Climbing lessons debrief: Adrenaline Rush

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This is a debrief from this week’s climbing lessons. I’m taking a course on belaying when lead climbing and a course in climbing technique. This week I took the fourth (and final) lesson in belaying (lead) and the third one in climbing technique.

Course: Belaying - Lead Climbing

Lesson 4

Goal: Learn to fall and catch falls as a belayer safely and comfortably.

Observations: This lesson is well suited for all the adrenaline junkies out there. It was also full of very important information. Falls are an integral part of sports climbing. Those who’re afraid to fall avoid all but the simplest routes, and miss out on challenging themselves and progressing. Knowing how to fall comfortably and safely is essential for avoiding injuries while training hard.

The belayer needs to manage the length of the fall which is influenced by:

  • the climbers position relative to the last clipped quickdraw
  • amount of the slack in the system (on the belayers side on the ground and potentially in the climber’s hands)
  • the ratio between the climber’s and belayer’s body weight
  • the elasticity of the rope (adds approximately 10-30% of the unstretched rope length between the belaying device and the climber)

Softening the fall when the climber is high and we’re belaying dynamically:

  • automatic when the climber is heavier than the belayer as the belayer will be pulled towards the wall.
  • the belayer needs to actively run towards the wall to soften a fall of a lighter climber

Softening the fall is not an option when the climber is too close to the ground.

When belaying dynamically it is sometimes beneficial to lengthen a potential fall to avoid edges or other dangerous features of the wall. The belayer prepares for a lengthened fall by standing an extra step back from the first quickdraw or by lengthening the slack.

None of the rules above are absolute. Belaying requires constant attention and intelligent decision-making as the climber ascends the route.

Course: Climbing Technique

Lesson 3

Goal: Improve stamina: Avoid biceps contractions. Instead, utilize lower body muscles more. Explore what holds can be reached with straight arms when leaning left and right in a frog position. Explore reachable holds from a position where the lateral hip (side) touches the climbing wall.

Observations: Initially we were directed to climb a simple 4C but restrict ourselves to not use the biceps for gaining height. Even on a route with plenty of holds, I found this challenging. It required creativity and repositioning the whole body. In the second exercise (frog position and swinging left and right), I found myself being pretty stiff. The coach said I should take more inspiration from monkeys who feels very comfortable throwing their center of gravity around while having relaxed arms. Lastly, the third exercise (touching the sides of the hip to the wall) was more comfortable for me. This way of rotating the body felt very natural to me. I already incorporated the hip rotation in order to reach a hold diagonally into my climbing. This particular exercise only required exaggerating the motion to actually touch the wall with the hip. I had a few foot slips on this one though. Before rotation, the foothold is loaded vertically. After rotation, the load moves to the side of the foothold. The foot needs to be repositioned such that the rubber meets the foothold from the side (applied force and line from applied rubber to the foothold should be roughly parallel). Even though these routes were easy by themselves, I was really exhausted after this session due to exercising these specific ways of moving. In the long term, they should improve the climbing by spreading the load from arms to more muscle groups.