Skip to main content

How to Take & Catch a Lead Fall for Indoor Climbing

Learn how to take and catch a lead fall from indoor rock climbing expert Cliff Simanski in this Howcast video.


Right now, I'm going to show you how to catch a lead fall. Gaz is going to show you how to take a lead fall. As the lead belayer, you have the important responsibility of how to catch a fall if your climber takes a big fall while lead climbing. There's a lot more force involved in taking a lead fall than one on top rope. There's a little bit more to it.

Basically, what happens is when the climber is coming down, you want to make that fall as soft as possible. It's kind of known as giving the climber a soft catch. The idea is that when the climber reaches the very bottom of that swing, you want to almost hop a little bit as the belayer, potentially even-feed a little bit more slack so that the climber doesn't come slamming back into the wall but kind of eases out the bottom of that arc and comes in as gently as possible to the bottom of their swing.

Depending on the difference in sizes, if it's a large climber and a small belayer, you'll probably get pulled up a ways anyways. So, that catch is going to be soft, because your weight being pulled up as a belayer serves as a bit of a counterbalance. If it's the opposite, and you have a very big belayer and a small climber, then it's more important for you as the belayer to be giving extra slack to the climber or even hopping a little bit right at the bottom of that climber's fall to make sure that it's a soft catch and not a really jarring jolt slamming the climber back into the wall.

When you're lead climbing, it's important to know how to take a fall. Part of the process, it's going to happen, and it's inevitable. Just as much as you need to know all the necessary techniques to avoid falling, you need to spend enough time learning how to fall. It will make you more comfortable while you're climbing if you're not afraid to fall while you're doing it.

When you're falling, you want to remember you're not pushing away from the wall. That's going to create a lot of force sending you out and just as much swinging you back into the wall. When you get jerked back in, your knees are going to hit the wall really hard, your feet are going to hit the wall really hard, maybe even your face, and that's what we want to avoid. None of that outward force. When you're falling, come straight down. You can almost think about sitting back. But not too far, because you don't want to flip over. So basically you're falling down, not out.

Also, you're not going to know when you're falling. Sometimes, you can anticipate it. You might be feeling really pumped. You know you're getting tired, you're not able to make that next clip, you're just going to let go, and you're going to fall. When that's the case, you can yell 'falling'. Let your belayer know you're about to come off the wall. If you don't anticipate it, maybe a foot slips, or you're going for a big move and you just miss it, you can't always control when that fall is going to happen, but you should also be thinking about the position your body is going to be in before you fall. If you know you're setting up for a big move, try to avoid the rope getting tangled within your legs, being very aware of how your body and the rope are positioned in relation to the wall.

Right now, Gaz is going to be climbing. He'll be taking a fall, and he'll give you a great example of how to take a lead fall.

Good fall, man. So, you'll notice, I kept my right hand on the brake the whole time, never releasing my belay device from brake position, watching the climber, and I even hopped a little bit right as Gaz was coming to the bottom of his fall to make that nice and soft. And that's how to catch a fall for lead climbing.

Popular Categories