We tend to think about the skills needed to stick a crux move more than those required for a safe landing. But “you fall more than you send,” says pro climber Nina Williams, who assists coach Justen Sjong in Climbing’s Climb a Grade Harder: 5.12 and Beyond online course. “If you get comfortable with falling then you'll be more prepared to send, because you won't be thinking about the falling as much”—freeing you up to focus on the moves at hand.
Here are a few tips for taking falls out at the boulders, because there’s more to it than just dropping into space.
Perhaps easier said than done, but, says Williams, staying relaxed keeps your muscles loose and can prevent injuries in the event of a fall: “The more relaxed you are, the less likely you will be to have a hand or foot stuck out at a stiff, awkward angle that can make it prone to spraining or breaking,” she says. To stay relaxed on the rock, Williams recommends taking deep breaths and staying focused on the present—not thinking about how much the moves below pumped you out, or how hard the moves above you look. If you can cultivate this softer, less-gripped approach to climbing, you’ll be less tense overall and thus less prone to stiff-limbed landings.
2. Look down
At the gym, practice looking down when falling. “If you train your eyes to scope out a landing, it'll speed up your reaction time,” says Williams. Ignoring or avoiding this training leads to uncontrolled, unsafe falls, in which climbers’ “arms and legs will be splayed out, and they won't have control over themselves because they're too distracted with the fact that they're falling.”
3. Stick the landing
Hit the ground with bent legs, let your butt meet the pad, and roll backward. This technique spreads out the impact, softening the force felt by your knees and other joints. And rolling backward helps avoid face plants, too. Striking the floor with stiff legs or leaning forward can cause injuries. “Especially if you're in the gym, practice falling on your butt, and leaning back and rolling into the fall,” says Williams. Over time, the bouldering stunt roll will become second nature.
Ready to step up your climbing skills? Enroll in Climbing’s Climb a Grade Harder: 5.12 and Beyond online course.