To progress as a lead climber, you have to try moves that are at the edge or beyond your ability. When you try this hard, chances of falling increase. Compared to top-roping falls, a lead climbing fall can be more dangerous considering that you can fall up to 2 times as far as you have ascended above the last clip-in point.
On properly protected lead climbs, however, rock climbing falls can be safe for the lead climbers, as long as they have a solid belayer and a good technique. In this article, we will focus on showing you how to handle a lead climbing fall – this should help you avoid fatal injuries.
What to Do to Be Safe During a Lead Climbing Fall
1. Keep an Eye on the Climbing Rope
The climbing rope is one of the most important climbing safety gear. However, if it is in the wrong position during the fall, it could end up doing a lot of harm.
A common mistake that beginning rock climbers make is tangling with their rope. This can lead to bad outcomes, especially if your leg catches and you end up flipping upside down. To ensure that the rope does not cause harm during a rock-climbing fall, you should do the following:
- Ensure that the rope stays between you and the wall.
- If your rope runs off to 1 side, ensure it is closer to the wall than you are.
- If the rope has gotten behind your leg, be sure to step out and over the rope.
2. Communicate with the Belayer
Communication is extremely essential when it comes to staying safe during a fall. Understanding rock climbing terms and commands will help you communicate better with the person controlling the belay device and giving you slack. To ensure that the belayer is in a position to help you when falling, you can use the 2 commands below:
- If you are in a dicey place, yell “Watch Me!” – this will put the belayer on high alert.
- When gravity prevails, yell “falling” – this will help your belayer move more swiftly with the catch.
3. Strive for a Clean Falling Path
When the falling moment arrives, you won’t be able to control everything. However, striving to achieve a clean flight path can help you avoid injuries. If you have a straight drop from an overhang, all you will need to do is relax, exhale and avoid tensing up since being tense could make the jolt even more severe when you bottom out.
4. Avoid Pushing Off the Wall When Falling
Pushing off the wall will throw your body out of balance and put you in a position that features a high possibility of slamming back into the wall when your climbing rope becomes tight.
5. Don’t Grab Anything to Stop Yourself
Grabbing protection, the rope, or a quickdraw is a recipe for a severely injured finger or a rope burn. Simply allow the rope and the belayer to do their jobs.
6. Ensure You Have a Helmet
Since falling is always a possibility, you won’t need to invest in special gear beyond the normal lead climbing gear. However, it is worth taking another look at the climbing helmet. If the helmet is dented, cracked, or 10+ years old, it needs to be replaced.
7. Be Mentally Prepared
In most cases, the climber’s mind gives in before he/she loses the grip. This is why mental training is crucial. To achieve a healthy mindset before and during your climb, you can do the following:
- Make a plan before your climb. Decide the tactics for the crux and also look for places to rest.
- Perform safety checks. This will reduce risk and also boost your confidence.
- Trust your belayer.
- Breathe through the climb. This will boost your mental and physical acuity.
Step by Step Rock Climbing Fall Procedure
If you feel like you are going to fall after donning your rock climbing shoes and climbing shorts and moving up a lead climbing route, following the steps below should keep you safe:
Step 1: If you think you might fall, warn the belayer by shouting “Watch Me!”
Step 2: As you peel off, shout “Falling!”. Avoid yelling “Take!” if you have already started falling. A good belayer will react differently when he/she hears “falling” versus “take”. In both cases, the belayer will lock off the belay device. However, if he hears “take,” he is likely to step back and brace harder to ensure that the leader does not move at all – this can create a more jarring fall.
Step 3: Look down to check out the landing sport and to see if there are any obstacles. This should also give you an ideal body position for a safe fall.
Step 4: Breathe out to relax your body.
Step 5: Relax your legs. Keep both your legs and arms slightly bent, with the knees soft and ready to absorb any impact.
Step 6: Keep the hands up, forward, and out to the side, for better balance and avoid catching them on the climbing rope or scrapping them on the rock. Let the legs absorb the impact when you swing into the wall.
Practicing severe falls is not recommended. However, you can do some short drops in areas where you have bomber rock climbing anchors to take the edge off your fear.
Before practicing the rock-climbing fall, ensure you are at least 30 feet from the ground – that is, high enough for the climbing rope stretch to absorb some of the fall’s force. You should also ensure you are high enough to avoid falling to the ground.
When practicing a fall, be sure to enlist an experienced belayer. You need someone you can be confident in – someone who has experience catching climbing falls.
Q: How Do You Take Lead Climbing in the Fall?
To stay safe when falling, you need to communicate with your belayer using commands such as “Watch Me!” when you think you may fall and “Falling!” as you start falling. Look down to spot where you will land and to ensure that there are no obstacles on your flight route.
Relax your body by breathing out, keep the legs ready to absorb any impact, and use your hands for balance while keeping them in a position where they can’t be hurt. Once you do this, allow your belayer and the rope to do their job.
Q: How Far Do You Fall Lead Climbing?
When lead climbing, you can fall up to twice as far as you have ascended above the last clip-in point. So, if you have ascended 15 feet above the clip-in point, you will end up falling 2 x 15 = 30 feet from your last clip-in point.
Q: What is Lead Rock Climbing?
Lead climbing is a type of climbing in which the rock climber has the rope attached to their climbing harness and is putting up his/her protection (quickdraws) and clipping in as he/she moves upwards. A belay partner gives the lead climber rope as needed.
Globo Surf Overview
When lead climbing, falling is generally a byproduct of pushing yourself to acquire new skills. For this reason, understanding how to handle a lead climbing fall is extremely important. Armed with the tips and steps outlined above, you should be able to stay safe during a rock-climbing fall.