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Weekend Whipper: 5.14 Multi-pitch Never Looked So Uncomfortable

How do you belay “correctly” on a big free route? Well, it's complicated, but this whipper provides several solid tips.

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

How do you belay “correctly” on a big free route? That’s the question that Nina Caprez, an ace big-wall free climber from Switzerland, recently posed to her social following. Do you become gripped from the exposure and provide the shortest fall possible—no matter the landing zone? Do you belay directly off of the anchor to minimize the risk of factor-two falls?

In July 2020, Caprez joined Cédric Lachat on one of the hardest multi pitches in the Alps, WOGÜ (8c/5.14b; 820 feet), in Switzerland’s Rätikon. “The video illustrates perfectly how tricky it can be belaying while being on a wall,” Caprez wrote to Climbing. We choose our way of belaying for different reasons and the catches were super soft, for climber and belayer, even if the videos do look a little brutal.”

The whipper in question, a rising traverse above a gentle slab, was ripe for an ankle-twisting fall. The solution? Make the fall as soft as possible. Caprez said she did three things to ensure safe, soft catches: always wear belay gloves; use a clove hitch to extend herself from the anchor by two meters to provide a dynamic, sport-style belay; and belay with an assisted-breaking device (Caprez used a Grigri) for added security when (inevitably) slamming into the belay.

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One concern, which Caprez readily acknowledged, is the Grigri’s brake “unlocking” when jammed against the first quickdraw, causing the climber to take a potentially catastrophic fall. However, on the steep, sheer terrain of WOGÜ, Caprez said her body’s weight and dynamic rope are preventing such an outcome.

Lachat went on to make the fourth free ascent of WOGÜ in just four hours, and the filmmaker Guillaume Broust created two excellent short films about the area. You can watch Swissway to Heaven and WOGÜ for free on Youtube.

Happy Friday, and be safe out there this weekend. To watch the full library of Weekend Whippers, click here.

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