We have discussed a lot and at length about how to climb and other climbing techniques. I haven't come across a single post that talks about Spotting techniques.

What are the duties of a Spotter? What is the best a spotter can do to ensure that the fall of a climber results in minimum or no injury?

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Basically, "spotting" someone means making sure that they safely land on the pad with their feet first to prevent injuries in case of a fall.

This means several distinct tasks:

  • Moving a falling climber to the pad: try to guide them towards the pad, ideally by pushing at the hips or shoulders. Don't try to catch them (which includes not standing directly beneath them)! You won't be able to do that, and might hurt yourself. However, you can try to slow the fall a bit. While doing that, keep your fingers together, and your thumb next to the index finger (not opposed).
  • Keeping them upright: Especially in very overhanging routes, prefer to keep your hands under their shoulders so that they land on their feet. Landing on your back really hurts, but is easily prevented that way.
  • Prevent them from falling over while landing: make sure that they don't tumble backwards and off the pad. That can still hurt quite a bit, especially after long falls!
  • Moving the pad (not applicable in most indoor gyms): if necessary, adjust the position of the pad if the climber moves to a position where they would not hit it when falling. This is easier with multiple spotters; otherwise, you should only do that when the climber is in a somewhat safe position. Smaller pushes with your feet are preferable to picking up the pad with your hands.

As in many other climbing situations, communication is key; e.g. most of the climbers that I know really appreciate it if you tell them before you move the pad (so they can take a safe position), or assure them that you are really paying attention while they are at a hard move.

  • Whoever downvoted this: Care to explain why? (So that others know what is supposed to be wrong with this answer.) – anderas Nov 18 '15 at 14:56
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    I can't remember if I downvoted this or not, but I disagree with "making sure that they safely land on their feet and on the pad". Spotting is about preventing them from landing on their head, and trying to force someone onto their feet could fit into the category of trying to 'catch' the climber, as mentioned more concisely in the below answer. – SpoonerNZ Nov 24 '15 at 15:57
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    I don't have the rep to downvote this, but the introductory summation is dangerous because it is wrong; spotters should not try to make sure the climber lands on their feet. If you do this, the climber will land on you and you'll both get hurt; the mechanics just don't work. Like Spooner said, spotting is intended to direct a climber's fall in order to minimize injury. You push their hips or their back as they fall in order to redirect them to a mat or to ensure that their lower body (the non-vital parts) hits the ground first. Most of your answer is OK, but that first line needs changing. – TylerH Feb 10 '16 at 16:48
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    @anderas In English the term 'landing on your feet' means pretty specifically 'landing in a standing position while your weight is centered above your feet', like what gymnasts try to do after an uneven bars routine. This is clearly not feasible when spotting, but what it seems you meant was "let their feet hit the ground first", which is what you want to do while spotting. So it's just a matter of terminology, it looks like. – TylerH Feb 11 '16 at 14:47
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    @TylerH Thanks a lot for clarifying this, I edited the answer again. This indeed seems to be the cause for the confusion, I was already wondering whether you were telling me that I totally misunderstood the purpose of spotting... – anderas Feb 11 '16 at 15:27

The job of a spotter is to prevent the climber from landing on their head and (if possible) ensure they land on their feet and on the crashpad. This may involve moving the crashpad (which should coincide with the climber having a secure hold or position.

The job of a spotter is not to "catch" the climber! That's something they're simply not going to be able to do and attempting so can only lead to injury.

Consequently, the spotter should not be standing directly below the climber. They should stand so that they can push/guide the climber towards the crashpad and keep them upright / keep their head away from the ground.

This is usually best achieved by keeping their arms mostly extended, the heel of the hands towards the climber, fingers slightly bent backwards and the thumbs lying against the palm, not extended.

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