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I was doing a sport climb recently where there was a pretty good distance between bolts, resulting in long rope runouts. Falling before the next bolt could easily cause a person to deck on a ledge. Luckily, no one fell at this point, but it was very precarious.

My question is: What are some techniques, as a belayer or climber, can you do to minimize risk of injury in a fall during long runouts? For example, if the belayer sees the climber falling, should they run back to take up slack quickly? I've also heard of the belayer standing on high ground so they could drop at the same time as the climber to take up slack.

Assume this is a sport (not mixed) route and no additional protection can be placed.

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  • You might get some further informations here: outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/5781/… The hint with extended draws is a good one for long distance between bolts. But this is only a help if the differences between bolts are varying.
    – Wills
    Aug 16 '14 at 8:38
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    Often these type of routes with such long runout are actually mixed routes. These require placing some protection as you would with trad climbing, in addition to the bolts. A true sport route requires no additional protection to be placed to climb it safely. If you don't know how to do that, then I'd recommend getting a friend who does trad reliably to teach you. Aug 16 '14 at 23:10
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    Sometimes I've seen sport routes where the bolts were as described in the question, and there was also no opportunity to place gear for protection. My feeling was that I just didn't want to climb something like that.
    – user2169
    Aug 17 '14 at 0:07
  • @BenCrowell totally agreed!
    – WedaPashi
    Aug 17 '14 at 12:09
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    This is definitely a sport route, and nearly everyone climbs it that way. I suppose it's possible to place some additional pro, though.
    – shimizu
    Aug 18 '14 at 12:40
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Your options are limited and I think you've mentioned most of the only possibilities.

Depending on where the belay is and presuming it's at ground level you could get your belayer to run backwards as you fall or jump down off a small rock to take in the slack quickly (you've already mentioned these). This will likely slow you decent a little at best and only if your belayer can act fast which isn't guaranteed.

I wouldn't recommend paying out less slack, this is likely just going to make it harder to climb and potentially pull the climber off. You could minimise slack as best you can but your always going to need some slack. Being able to clip quickly and easily is going to be very important if the bolts are spaced.

Only other thing I can think of is bouldering pads. As many as you can get your hands on, but one is better than none. Put them under the route. This will protect you up to a certain height (10M prob at best) but not beyond.

If it's a serious climb, then it just is. That's how the person laying the route wanted it to be. You need to make a personal decision on the danger and simply accept it and mitigate it as best you can, though any mitigation will be severally limited.

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    Top-roping should be an option; especially if you think it's a dangerous climb (and assuming you can set it up beforehand).
    – Roflo
    Aug 18 '14 at 21:53
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The question is a bit old, so I believe this equipment got more common in the later years.

To keep yourself safe, you can use a stick clip, the most common model now being Beta Stick. They are typically used to clip the first bolt, but you can attach them to your harness, then find a safe position before the runout section (probably put yourself on safety at the last bolt) and clip the next bolt. They can reach up to 3.6 metres (add your own arms reach to this), and the ultra long model may extend up to 6.5 metres.

However, if you use a stick clip, your climb will be no longer lead, but a series of top rope pitches.

Beta Stick EVO

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  • Excellent suggestion! This basically negates all the danger outdoors due to large spaces between bolts. Jul 27 at 14:35
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    I upvoted for mentioning clip sticks. Panic draws may also be an option. When sport climbing, if I can’t clip the first bolt from less than a foot off the ground I will always clip the first bolt with a stick. Some people see it as cheating but I see it as mitigating another risk that you need not take. There was a good article recently in a uk magazine by someone who badly injured themselves before they clipped the first bolt and will always clip from now on.
    – Darren
    Jul 27 at 22:38
  • @JonathanReez TBH, I have never done this myself, though some of my friends do. A stick clip isn't exactly designed for this: it's a bit unwieldy to carry on the route, far larger than what you typically carry on your harness (maybe on a multipitch I'll carry one in my backpack). And dropping it on your belayer would not be nice to everyone involved. I do have a clipstick, but use it occasionally and only for the first bolt.
    – IMil
    Jul 27 at 22:55
  • Added a follow up question Jul 27 at 23:12
  • @ IMil There are smaller clipsticks designed to be carried on a harness.
    – Darren
    Jul 28 at 6:32

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