Bouldering techniques - falling off
If you are not falling off during a bouldering session then you are not pushing yourself to your limits. Obviously, falling off can be a hazardous part of your day, but there are a few things that can minimize the dangers and improve the margins for safety.
Check the landing zone for hidden dangers such as small stones, partially buried rocks and tree roots. You should still take precautions against such hazards even if they are apparently out of the fall zone, either by having a pad there, or a 'fielder' standing by to push you away from the danger.
Removal of any hazards will be effective in reducing the dangers to the climber should he fall, but remember to leave the countryside as you find it. Make a note of anything that you move and replace it afterwards. Note too the location of the hazards that remain. Even when mats cover them the landing zone may be uneven and you need to take care.
Where to land
If you are not falling off during a bouldering session then you are not pushing yourself to your limits.
It is easier to predict the area that you are going to jump to, rather than the one that you are going to fall to. This means that a fall requires a greater landing zone than a jump. Stay relaxed. You can fall off anywhere, often in an unusual manner, without warning, and with little or no control. Be aware of any hazards when jumping, even if they are padded. Aim to jump onto the flatter section of ground and stay relaxed. If you fall you will have little or no time to think, so always be aware of your surroundings.
Keep your feet together, bend at the knees and relax your body. Let your body act as a shock absorber. If you lock your knees straight and do not bend your knees the force of your body making contact with the ground will be transferred through your legs and spine, which can be very dangerous.
Spatial awareness is not only important to falling but also important to your climbing in general. If you understanding of the position of the holds around your hands and feet without really having to think about them, then your climbing will be much more fluid. When falling, this means you can instinctively turn your body away from dangers, or jump to the side, etc. It's a very difficult skill to teach or learn, but any extremely useful one.
The Best Advice - be prepared for anything - and stay relaxed.
- When spotting is good then you can forget about the above but some spotting leaves much to be desired (see Spotting section).
- Predicting the angle at which someone is going to fall depends upon several variables and is very difficult to predict with total accuracy. You need to take into consideration:
- Are the climber's feet lower than his or her head? If so, he or she is highly likely to fall directly to the ground with little or no angle.
- If their feet are very high, then if they fall it will probably be backwards - depending on the reasons behind the fall (such as a lack of power, hand slips or foot slips).
- When bridging any angle of fall is possible.
- If the climber jumps and fails to catch the hold their momentum may carry their legs above their hands and they'll off horizontally. If they touch the hold then they may spiral off with the rotational forces.
Andrew Earl is a professional climber and climbing coach for regional and national teams. For many years he has been at the forefront of the British climbing scene. Andrew was British Bouldering Champion for three consecutive years, competed for Great Britain at international level for 5 years and was winner of the 2007 World Cup round in La Reunion.
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