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I sometimes climb in the gym with a partner who outweighs me by about 50%. When he's leading and falls from above his protection, I can get pulled up to the first clip. If he's not very far up, this could lead to the dreaded "ding-dong" effect, where I get pulled up and collide with him as he falls.

What effective strategies are there for preventing this? I can try to stand out of his line of fall, but that won't help if I'm simply levitated directly up to the first quickdraw on the wall.

Sometimes when I'm climbing a route in the gym, and I feel confident of the first few clips, I start by clipping a quickdraw that's off to the side, then skip a clip, then clip into the third clip on my actual route. (I skip the second clip because I don't want the rope to go around a sharp corner, which would give a lot of rope drag.) Doing this eliminates the possibility of a ding-dong, at the expense of possibly having a ground fall before I reach the third clip. But this is not something I would ask a climber to do for me when I'm on belay.

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    What's the "ding-dong" effect? Head to crotch collision? – Chris Mendez Jul 28 '15 at 23:35
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    @ChrisMendez: I don't know if it's a really standardized term. I've just seen it online. I think it could be any collision between the climber and belayer, e.g., it could be his feet hitting my head. Basically I want to avoid a collision, especially if such a collision could stun or injure me so much that I drop the belay. – Ben Crowell Jul 28 '15 at 23:39
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    I suggest listening to the sage advice of Gerard Hoffnung... and then doing the exact opposite. – David Richerby Jul 29 '15 at 9:34
  • You mean you don't anchor yourself to the ground on lower belay? – Joshua Nov 30 '16 at 20:13
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The simplest and most straightforward solution would be to connect yourself to a ground anchor.

If you decide to do this while belaying a lead climber, you might want to let the rope slide a little when they fall, because you will lose the ability to provide a soft-catch by offsetting your body-weight.

  • Yes, that's an excellent answer. Unfortunately my gym doesn't seem to provide anything like that. Maybe I should ask if they can. – Ben Crowell Jul 29 '15 at 0:34
  • This seems to me the most obvious answer. Every gym I've climbed in (admittedly not very many though) has offered floor anchors so that climbing partners with imbalanced weights can still climb safely. I would definitely inquire as to whether they can be installed. – nhinkle Jul 29 '15 at 5:25
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    Gyms in my area rarely provide ground anchors, too. However, there often are weight bags (if that's the correct term) that you can clip to your belay loop to increase your weight by about 20kg. – anderas Jul 29 '15 at 6:56
  • My gym doesn't provide weight bags either, but I'll ask if they have some stashed somewhere. – Ben Crowell Jul 29 '15 at 12:26
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Without some kind of ground anchor, you'll have to adapt your belay setup.

First of all, the belayer doesn't have much choice about where to stand. Stand as close as you can to the first clipped draw, or you'll experience the dreaded smacked-into-the-wall-got-knocked-out-and-dropped-my-partner-effect.

Second, a 50% difference isn't huge - lot's of male-female climbing couples handle this. I have hoisted my belayer off the ground before, but we didn't smash into each other violently, just a gentle bump.

Lastly, friction is your friend here. A little bit of a zig-zag in the rope near the bottom should prevent too much rope movement when the leader falls. If the belayer is careful, he/she should be able to keep the rope loose enough to slide through the zig-zag when unweighted. Avoid this up high, of course, as the weight of the rope will create lots of drag.

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I have seen this managed by having a runner on a low mounted hanger on the a joining climb. The resulting zigzag creates significant friction when the rope is loaded.

An other way to manage this is to give the lead a dynamic belay in a fall - allowing a foot or so of rope to run though the belay, rather than just locking him off. Takes a bit of practice, but is actually something good to know if you ever plan to venture onto trad or alpine routes, or climb sport routes with dodgy bolts.

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There are devices exactly for this scenario.

For example Edeldrid has the "Ohm Assisted Braking Device" in their product range:

https://www.rei.com/product/117728/edelrid-ohm-assisted-braking-device

Great for indoor and outdoor use, the Edelrid Ohm Assisted Braking device increases the amount of rope friction so that a lighter-weight belayer can hold a heavier lead climber without difficulty.

It clips to the first bolt like a normal quickdraw, but adds friction in the event of a fall so that the lighter climber doesn't get pulled up so high and the climber doesn't fall as far.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRnN2tmItqQ

short snippet from the video

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    Very nice illustration. You can also see how the fall is much harder for the climber. Breaking happens much more abrupt, which in itself is already a bit uncomfortable, and he is also accelerated more towards the wall. That's not to say an Ohm is bad, but you should know the disadvantages when deciding on whether or not to use it. – imsodin Jan 29 at 10:11
  • I can only second this recommendation. One of my climbing partners is below 50kg,compared to my 72 which gives me 50% more. With the Ohm she can belay as normal without being hindered by a sand bag and without me being hindered by additional friction. – Manziel Jan 30 at 11:39

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