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About a month ago Isaac Kroger was climbing what is arguably the most classic 5.13a in the sport-climbing crucible of Rifle, Colorado: the 50-meter The Eighth Day. The rope-stretching pitch tackles a technical roof before latching on to a striking grey streak to the chains.
Belaying The Eighth Day can be tricky; once at the crux it is impossible to have eyes on your climber lest you stand 15 feet away from the wall. “It’s helpful to be able to see the leader, since the upper 30 meters of climbing are on dead-vertical terrain and the belayer intuitively wants to give a soft catch should the leader fall,” Kroger wrote to Climbing. “The problem is that once the leader is at the crux, which is already 35 meters up the route, there is 1) plenty of rope in the system to get a soft catch and 2) the belayer won’t feel much force from the leader falling, due to all the rope stretch and drag in the system.”
Factor 1 dictates that a jump isn’t necessary to provide a soft catch. “Simply taking a few well-timed steps forward will slow the impact of the leader’s fall adequately,” Kroger said. And, “Because of Factor 2, if the belayer were to jump, they wouldn’t get lifted up as much as they might expect.”
When Kroger fell, his belayer, with the best of intentions, jumped high to soften the catch and was promptly yanked forward—not up like he’d anticipated. “[It was] one of the gnarliest—actually, the only—digger I’ve ever seen a belayer take,” he said. Kroger reports the lawn chair’s arms were torn but, thankfully, “is somewhat still functional.”
Happy Friday, and be safe out there this weekend.