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By GabeO
From Denver, CO
Jul 26, 2012

The short version:

Practicing falling on trad gear is the stupidest advice I ever see floating around on the net. The only way it makes any sense is to construct a bomber multi-piece anchor, and fall on that - and what does that teach you about trusting individual pieces? Nothing!

If you want to get confident about falling, go fall on bolts or multi-piece bomber anchors, if you must. If you want to get confident about placing gear, go aid climbing. But if you want to get confident about falling on individual pieces of trad gear, DON'T. You _should_ fear falling on individual pieces.

Cheers,

GO


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By GabeO
From Denver, CO
Jul 26, 2012

The long version:

If you want to learn a lot about gear placing, aid climb. But keep your aid climbing and your free climbing separate. There are a number of reasons I hope you'll consider this.

1 - When trad climbing, the objective is to climb cleanly from bottom to top, placing gear as you go. This is a mindset that requires a great deal of focus, and a number of techniques that are specific to the discipline, as opposed to what you might do when sport climbing. These are habits of mind that need to be trained, just like physical techniques. If you habituate yourself to falling and weighting pieces, you're simply creating the wrong mindset.

2 - As a new leader, some of the gear you think is bomber probably isn't. This is true for *all* trad leaders, but more so for the n00b.

3 - The place to practice bouncing on gear is 1 - On the ground, where you'll fall six inches if the piece blows, or 2 - On an aid climb, where you'll fall six feet in overhanging terrain. On a free climb, where the gear is placed much less frequently than an aid climb, and there is usually much more to hit (all those lovely free-climbing holds and ledges) a fall can be much more dangerous.

4 - There is a trend these days born of the fear than is inherent in trad climbing. I'll see if I can explain it. It goes something like this:
- Leading trad is scary.
- Fear is uncomfortable.
- People don't like being uncomfortable.
- Therefore, people look for techniques to minimize or eliminate the fear.
- New leaders are told to practice falling to gain trust in their gear.
- This does a nice job in minimizing or eliminating the fear of falling on gear.

This is the wrong approach. The whole point of it is wrong. The fear one feels trad climbing is entirely appropriate. Gear fails, and falls have consequences. Not every time, or even most times, but eventually. And some people get unlucky, and that first real fall is the last one they take. Don't test your luck, and don't train yourself to feel that testing your luck is a good thing. An old saying in trad climbing is that you've got to fill up your bag of tricks before your bag of luck runs out.

Instead of training yourself to minimize your fear, you should be training yourself to live with it and manage it. This is a much longer process, and more uncomfortable, so it's kind of out of fashion with some people these days. But it's really not complex, and people have been doing it a long time. The technique is as follows: Work your way up through the grades, placing lots of good gear. And when the opportunity arises, follow more experienced trad leaders. Eventually, you will gain an appropriate level of confidence, know what you can do, and how to do it, and will start pushing your limits. Then falls will start happening, and if you're doing things right, they'll be happening in appropriate circumstances (right gear, right terrain, etc).

Of course you will do what seems best to you, but I hope you'll consider the above.

Cheers!

GO


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By GabeO
From Denver, CO
Jul 26, 2012

Oh, and mock-leading is the worst thing the guide industry has foisted on the climbing world. It does far more harm than good.

GO


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By slim
Administrator
Jul 26, 2012
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

i think everybody is different. it is hard to say if i would or wouldn't recommend falling on gear to a person without having climbed with them for a day. i'll give 2 examples.

i have an old friend, shane, who has climbed (on rope) a total of maybe 5 times. we go out for a day, maybe once every 5 or 10 years. i have no problem whatsoever with him building an anchor, or placing gear while leading a pitch, etc. he is just one of those people who totally gets it. he understands the quality of the rock. he understands the mechanics of how the gear works. he understands redundancy. he knows to pay attention and keep from getting his leg wrapped up in the rope. most importantly, he understands what is on the line, and how to optimize his margin of safety.

on the other hand, i have climbed with people who have a fair amount of experience leading on gear, and i am constantly amazed that they haven't killed themselves or somebody else. their ability to assess rock quality is terrible. their ability to place gear can only be described as incompetent. they don't understand anything about rope management, or how a piece will be loaded, etc. they can't put together an anchor that wouldn't be described as horrifying. they just don't get it. at all. and oddly enough, they don't seem to care or be willing to learn. luckily they don't tend to lead beyond their limit, although several of them get a little too close to their limit for my comfort.

everybody is different. some folks have a natural knack for boldness. some have a natural knack for figuring things out. some are born with strength. without knowing more about a climber, i honestly can't say whether i would recommend falling on gear or not. personally, i have found it pretty helpful.


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By Charles Vernon
From Tucson, AZ
Jul 27, 2012

GO, you make a lot of good points, but I am not under the impression that people are constructing and falling on "bomber multi-piece anchors," and that's certainly not the only way that makes sense. With all of the bolts near good gear these days, I get the impression that folks will frequently place a piece a foot or so above a good bolt and take practice falls on that. Another way to do it would be loading up a crack with several pieces *without* equalizing them--you'd still learn what individual pieces can do, but with a lot of backup.

I agree with most of your other points, though.


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By chris_vultaggio
Jul 27, 2012
Chris Vultaggio leads the title route at Five and Dime in Yosemite. <br /> <br />Photo by Bill Roehrich

Lot of opinions in here, I'll throw mine into the mix.

Leave it to a mentor - mine knew when it was time to push me to the point of falling (when he was confident in my gear) and I've done the same for climbers I've helped along the way.

When I feel someone I'm mentoring has very solid gear, but is being held back by the fear of falling, I send them on something they're most likely going to take a safe fall on with good gear. Think slightly overhanging territory with a bomber cam at chest level but hard moves.

I'll coach them through as they climb, and belay, giving them a little extra confidence.

I've also put a follower on a hard route and let her pinkpoint off my gear, knowing she was probably going to fall but the placement she was going to fall on was atomic. The result - her first fall on a cam and her confidence that they work. Next step was getting her placements solid and closer to falling on her own placements.

It worked, a few weeks back she peeled off a 10d roof and took her first gear whipper on a #4 I watched her place. She shook out, pulled back in, and finished the route.

If you have no mentor try climbing with someone more experienced and have them check your gear, and give you some suggestions about routes etc.


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By Max Joseph
From Boulder, CO
Jul 27, 2012
Harding Route, Mt. Conness

Where you end up falling on the leader-must-not-fall to frequent-flyer spectrum will ultimately be a function of your own experiences, environment (this forum?), and personality. As a beginner lead climber, my fear of falling was the product of two distinct elements: 1) would my gear actually hold a fall, and 2) was it "okay" to fall.

Falling on gear to overcome a mental barrier could be either perfectly reasonable or incredibly stupid depending on how good your placement is, what you'll hit or miss on the way down, where your next piece is, whether your belayer is paying attention, whether you know physically how to avoid getting hurt when falling, etc. IMO the most important factor here is whether your piece will hold or not, and this is different from whether you're afraid of falling on it. Fundamentally, you need to be able to place good gear to push yourself on lead safely. If you can, and you still have some irrational fear about falling, then that seems like a problem to address. That said, certainly many, and perhaps most beginner lead climbers don't know whether they are placing good gear. It would be foolish to try to overcome a fear of falling without first being able to place solid gear and recognize the quality of your placements. The ability to recognize the quality of your placements can be safely improved with the help of experienced partners that evaluate your placements, clean aid on toprope, and less safely improved by actually falling on your gear.

Transitioning from sport climbing to trad climbing is not a matter of becoming as comfortable with falling on gear as you are falling on bolts. There are some huge differences between the two pursuits, analogous perhaps to paintball vs. an actual shootout (just kidding, kind of). Seriously though, part of your "pro" when you're trad climbing, particularly when there is no other pro, is being able to down climb out of life or limb threatening situations. Another huge difference lies in being able to handle an increased responsibility for your and your partner's well-being while trad climbing relative to sport climbing, where you rely more on other people (who equip routes) to keep you safe. This latter point is what makes trad climbing more engaging and rewarding for some, and anathema to others. For more on this, I'd re-read and think about Rich Goldstone's (rgold) response to your question.

Lastly, despite what some have stated in this thread, in my experience cams aren't destroyed by a few falls unless it's a weird placement that bends the stem, cuts a trigger wire, or a truly huge whipper (which you're hopefully not taking for practice).


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By Morgan Patterson
Administrator
Jul 27, 2012
Stoked...

GabeO wrote:
Oh, and mock-leading is the worst thing the guide industry has foisted on the climbing world. It does far more harm than good. GO



Um... I learned to lead placing gear and clipping a dragged rope on TR when I was 13. Next progression was taking falls on the gear with a loose TR. Worked really well for me... What's the harm you're thinking about?


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By Greg D
From Here
Jul 27, 2012
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W. <br />

GabeO wrote:
The short version: Practicing falling on trad gear is the stupidest advice I ever see floating around on the net. The only way it makes any sense is to construct a bomber multi-piece anchor, and fall on that - and what does that teach you about trusting individual pieces? Nothing! If you want to get confident about falling, go fall on bolts or multi-piece bomber anchors, if you must. If you want to get confident about placing gear, go aid climbing. But if you want to get confident about falling on individual pieces of trad gear, DON'T. You _should_ fear falling on individual pieces. Cheers, GO


This is quite a statement. And reeks of inexperience. If you think falling on gear so stupid then you must think your skills or someone else's skills or the gear is worthless. Why use it at all.

If you climb often, you will fall. So, practicing falling is a good way to progress. If your partners feel your placements are good then its time to whip away... and onto one piece. Eeeek. But, be sure there are at least two good placements below it. A while back I began intentional falls onto gear taking at least one or two falls every time I climbed. I did this in lots of different rock including soft sandstone. I'm no toothpick either. 200 lbs. Start small falls with gear at your waist. Add six inches or so as your confidence grows. Be smart.


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By Kenny Thompson
From woodfords, california
Jul 27, 2012
gorge

If you climb enough you will practice falling


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By Evan Belknap
From Placitas, NM
Jul 27, 2012
Cochise Stronghold—me on the left

The only piece that I have ever ripped out, in five/six years or trad climbing (with many falls), was a horribly placed, black alien in a flaring j-tree crack..... There's a reason cams are so shiny and lovable.


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By chris_vultaggio
Jul 27, 2012
Chris Vultaggio leads the title route at Five and Dime in Yosemite. <br /> <br />Photo by Bill Roehrich

Kenny Thompson wrote:
If you climb enough you will practice falling


I'm in agreement here, and not just for beginners either. I used to race DH bikes and when I went too long without a fall or crash, the fear would start to build and negatively affect my riding. I'd start to ride sheltering my fear, and get too squirrelly twitch the thought of a crash coming.

Climbing is kinda the same - only a premeditated fall is easier to take. Every so often I'll slot a solid piece, climb up some, yell down to my belayer to make sure they're awake, then pitch off.

Obviously I check the landing zone first - I find it to work for me in keeping fear from creeping in. The devil you know...


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By Jeff G.
From Fort Collins
Jul 27, 2012
Nearing the end of Thank God Ledge.

Greg D wrote:
This is quite a statement. And reeks of inexperience. If you think falling on gear so stupid then you must think your skills or someone else's skills or the gear is worthless. Why use it at all. If you climb often, you will fall. So, practicing falling is a good way to progress. If your partners feel your placements are good then its time to whip away... and onto one piece. Eeeek. But, be sure there are at least two good placements below it. A while back I began intentional falls onto gear taking at least one or two falls every time I climbed. I did this in lots of different rock including soft sandstone. I'm no toothpick either. 200 lbs. Start small falls with gear at your waist. Add six inches or so as your confidence grows. Be smart.


Damn Greg D. You totally ruined a blue master cam of mine because you decided to fall on it. I don't know what was going through your head. You should have built an equalized multi-directional anchor in that finger crack before you started jumping off.


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By Eric Coffman
Jul 27, 2012
mountainlion

I think one of the biggest smiles I've ever had in my life (at least one that I can remember specifically) was when I took a 25 foot whipper from a very vertical crack. I was about 10 feet over my gear and was locked into a solid lieback. I got to what I thought was a solid spot and tried placing gear, I didnt like the piece I placed (70% sure about it)but the piece I wanted my body was pressing into the rock. So I pulled up rope to clip and as I was clipping...whipper YEEEEHAAAAA! I still have a 2 inch rope burn on my wrist caused by when the rope tightend and my wrist was against it. Grinning ear to ear and my belayer was too!


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By Greg D
From Here
Jul 27, 2012
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W. <br />

Jeff G. wrote:
Damn Greg D. You totally ruined a blue master cam of mine because you decided to fall on it. I don't know what was going through your head. You should have built an equalized multi-directional anchor in that finger crack before you started jumping off.


Shit. You.re right. I was totally out of control. But my offer to replace it still stands.


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By Jeff G.
From Fort Collins
Jul 27, 2012
Nearing the end of Thank God Ledge.

Greg D wrote:
Shit. You.re right. I was totally out of control. But my offer to replace it still stands.


You'll just have to gun me up some routes as payment!


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By Jeff Fiedler
Jul 30, 2012

Here's what worked for me when I was just starting to lead trad.

A lot of folks have said aid climb. But for me I just lead something that was a reasonably comfortable grade for me at the time.

Once I had about 3 good pieces in and was high enough up that I would not deck, I just started placing about 3 times as much pro as I would usually, and taking on each piece. Once I had a few more weight tested pieces below I took some short falls, but not whippers.

Did that twice and my brain was good to go, in terms of trusting placements. (I know, I know, big whippers generate more force; but just saying that was all my brain needed. Funny things, brains.)

At this point at least for me the fear is more about hitting rock ledges, etc., in a fall, and less the gear pulling. And you can't really practice for that. Just learn to maybe double up pro at no-fall spots, or plan your placements better.


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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
Jul 30, 2012
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of Twist of Fate, Oak Creek Canyon. <br /> <br />photo: Blake McCord

Jeff Fiedler wrote:
(I know, I know, big whippers generate more force;

not necessarily


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By cassondra
From las vegas, NV
Jul 30, 2012
in repose

I am always amazed when people ask me if I have ever fallen on my gear, as if it were some kind of confidence inspiring placebo. Early on, i fell and had cams pull out, but realized the problem was in the way I had placed them, not the way they function (whacked my ankle pretty bad on that one.) I have since fallen on my gear a number of times, sometimes from a foothold breaking off unexpectedly, once when a block pulled out. Frequently there is an element of surprise that does not allow time to be afraid. I know falling happens, so I depend on my gear and my ability to place it, and if I can't get good placements on something at the edge of my ability, I usually step back to reexamine the situation and/or back off. That having been said, I cannot imagine why taking controlled falls on gear while slacked out on toprope would be a bad thing (other than maybe thrashing some gear.) It seems like a good way to observe the function in action.


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By steven sadler
From SLC, UT
Jul 30, 2012

Just go climbing at Indian Creek where the gear is bomber and the placements are easy. You can push yourself there way hard and still be safe. People have ripped gear and gotten hurt so don't be stupid about it. IC is where I first started taking whippers on gear and I know now that gear holds.


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By GabeO
From Denver, CO
Jul 31, 2012

In reply to my post:

Gabe O wrote:
The short version: Practicing falling on trad gear is the stupidest advice I ever see floating around on the net. The only way it makes any sense is to construct a bomber multi-piece anchor, and fall on that - and what does that teach you about trusting individual pieces? Nothing! If you want to get confident about falling, go fall on bolts or multi-piece bomber anchors, if you must. If you want to get confident about placing gear, go aid climbing. But if you want to get confident about falling on individual pieces of trad gear, DON'T. You _should_ fear falling on individual pieces.


Greg D wrote:
Greg D wrote:
This is quite a statement. And reeks of inexperience. If you think falling on gear so stupid then you must think your skills or someone else's skills or the gear is worthless. Why use it at all.


Hmm... already you're so far off base, let me stop you there and respond to all of the above.

I'll start with the ad hominem attack. My experience: I've climbed trad all over the country for roughly ten years. I also sport climb. I'm moderately good at both, and have put up FAs in a half a dozen states.

As to the general idea that only an inexperienced climber could think what I said above, go look on the previous page, where rgold, who has probably more experience than you and I put together, seems to think something similar to me. So, basically, no.

Second, you seem to have forgotten who we're talking to. Let me remind you of who the OP is:

JEFFisNOTfunny wrote:
OK... I'm a new trad leader...


JEFFisNOTfunny wrote:
I'm currently comfortable leading .6's...


JEFFisNOTfunny wrote:
I just want to get comfortable before I go for a big ride.


So, you would advise him to get comfortable so he can take big falls? On those 5.5s, 5.6s, 5.7s, and 5.8s he'll be getting on?

Let me put this another way. Do you jaywalk? I do... all the time. Would you advise a five year old to run through traffic, not in an intersection, but in the middle of a busy street? Because, in terms of practical experience and judgement, that's what this guy is as a trad climber. He probably understands many of the basics, and that's about it. And falling on easy terrain (most under 5.9 climbs) is rarely a good idea for any of us.

Third is this idea you've proposed that if I don't think the best course of action for the OP is to go lobbing off on his gear, that must mean that I think that gear is worthless. That's simple logic FAIL. If I said it would be a bad idea for you to attempt some Evil Kenevil stunt, would you also claim I believe motorcycles are incapable of jumping over obstacles?

I think I have a pretty damn good idea of how well gear works... and doesn't. Of the many falls I've taken, I've had a few pieces rip and/or had the rock blow out. None were terribly surprising, and none resulted in injury. I also have a pretty good idea of the poor judgement beginners can have around gear, particularly when they don't have a well developed eye for judging the difficulty of upcoming climbing, and they don't have a good eye for sussing out inobvious gear placements.

The point of all that is that the gear is not the issue. The right falls, on the right gear, will hold. But that's an entirely useless platitude for the beginner, who has a lot of skills to master before he can judge when to push it to the edge or beyond, and when to back down.

And what I proposed for the OP is, I think, a great way to gain those skills. In short: work your way through the grades. Avoid falling for your first few years. Whether or not you're interested in aid climbing in and of itself, do some aid to learn about your gear, and about how the aid systems work. And when you're ready to start pushing the grades to your limit, the falls will come. The fear will still be there, but you'll be in a position to better know how to handle it.

GO


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By Greg D
From Here
Jul 31, 2012
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W. <br />

GabeO wrote:
In reply to my post: Greg D wrote: Hmm... already you're so far off base, let me stop you there and respond to all of the above. I'll start with the ad hominem attack. My experience: I've climbed trad all over the country for roughly ten years. I also sport climb. I'm moderately good at both, and have put up FAs in a half a dozen states. As to the general idea that only an inexperienced climber could think what I said above, go look on the previous page, where rgold, who has probably more experience than you and I put together, seems to think something similar to me. So, basically, no. Second, you seem to have forgotten who we're talking to. Let me remind you of who the OP is: So, you would advise him to get comfortable so he can take big falls? On those 5.5s, 5.6s, 5.7s, and 5.8s he'll be getting on? Let me put this another way. Do you jaywalk? I do... all the time. Would you advise a five year old to run through traffic, not in an intersection, but in the middle of a busy street? Because, in terms of practical experience and judgement, that's what this guy is as a trad climber. He probably understands many of the basics, and that's about it. And falling on easy terrain (most under 5.9 climbs) is rarely a good idea for any of us. Third is this idea you've proposed that if I don't think the best course of action for the OP is to go lobbing off on his gear, that must mean that I think that gear is worthless. That's simple logic FAIL. If I said it would be a bad idea for you to attempt some Evil Kenevil stunt, would you also claim I believe motorcycles are incapable of jumping over obstacles? I think I have a pretty damn good idea of how well gear works... and doesn't. Of the many falls I've taken, I've had a few pieces rip and/or had the rock blow out. None were terribly surprising, and none resulted in injury. I also have a pretty good idea of the poor judgement beginners can have around gear, particularly when they don't have a well developed eye for judging the difficulty of upcoming climbing, and they don't have a good eye for sussing out inobvious gear placements. The point of all that is that the gear is not the issue. The right falls, on the right gear, will hold. But that's an entirely useless platitude for the beginner, who has a lot of skills to master before he can judge when to push it to the edge or beyond, and when to back down. And what I proposed for the OP is, I think, a great way to gain those skills. In short: work your way through the grades. Avoid falling for your first few years. Whether or not you're interested in aid climbing in and of itself, do some aid to learn about your gear, and about how the aid systems work. And when you're ready to start pushing the grades to your limit, the falls will come. The fear will still be there, but you'll be in a position to better know how to handle it. GO


Wow, you are very sensitive! You have a great resume. You are very experienced. Frankly, I don't care about your resume. It was this statement that caught my attention: "Practicing falling on trad gear is the stupidest advice I ever see floating around on the net. The only way it makes any sense is to construct a bomber multi-piece anchor, and fall on that ..."

I've never heard anyone recommend to a total beginner to buy some gear and start hucking onto it. This would be very poor advice. But, lead falls are full of many complexities, the gear, the rock, the slack in the rope, the stretch in the rope, the belay, the terrain, direction of loading, pendulums, reacting appropriately, and so much more. It is about much more than solid placements and trusting gear as the above testimonial of someone breaking their leg even though the gear held demonstrates. I also have a friend that broke his ankle on his first lead fall because he didn't know how to respond.

In my opinion, if one can gain experience with lead falls gradually, they will be better off. YMMV


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By GabeO
From Denver, CO
Jul 31, 2012

Nah, I'm not all that sensitive. But if you call me out, I'll either look for where I was wrong, or if I don't think I was, I'll say so.
And I'm certainly not hot shit, and don't want to come off like I am. But I've been around enough to feel comfortable calling BS when I see it. And for all the reasons I gave, telling beginning trad leaders to practice falling so they can get comfortable trusting the gear and more inured to the idea - well, IMO, that's pure grade-A Bull.

And like I said in my post above - nothing wrong with practicing falls. I've done it myself, and I've advocated it to others. In sport climbing, on good bolts, it's a useful endeavor. Hell, sport climbing is practically predicated on the idea that falling is usually safe.

But sport and trad are not the same, and best that the new trad leader gets the differences loud and clear.

GO


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Jul 31, 2012
Axes glistening in the sun

I try not to fall, although that doesn't always work. I try to lead by the old maxim of "The leader must not fall." Granted that came about during hemp ropes tied around one's waist, but I dislike falling
especially when I bounce off of a ledge and continue to fall.

What might be better is to place your pro, sit back and relax as that nut slips a little.Practicing falling to be more comfortable is like f'in for virginity. LOL!


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By bearbreeder
Aug 1, 2012

www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=4655

Firstly, you need to gain enough experience to decide when it is safe to fall, and when it is not. Here I am talking about being scared to fall when really a fall would be safe.

The best thing for fear of falling is fall practice. If you are really scared, don't feel embarrassed to start with top rope falls, or even just swinging around on a rope. Climbing in general and hanging in space with air beneath you, is a very unnatural thing for a human to do, therefore you have to force your body and mind to be accustomed to it. Don't feel embarrassed about being scared of falling, because I swear that more than half of the climbing population is. What you should be embarrassed about is a reluctance to do anything about it... That's if, you care enough. Some climbers will accept a fear of falling as part of climbing, do everything to avoid falling and simply get on with it. This is OK if you don't want to push your grade, but progress will be impossible or considerably stagnated if you don't climb at your limit, and climbing at your limit requires a certain comfort with the idea of falling.


by a gal who knows a thing or two about trad ;)


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