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Advice for not getting wrecking ball'd by you climber?


Original Post
Ian White · · Madison, WI · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 5

So I have a climbing partner who is maybe 30 pounds heavier than me. The gym we climb at is short, maybe 3 bolts until the top. Clips can be spicy and there is a huge variation in how sandbagged a route can be.

The reoccurring issue keeps being that when my climber falls on a significant overhanging route with only one bolt clipped, I am pulled into the air, and he comes wrecking balling into me. Shit hurts. I'm getting to the point where I don't want to belay him on anything overhanging. I'm not looking to end the belaytionship since outdoor climbing with them is almost everything I want in a partner. Does anyone have any experience with this issue and what they've done to resolve it?

I almost have zero slack out, standing almost under the first bolt, and can recognize when he is about to fall, but I still get clobbered.

Eli W · · New England · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5

Some ideas:

1. Attach yourself to something solid or heavy, like a sandbag

2. Belay directly off of an anchor

3. Use a gizmo like an Edelrid Ohm

Drew Nevius · · Oklahoma · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 1,708

The ground anchor and ohm are both good ideas, but here are a couple other options.Try taking one knee or squatting like a catcher in baseball. It’ll put more space between you and the climber. Another option is to also clip the rope on your side through the first bolt of an adjacent route to keep you out of the climber’s fall line. If the routes are only 3 bolts tall, the added drag may not be an issue and you’ll quit clackerballing when they whip.

Connor Dobson · · Ontario, for a little bit · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 95

Tell him not to fall?

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Drop him

Rich S · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 990

Stick clip the second bolt.

John Clark · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 407

Leader must not fall

Ryan M Moore · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 35

That’s what happens when a climber falls at the first bolt... Embrace the suck.

You could also do what one of my partners does and comment on how fat he is every time you see him in the hopes of giving him an eating disorder to even things out... Hasn’t worked on me yet, but there’s hope.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Don't climb on climbs with a low crux with your heavier partner. What has your partner said about this? Does he understand your concerns? Aren't there plenty of other climbs at the gym without this risk? I have faith you can figure this out. Maybe.

Don't belay underneath him, if there's a possibility he will fall on you.

Jaren Watson · · Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 2,409

I regularly belay a climber who is 90 pounds heavier than me. He agrees not to fall before the first bolt or when clipping. I agree not to be a whiny baby when I'm launched into the first bolt. It all works out.

Everett · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 35
FrankPS wrote: Don't climb on climbs with a low crux with your heavier partner. What has your partner said about this? Does he understand your concerns? Aren't there plenty of other climbs at the gym without this risk? I have faith you can figure this out. Maybe.

Don't belay underneath him, if there's a possibility he will fall on you.

Yeah -- route selection, plus you also have the option of only climbing outside with him. It shouldn't be hard for him to understand; nobody wants high velocity pinkeye.

Jaren Watson · · Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 2,409
Everett wrote:

Yeah -- route selection, plus you also have the option of only climbing outside with him. It shouldn't be hard for him to understand; nobody wants high velocity pinkeye.

That's awesome.

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

I know this isn't what you want to hear, but why bother "lead climbing" at a gym so short there's only 3 clips to the top? Just TR there and save the leading for outdoors.

The solution to the wrecking ball, though, is better technique and, if needed an Ohm or a watermelon.

I outweigh my regular partner but at least 50-60 lbs and never wrecking ball her. 

Nate Doyle · · Sierra Foothills · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 39

Wear a helmet and some moto X chest protection. Problem solved. No one in the gym will make fun of how goofy you look, I promise. 

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,030
Rich S wrote: Stick clip the second bolt.

And if the route is truly very overhanging, then clip the climber’s side of the rope into the first bolt, after you stick clip the 2nd bolt. Then the climber unclips the first bolt as he climbs past, and leads normally after the 2nd. 


Alternative option: since this is in a gym and you have more bolts/draws just a couple of feet away, clip the first bolt on the route next to the one that your climber is going to work (clip your ohm to it, if using). The climber climbs his route as usual, but there is a little more rope drag, and if he falls, you will not be pulled into his flight path, because you will be standing under the bolt nearby, and will get pulled up towards that bolt, instead of the first bolt under your climber. 
Andy Eiter · · Madison, WI · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 121

My partner and I treat that as no-fall territory, and it's only failed once. If my partner was regularly falling before the second bolt, I'd probably push for not leading those routes. Or just leave him off belay until the second bolt.

Jason Halladay · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Oct 2005 · Points: 12,388

I would hope a gym like that, with stupid short lead walls, would have ground anchors to attach to or, alternatively, sandbag anchors to clip into to add weight. Otherwise, the Elderid Ohm will serve you well.

Matt N · · Santa Barbara, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 302
Señor Arroz wrote: I know this isn't what you want to hear, but why bother "lead climbing" at a gym so short there's only 3 clips to the top? Just TR there and save the leading for outdoors.

This. If your gym sucks don't bother leading there. Pretty much what we do here (3-4 bolt routes and boulderers everywhere)

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 883
Señor Arroz wrote: I know this isn't what you want to hear, but why bother "lead climbing" at a gym so short there's only 3 clips to the top? Just TR there and save the leading for outdoors.

The solution to the wrecking ball, though, is better technique and, if needed an Ohm or a watermelon.

I outweigh my regular partner but at least 50-60 lbs and never wrecking ball her. 

Respectfully...  

That's the only indoor, public, option available.

And? No friction wrap on the anchor.

My experience is two things:

First, you can increase the friction several ways. Remember, that doesn't change the weight difference.​ It simply can help mitigate it.

Second, change the weight difference. Ground anchor, sand bag(s), anything like that.

The Ohm does both, by slowing down what happens on the belayers side of the rope. If I did heaps of gym stuff, I'd buy or rent one, after trying it out.

Here, I am doing the first part, increase friction, by using two carabineers on the ATC, and standing next to the wall, but off to the side, to increase the angle on that anchor. This is for top rope, ​as even then, I will leave the ground just to lower, if I stand too far away from the wall. Big guys, what can I say? :-)

I am also choosing not to lead, or lead belay at the short walled gym. It simply is too close to decking, for any ​partners. Never falling, and never blowing a clip? Risking injury for a gym route?????? No way. I'm holding out for the other gyms that are in the works for next winter.

Outdoors, you bet. So much easier to work out!

Best, Helen
Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Old lady H wrote:

Respectfully...  

That's the only indoor, public, option available.

...

I am also choosing not to lead, or lead belay at the short walled gym. It simply is too close to decking, for any partners. Never falling, and never blowing a clip? Risking injury for a gym route?????? No way. I'm holding out for the other gyms that are in the works for next winter.

Outdoors, you bet. So much easier to work out!

Best, Helen

Hi Helen,

What you propose above and are doing yourself is exactly the same thing that I proposed. Why lead climb on short walls if it's causing a problem or adverse risks?

But, having said that, I've fallen at the 2nd clip at my gym and not "wrecking balled" my much-lighter partner. On the other hand, they probably put the first clip at a short gym way too low, just to have a clip. First clips at my gym are about 10 feet. No real point having them lower than that except for psychological pro. 

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,729

I’ve taken a Miura to the face and head more than once.  Sometimes it just is unavoidable.  You could try to “Matrix” that shit by swinging your head and shoulders out of the way, but that’s more luck than anything else.  I’ve been able to do it a couple times.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Sport Climbing
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