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Weekend Whipper: Here’s Why You Belay Close to the Cliff

We hate to lay blame. But it couldn't have hurt...

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Readers, please send your Weekend Whipper videos, information, and any lessons learned to Anthony Walsh, awalsh@outsideinc.com.

In the ever-growing tome of trad climbing, “Thy’s first piece must be multi-directional” is surely in the opening chapter.

“Multi-directional,” for reference, relates to a cam or nut’s ability to hold fast in, you guessed it, multiple directions. Down is the most common, but lateral forces are easily introduced on traverses, upward forces on an anchor during multi-pitch whippers, and outward (the highlight of this video) when a belayer is standing too far away from the cliff.

The moving components of a cam make it the ideal candidate for placements where you’ll anticipate multiple directions of pull. (Consecutive nut placements, as our Weekend Whipper has previously shown, can easily “zipper” out in quick succession.) But, as Adam Taylor found out, even his two cams were no match for a distant belayer.

Taylor was midway through the crux of Marionette (5.11c), at Bridge Buttress in the New River Gorge, when this video picks up. His right foot is smeared, his left jacked up into the crack, and he throws to a jug—but doesn’t quite latch it. “I had a newer belayer at the other end who was standing pretty far back from the wall which is why I believe my first two pieces zipped out,” Taylor told Climbing. “They were BD Z4s, a 0.3 and an offset .3/.4, which were not the best, but may have held without the extra lateral forces applied.”

Taylor ended on the ground, but “very softly and without injury,” he said. He later found a more solid 0.4-cam placement, which used up part of his hold, but “did not make it too much harder.” With better gear and (we hope) a more attentive belay, Taylor returned the next day to redpoint the pitch.

Happy Friday, and be safe out there this weekend.

Weekend Whipper: First-time Trad Leader Pulls 3 (out of 4) Pieces