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Giving slack to a falling leader


Ryan Vetrano · · Marshfield, MA · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 5
Zacks wrote: I would not pay out slack during a fall to give a soft catch.  However I often jump to get my body weight moving up to give a soft  catch.

It's also important to understand your weight difference between you and your partner.  I outweigh my gf who I usually climb with so I have to jump, but she should not jump.  My weight will pull her up just fine.  Fall factor matters too.  If your climber falls near the top there is so much stretchy rope out your usually  fine.  Down low not as much stretchy rope, although you need to be sure to not make a catch so soft at the very bottom to allow your climber to deck.

^This, end of discussion

Nate Nate · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 10

Based on what you said, the gym employee shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a climbing gym or crag.  Feeding a falling climber slack will only make their fall longer and potentially deadly.
It is not the same as a soft catch.
Do as you were originally taught. Watch the videos, climb with good mentors.

Ryan Vetrano · · Marshfield, MA · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 5
S2k 4life wrote:

Where is any scientific data to support this ?

its called a screamer, works on the same principles of a soft catch 

Bill Kirby · · San Francisco CA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu((((((((((((((((((((KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK

This thread is a trainwreck!

Caleb S · · Loveland, Co · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 0

This was a really interesting experiment about this stuff. youtu.be/_0GGsBgPic4

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 10
Mark Frumkin wrote: Soft catch WHAT nonsense. The longer your climber falls the more chance to get hurt.
Soft catch = absolute nonsense.  Belayers job is to stop the fall.  Nothing more.  Softcatch is about giving a leader a reason to blame their poor decisions on their belayer.
Travis S · · Texas · Joined Jul 2018 · Points: 5
S2k 4life wrote:

Where is any scientific data to support this ?

In terms of falling on trad gear( is that good or do i have to spell out traditional) whats the diff. Between a soft catch and hard catch?
Wouldnt the only diff be the amount of feet you fall ?

The only difference is not the distance you fall. Giving a soft catch reduces the forces in a fall. This is the same reason that you would rather drive your car into a pile of mattresses rather than a solid brick wall. It is all about the amount of time it takes to come to a stop. And this is why jumping gives a soft catch where just feeding slack only allows the climber to fall further and gain more speed. The idea is not to jump as high as you can to just give the leader a bigger fall, it is all about timing and essentially more slowly applying the force needed to slow the leader fall.

Rob warden The space lizard · · Now...where? · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 0
Mark Frumkin wrote: Soft catch WHAT nonsense. The longer your climber falls the more chance to get hurt.  

Ummmmm... bullshit?

Rob warden The space lizard · · Now...where? · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 0
Stagg54 Taggart wrote: Soft catch = absolute nonsense.  Belayers job is to stop the fall.  Nothing more.  Softcatch is about giving a leader a reason to blame their poor decisions on their belayer.

You... just dont get it.

Rob warden The space lizard · · Now...where? · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 0
Ryan Vetrano wrote:

its called a screamer, works on the same principles of a soft catch 

Force= mass (you) X Acceleration (negative value in this case. )

Josh Lipko · · Charlotte · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 10
S2k 4life wrote: I truly feel like the soft catch phenomenom is a gym thing. Blah.
When your outside i think all you care about if you fall is if your caught.. adrenaline pumping you dont even realize whether you just had a hard or soft catch... esp. While trad climbing your only concern is will my piece hold.
You dont really want to fall any fiurther then you have too on a piece and risk it blowing. And alot of the time while tradding you cant even see your climber so your not trying to feed out slack or do anything weird just hold onto that rope..if soneone tried complaining to me about a "soft catch" i would entertain  them N do it but never climb with them again. It just seems dangerous to me

My god.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 210

Giving a soft catch is all about feel.  You will feel yourself being lifted up even if your leader is lighter than you; if you bare down and resist the upward pull, you will deliver a very hard catch and slam them into the wall.  This can injure your leader, but it can also save their life if it’s a low fall or after a runout.  If you jump just as you feel yourself being tugged, you will give a soft catch without having too much slack, although it will lengthen the fall.  This works fine with a tight belay, you just need a competent belayer who can pay out slack quickly without short roping you.  If a person outweighs me and the fall is clean, I let them lift me without jumping; if I outweigh them, I jump.

Russell Bangert · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 52
Ted Pinson wrote: Giving a soft catch is all about feel.  You will feel yourself being lifted up even if your leader is lighter than you; if you bare down and resist the upward pull, you will deliver a very hard catch and slam them into the wall.  This can injure your leader, but it can also save their life if it’s a low fall or after a runout.  If you jump just as you feel yourself being tugged, you will give a soft catch without having too much slack, although it will lengthen the fall.  This works fine with a tight belay, you just need a competent belayer who can pay out slack quickly without short roping you.  If a person outweighs me and the fall is clean, I let them lift me without jumping; if I outweigh them, I jump.

This, as soon as my climber starts falling, I stop watching them, and divert my eyes forward to where I'm gonna be taking a ride to. You're not gonna help anything by watching them fall, and this allows  you react to the fall by feel which works very well for timing allowing yourself to be lifted up/hopping to reduce the forces. 

Jaren Watson · · Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 2,395

As if anyone needed reminding, this thread should do the trick—be careful about whom you trust to belay you.

If every cliff were perfectly vertical with no deviation, and every climber/belayer pair weighed roughly the same, belaying would be relatively simple.

But cliff topography varies widely, as does weight discrepancy. So what a few people have said, namely, that the best catch depends on many variables, is precisely right.

Both the leader and the belayer should be attentive to what hazards present themselves and communicate that when possible.

Many sprains and breaks were the result of a belayer erroneously thinking the belayer’s only task was to stop the fall.

Russ Keane · · Asheville, NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 160

"Feeding out slack while the climber is falling sounds like a good way to drop the climber."

I tend to agree with this.  Same goes with taking in slack during a fall.   The time has past when you can fiddle your hands and the rope.  You need to make sure your brake hand is locked off.   Some great advice here about feel, and how to give a catch in ways other than messing with slack during a fall.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Russ Keane wrote: "Feeding out slack while the climber is falling sounds like a good way to drop the climber."

Same goes with taking in slack during a fall.   

Last weekend watched one of my climbing friends whip from anchors. Not quite sure why he skipped clipping the last bolt, but it would've been an epic ride if it wasn't for his belayer - she managed to take in 2-3 armfuls just as he fell. Still was quite a ride - he is ~70lb heavier than her. 

But, yeah, thanks for sharing your valuable wisdom.
Eric Carlos · · depends · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 40

The person who doesn't understand the how and why of a soft catch is usually the person who is afraid to fall and thinks that their belayer should take tight when they are 3 ft above their bolt.

I would add that especially in trad, a soft catch can keep a piece (or pieces) from pulling out.

Russ Keane · · Asheville, NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 160

"thanks for sharing your valuable wisdom"

Oh wow, I have been put in my place.   Before I go crawling into my corner, let me imagine my belayer performing all sorts of shenanigans with his hands as I am hurtling down through the air.   Sounds safe.

Edit:   Oh wait, you're talking about Gri Gri belaying.   Cool, so that's why the belayer can monkey around with shit during a fall.  

csproul · · Davis, CA · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 325
Russ Keane wrote: "thanks for sharing your valuable wisdom"

Oh wow, I have been put in my place.   Before I go crawling into my corner, let me imagine my belayer performing all sorts of shenanigans with his hands as I am hurtling down through the air.   Sounds safe.

It sure is a hell of a lot easier to just run back a few steps rather than try to take in slack through your belay device.

Eric Carlos · · depends · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 40
Russ Keane wrote: "thanks for sharing your valuable wisdom"

Oh wow, I have been put in my place.   Before I go crawling into my corner, let me imagine my belayer performing all sorts of shenanigans with his hands as I am hurtling down through the air.   Sounds safe.

A soft catch is generally done with the body, not with the hands.  The break is applied, and the body is directed in the way that is best for the occasion.  I once had a belayer give me a really hard catch by jumping down the hill, yet he saved my arse from decking when I blew the 3rd bolt with clipping slack.  But that same belayer would give me a pillow soft catch on slab falls by timing his jump at the moment the rope begins to get taut, keeping me from slamming my ankles.  Both are critical skills for any belayer.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

General Climbing
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