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The Art of Falling

Taking a Safe Climbing Fall


Debbie Meyers takes flight at Cactus Cliff, Shelf Road, Colorado

You got to learn how to fall to learn to fly.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

If you do much sport climbing then sooner or later you’re going to fall. If you do a lot of sport climbing, pushing your limits, working on projects or routes harder than you can do in one try, then you’re going to log a lot of air time. Taking falls is part of sport climbing.

You Know You’re Falling

Usually you know that you’re going to fall. Your arms are pumping out, losing strength, and your fingers are unwrapping from a big handhold. Or maybe your feet tremble on sketchy holds and the next clip looks so far away. In those situations, you’re going to fall and you know it.

Pick a Landing Zone

Before falling, think about the consequences. Look down and pick a landing zone. How far will you fall? Is there anything you might hit like a ledge or block? Is the quickdraw below properly clipped into the rope?

Falling Tips

Know where you are in relation to the bolt below you. If you’re directly above the bolt, your fall should be straight down and straight forward, as long as you don’t hit anything, if the bolt holds, and you keep an up-right body position. If you’re off to the side above the bolt after traversing, then a fall can cause injury. Make sure the rope is over your leg so you don’t flip upside down or get jerked sideways and slam into the wall. Also, wear a helmet and don’t grab the rope. You can burn your hands.

Take Practice Falls

If you’re afraid of falling or never have fallen climbing, take some practice falls. Climb a sport route with no ledges or shelves. Above a blank section or on a roof, let go and fall. A short fall onto a bolt is harmless and after falling, you know it’s not too bad to fall which frees your mind and fear to let your body climb.

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