I recently started indoor rock climbing at a local spot. I got to the top and (after appropriate communication) my partner started to belay me down. I instantly starting swinging and spinning pretty wildly, more than 10' arcs. I was able to catch the wall, but every time I let go the same thing would happen. I didn't see anyone else having this problem.

How does one descend in a relatively vertical fashion without swinging like a pendulum?

(edit: Top-roping)

  • 1
    Can you keep your feet against the wall and walk / hop down as you're being lowered? Also, was the rope twisted and kinked up on your (the climber's) end? The only time I really experience a lot of swinging and twisting is when I'm being lowered over something dramatically overhanging and I can't touch the wall, or if the rope is twisted a little and needs to be un-kinked some.
    – DavidR
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 17:36
  • It sounds like your belayer was going to fast at the start. If you are on overhung, it helps to have some time for the climber to lower their body in a controlled manner into the open space below them. If you are not on overhung, this should never happen, as long as the climber can slowly walk their legs down the wall. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 21:58

5 Answers 5


On your descent, assuming you don't have an overhang, you simply place your heels against the wall, feet about shoulder width apart and lean back until your legs are horizontal, holding the rope above the knot and walk or bounce gently as your belaying partner lowers you.

The only things that will cause a swing are-

  • climbing a pitch adjacent to the one your rope is for (as Don says)
  • holding on to the wall on your descent
  • holding the rope while being lowered is generally considered bad practice
    – crasic
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 22:00
  • 2
    Crasic- sometimes it is essential. Let's not do the 'cool kids don't need to hold on' thing.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 22:04
  • 3
    Its not about looking cool, its avoiding teaching that its ok to grab the rope and ingraining the instinct to grab the rope, if you are swinging into a wall and you grab the rope instead of controlling your swing thats bad, the instinct of grabbing the rope or quickdraw has led to many impaled hands and lost fingers.
    – crasic
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 22:13
  • 2
    Ah - I see you misunderstood what I was saying. I meant this: climbingtechniques.org/uploads/4/9/7/5/4975151/4185391.jpg
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 22:25

Top-roping or lead-climbing? I haven't seen this happen in top-roping except when using the wrong rope - that is, for the rope next to the route i'm climbing. When you top out you should be near the pulley. If you're way off to the side, then, yeah, you should expect some swinging. If you're 5 feet from the pulley, you should expect to swing 5 feet each way until the swinging dampens.

Spinning you should be able to control by leaning back and keeping both feet on the wall, which works unless you're passing an overhang.


For lowering on top-rope: Grab a quickdraw and attach one end to your belay loop and the other end to the belayer end of the rope.

For lowering on lead: Same idea, but you will have to unclip the quickdraws on the wall as you go down essentially cleaning the route before getting stuck on the quickdraw attached to your belay loop


As others have mentioned if you're within reach of the wall then keep your feet on the wall and walk down backwards (keep your butt level with your feet).

As for an overhang, provide you're top-roping, the easiest thing to do is to have your belaying partner stop you (don't descend until your stable), then reach out and grab the section of rope between your belay partner and the anchor and use it to stabilize yourself. Once you're stable let go of it and tell your belay partner to lower you (be sure to communicate when you want to stop and when you want to go).

Keep in mind it's pretty much always best to get yourself under control while you're as high off the ground as possible. You're less likely to collide with a wall, other climbers, or other people on the ground.


I'm presuming your on an overhanging wall here as if you can touch the wall you should walk down preventing this issue.

It's very common to twist and spin a little when being lowered off overhanging terrain so don't worry about it! Keep calm and relax.

If you tense up and try and correct any spining or swinging your likely only going to make things worse. Do not grab the wall! You may well hurt yourself. Parry it away with your hands and feet but don't hold onto a hold. You could down climb (but this is likely going to become very tiresome very quickly)

I tend to let my arms hang loose by the side of my body and lean forwards slightly. If I spin or swing (providing I'm not going to hit anything) I let it happen and just stay loose. If this becomes too violent, your belayer should slow down or stop, let the swing finish then continue. The belayer should do this without you having to shout and tell them if they are paying the correct attention.

If your belayer doesn't do this consider talking to them (ideally when you get down "next time can you not do that, etc"), they may not see it as an issue, but if you do they should adjust their technique according to what you want (climber is always in charge).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.