch difficult to learn. 

Best, OLH

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 456
Peter Lewis wrote:

See my earlier comment farther back in this stream. On certain types of climbs (low-angle, friction), where the leader is going to take a controlled slide on the balls of their feet, locking off the belay device and running downhill can be very effective in shortening a fall. Clearly, everyone must be on the same page and the terrain must be perfectly suited to this (rather extreme), belay technique. From firsthand experience I can tell you, yes indeedy, it works, and it doesn't ruin anyone's day.

I watched a guy slide backwards, standing up, about twenty feet down the slab start, before the first clip. One of our party caught them at the end drop off, with a face full of butt for their efforts! 

His comment? "Friends don't let friends climb slab."

Lol, OLH

Brian morin · · Simi Valley, CA · Joined May 2015 · Points: 10
Lena chita wrote:

Yeah, he is definitely hanging that draw... I don't see that he actually pulled up the rope though, for clipping... Looks like he is reaching down to pull the rope, then doesn't pull the rope, because he is feeling unstable, so he abandons the plan to pull the rope, reaches up, hoping to steady himself, or maybe grab the draw...  and then peels off.

I'm guessing the belayer started feeding the rope to him for the clipping, and never took it back in, when the guy fell... 

Yup, same thing I thought. The belayer saw the leader reach down for the rope, anticipated the clip, and apparently pulled out more slack than needed. Lesson learned - leaders try not blow the 2nd or 3rd clip. Belayers, expect the leader to blow the 2nd and 3rd clip and manage slack with hyper vigilance without short roping...and stand ready to reel in slack IF a fall can be anticipated. And for Gods sake, anchor in when outweighed that much

Helen L · · Toronto, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 212
Old lady H wrote:

Helen L, anyone can try this, depending on the circumstances. I've not run backward, but I've been prepared to step off a block I'm standing on, or to drop down to the ground. Yes, I would expect to get dragged back up, but you are still starting lower and raise the end point for your climber. If decking is possible (first three clips I'm really watching), this has to be part of the plan.

Watch the slack, feed it as the climber takes it, and no extra. Stay close to the cliff, consider ahead what will happen when you go airborne, and position yourself appropriately.

Getting some of that slack back is the flip side of a hop for a soft catch, timed just as soon as you see the fall, before the rope comes taut. Even a step or two back and sitting into it will help. Lock your hands and be ready to fly, also.

Practice catching falls in a gym, with some guidance. Going air born is not a big deal, nor is giving a soft catch difficult to learn. 

Best, OLH


Helen L · · Toronto, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 212

Thanks! I know most of this as I have caught falls by heavier people or people around my weight many times, but I always just ride the lift-off to give them a soft catch. With most people, I have no choice but to lift off and have learned to actually enjoy it. :) I am just wondering about the strategy of running backward. My experience from watching people belay too far from the wall when they are lighter than the climber is that they get dragged into the wall first before lifting. To me, it seems like a bad idea to do this if you are a lighter belayer as it won't have much effect aside from slamming or dragging you into the wall before you lift up (if you ever even get there after hitting the wall).

Eric L · · Roseville, CA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 115
Helen L wrote:

Thanks! I know most of this as I have caught falls by heavier people or people around my weight many times, but I always just ride the lift-off to give them a soft catch. With most people, I have no choice but to lift off and have learned to actually enjoy it. :) I am just wondering about the strategy of running backward. My experience from watching people belay too far from the wall when they are lighter than the climber is that they get dragged into the wall first before lifting. To me, it seems like a bad idea to do this if you are a lighter belayer as it won't have much effect aside from slamming or dragging you into the wall before you lift up (if you ever even get there after hitting the wall).

Helen, ground running is something of a last resort when the climber decking is a real possibility.  Usually it's just a few steps to take in more slack.  But if a you have a lot of slack and have to take off running, you are right, you will be whipped around and drug along the ground in order to slow the decent.  Not at all ideal or something you want to do regularly, but you are saving the climbers life (or preventing severe injury) at that point.  If you being pulled/lifted is the biggest issue with slack, it's better to tie yourself to something and not get lifted.  This whole conversation is slack management and the best (or only) option given the circumstances.  If you being close to the wall and being lifted to the first draw solves the slack problem, do that instead.

Jef Anstey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 144
Helen L wrote:

Thanks! I know most of this as I have caught falls by heavier people or people around my weight many times, but I always just ride the lift-off to give them a soft catch. With most people, I have no choice but to lift off and have learned to actually enjoy it. :) I am just wondering about the strategy of running backward. My experience from watching people belay too far from the wall when they are lighter than the climber is that they get dragged into the wall first before lifting. To me, it seems like a bad idea to do this if you are a lighter belayer as it won't have much effect aside from slamming or dragging you into the wall before you lift up (if you ever even get there after hitting the wall).

yes...but the scenario implies that there is "too much slack, and a ground/ledge fall is likely" in the system, so stepping backwards reducing the distance and therefore energy of the fall...therefore reducing the force on the belayer, and keeping the climber higher when they come to rest hopefully avoiding a ledge

in general though, id agree, you should belay close to the wall so that the lift is pulling directly against gravity instea of sideways, and keeps the belayer from being dragged

SeƱor Arroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Helen L wrote:

Thanks! I know most of this as I have caught falls by heavier people or people around my weight many times, but I always just ride the lift-off to give them a soft catch. With most people, I have no choice but to lift off and have learned to actually enjoy it. :) I am just wondering about the strategy of running backward. My experience from watching people belay too far from the wall when they are lighter than the climber is that they get dragged into the wall first before lifting. To me, it seems like a bad idea to do this if you are a lighter belayer as it won't have much effect aside from slamming or dragging you into the wall before you lift up (if you ever even get there after hitting the wall).

Key question, also, is does "backward" imply downhill or just away from the wall. Because if it's downhill that's a better dynamic than away from the wall. This is why you hear of it on slabs more than at the flat base of some sport wall.

Sam Miller · · Bend, OR · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 30
r m wrote:

Back when I was wrestling with the same thing, we'd experiment at the gym. See how far we'd fall when clipping at waist, or head level, etc.

One thing that was rapidly apparent, was even with the megaclose spacing of gym bolts was you always fell way further than you thought you would.

Was good experience to have, since sometimes on outside routes it may well be 5+ meters between bolts. Makes me just a bit anxious thinking about falling with a bolt 5 meters below me!

In my experience there is basically a minimum fall distance due to slack in the system, rope slippage thru atc, rope stretch, and belayer movement (soft catch). If your tie in is 1 foot above the bolt, youre still going to fall 7-8 feet, even tho "theoretically" it should be a 2 foot fall. But if you are 15 feet above the bolt that extra length is a much smaller percentage of the total fall. So youd expect fall about 35 feet. 


fuck you · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0
Ryan Hill wrote:

Lots of talk on prevention, which is all well and good.  It sounds as if you have a problem with confidence and are, understandably, nervous about leading at your limit.  

A practical exercise to get beyond this fear (or at least not let it cripple you) is to get on routes (gym or outside) that are safely bolted and within your comfort level.  Take this route and work it slowly.  This means that every time you move your hands/feet you pause above the hold for 3-5 seconds.  When you pause focus on controlling your breathing, your posture, and relaxing your grip as much as you can without falling off.  This can be on lead or TR, I've even used it on bouldering walls, but the focus of the drill is to get yourself comfortable taking a stance and being in control at any point on the wall.  It can look silly, but it is effective in building confidence and moving statically.  It is good to learn how to use a clipping stance to center yourself and to be focused on the task at hand.  Slowing down your climbing, moving statically, and focusing on your points of contact will help you gain confidence in clipping and moving at your limit.

THIS....i have been injured bouldering a few times and am extremely nervous about unroped (i want to cry and puke) climbing which is not a healthy lead perspective.  i have been using this exact technique to move beyond this fear very effectively!

Leify Guy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 367

I've fallen while clipping a couple times, including two times that resulted in me decking, luckily I've always walked away. The most memorable time was when I was trying to clip the third bolt on a warm up and had my foot pop while the other foot was flagged, I still had the rope in my hands when I hit the ground, guess my belayer gave me too much slack haha. In my mind if you don't botch it from time to time you're probably not pushing your limits.

Cocoapuffs 1000 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 10
Leify Guy wrote:

I've fallen while clipping a couple times, including two times that resulted in me decking, luckily I've always walked away. The most memorable time was when I was trying to clip the third bolt on a warm up and had my foot pop while the other foot was flagged, I still had the rope in my hands when I hit the ground, guess my belayer gave me too much slack haha. In my mind if you don't botch it from time to time you're probably not pushing your limits.

Woah!  Yes it happens but it's not something you want to make a habit of.  Decking while clipping is a serious climbing error

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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