Falling 101

Falling from the bouldering walls can certainly be intimidating, but with the right techniques and tips (and a bit of practice) you will be falling like a pro in no time! We have created a list of steps to follow to make your falls a bit more comfortable. Your safety is important to us!

Don’t tense up.

The first thing that all climbers must learn is to relax during a fall. A tense body will transfer more force to the point of impact-in bouldering that is most likely to be your feet, or the base of your spine! A relaxed body is better able to spread the impact force over a larger area.

Don’t try to stop your fall with your hands.

Your arms and wrists were not designed to take that kind of weight. In addition, a bent wrist is easier to break.

Don’t try to stay standing up.

Perhaps the single biggest mistake boulderers make. Trying too hard to keep your balance can result in over-compensating, generally to the rear. These lead to “backpedaling” into whatever bodies or objects happen to be behind you. If you can stay standing up easily, fine. If, however, you feel that you may fall over, do it!

Don’t try to “control” the fall.

This concept shows up in many ways. Pushing away from the wall with hands or feet, grabbing holds on the way down to stop or “slow” the fall. Basically, in a battle between you and gravity, gravity will win. Actions intended to overtly control a fall, almost invariably lead to disaster.

Don’t climb beyond your fall tolerance (maximum deck clearance)

A climber’s fall tolerance can be simply defined as the height from which they are comfortable falling. I chose the word comfortable on purpose, as opposed to safe. In bouldering there are no completely safe falls–people have broken ankles and wrists from falls as low as two feet–it is important not to have the illusion that we can judge, in a black and white manner, the difference between a “safe” fall and its implied counterpart, an “un-safe” fall.

But, comfort level is something that you have constant access to, and which directly affects your ability to relax into a fall. Moreover, comfort level is not merely dependent on height.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a good start. Which brings us to the “do’s”.

Do RELAX!

On the ground, this seems obvious. But, on the wall, generally in unexpected falls, the body’s natural reaction is to tense up. Bad idea.

Do know when to let go.

Sending your project is a proud accomplishment, but is it worth a broken ankle? Many of the worst falls come as a result of a climber holding on well beyond the point at which he/she has a chance of staying on the problem. These sorts of situations often result in a “hands first” fall, where the hands pop before the feet. These can be dangerous falls, because it takes longer for the feet to come under the hips, and can result in climbers turning at weird angles.

Do Bend your knees.

It is important to use bent knees when falling to act as shock absorbers. Landing with your legs straight and locked will often result in injury.

Do PRACTICE!

Practice helps eliminate uncertainty which leads to a higher comfort level. If you are more comfortable falling, you will be more relaxed.

Falling Techniques Video

Below is a great video that goes over the techniques of falling.