Thursday, April 30, 2009


As part of the Mazamas Advanced Rock class, I have been taking a lead climbing clinic at Club Sport's rock gym.  For our second clinic, we had a mock fall.  Each of us would take turns lead climbing partway up the wall and then falling.  Our lead belayer would then arrest the fall with their belay device.  The belayer would be backed up by a top rope belayer.  The objective of the exercise was twofold as it would give the lead belayer practice in catching a fall and help the climber become more comfortable with falling.  As crazy as the latter point sounds, it actually is helpful as it builds trust the system.

I think I was more nervous about arresting a fall than falling.  When my climbing partner fell, it yanked me upward, but I was able to hold the belay and stop the fall.  When it was my turn to fall, it was tough to let go, but watching someone else do it gave me courage to do so.

For the third and final clinic there was more practice falling.  First we would take falls on a top rope.  As the belayer on this exercise, I was surprised how little effort was necessary to catch the climber's fall.  Then we shifted from a top rope to lead climbing.  This was quite exciting for me, since it was my first lead climb ever.  After one lead climb, we did a couple lead falls.  I once heard that courage is faith plus action.  That certainly described what it took to let go knowing that I would fall twice the distance between myself and the last bolt I had clipped into, plus whatever slack there was in the rope.  But I exhaled, let out a whoop, and raised my arms up.  Sure enough, my belayer caught me.  The systems works! 

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