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At my gym, the steepest wall is lead-only. Opposite the lead-only wall is the bouldering area. One night I saw a climber lead a route in this area. No problems. Then his partner tied in to the other end of the rope and followed the route on toprope, unclipping the draws as she went. Still no problems. But then, instead of pulling the rope, the first partner tied in again and toproped the route with no draws clipped. Luckily for her and the boulderers, she didn’t fall near the bottom.—Cryptic C62, via email
LESSON: Overhanging routes and big roofs present a problem on toprope. If you fall and you’re not in a straight line down from the anchor, your body will swing until you are directly below the anchor, and then continue to swing with the momentum you’ve accumulated. Let’s say the route at your gym moves 20 feet laterally from the start to the top. If you fall at the bottom, you’ll swing 20 feet, then continue about 15 more feet. I'd tell you to imagine playground equipment, but I think we all know how swinging works. Thirty-five feet is a long way to travel indoors. It could introduce enough slack for you to hit the ground, but even if you don’t, you’ll be a wrecking ball that could hit other walls, people on the ground, or those poor boulderers (or boulder problems) behind you. At best you'll be dangling in space, unable to get back on the wall. Lead or follow steep routes, but don’t toprope them without the draws clipped as directionals.
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