Climbing – Practice How to Fall | 9 Step-Guide that really Works.

Falling practice climbing Guide

The results of my first falling practice were astonishing. I suddenly felt free and could concentrate completely on climbing. It is without a doubt one of the best ways to improve your climbing skills quickly.

What is falling practice?
Falling practice is a controlled, repeated simulation of a climbing fall. Through systematic desensitisation, fear of falling is gradually reduced and both the climber and the belayer refine technique and timing.

Falling practice reduces the risk of injury in climbing.  

How can fear of falling be overcome?

Fear of falling can only be overcome by regular and controlled falling (= falling practice). After 100 successfully controlled falls, you will climb more freely and possibly better than ever before. 

Do what you are afraid of and the death of your fear is certain” Ralph Waldo Emerson

For all those who want to start right away – The 9 steps falling practice: (Detailed description below)

Falling Practice climbing steps
Falling practice Instructions

Fear of falling is irrational (provided all general safety measures are in place).
Like many fears, it springs from our imagination and has nothing to do with real danger.

Overwrite fear 
In order to control this instinct, this fear, we must override the innate programming of fear. And as with any habit you want to change, this can only be done through practice and above all through repetition.

To erase an anxiety, it takes 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Face the fear.
Step 2: Learn that nothing bad happens.
Step 3: Repeat.

This effective method is also used by psychologists in the treatment of phobias (agoraphobia, claustrophobia, arachnophobia …). 

It is very important to plan the falling practice and to proceed in small, easily digestible steps.

Overcoming the fear of falling through falling practice

Falling practice and climbing – The Basics

As soon as you start climbing, you want to focus on the essentials.
Thoughts whether you have tied the knot correctly or the rope is trustworthy need to checked before you start and have no place while climbing.

The following need to be checked in advance of any falling practice.

The equipment must be flawless, and you must trust your gear a 100%. There must be no doubt about the condition of the harness, rope, belay device and quickdraws. 

Partner check: 
The climber and the belayer check thoroughly (look and touch) 

  1. Control of knot (figure eight knot). 
  2. Control climbing harness (buckle).
  3. Control belay device.
  4. Control carabiner (closure screw carabiner)
  5. Check rope end (eight sling). 
Partnercheck-DAV-falling practice
Partner Check (DAV-German Alpine Club)

First check and then release
Carefully analyse the condition of the gear and then let go of any doubt about it. If any doubts should arise during the tour, remember that you have checked the equipment thoroughly. 

Location for falling practice

  • Vertical or slightly overhanging (to ensure a smoother impact) 
  • Trustworthy bolts
  • Silence and focus (no falling practice in crowded climbing centres)
  • As straight a fall as possible without pendulum movement (at least initially).
  • Height of the wall – obviously, do not practice close to the floor.

Ideally, falling practice is carried out under calm and controlled conditions. 

Basically, I recommend falling practice on slightly overhanging walls. But to be prepared for all types of terrain it is important to train falling also on inclined and vertical walls

Falling practice – a complete guide | 9 steps

As we have already heard above, it is important to proceed in small steps. It is crucial for success that the falling person is not overwhelmed. Under certain circumstances this can even have a negative effect on the fear of falling. 

  • Small steps to success
    Falling practice is designed from easy – difficult. Basically, the fall height is increased in mini-steps.
  • Falling practice – a lifelong journey
    Falling practice is nothing you can do quickly on a weekend; it is rather a constant companion on your climbing-journey. With the goal to reach your personal “full potential”. 
  • Regular falls
    To climb completely freely, you need many falls (several hundreds) and even then, regular falls are essential. Falling practice is often tedious and takes time, but if done properly, there is hardly a more effective way to improve quickly and enjoy the sport even more.

Please note: To avoid hitting the floor, falling practice is never done near the ground.

The first step is to fall in top rope. 

1. Top rope falls

Falling practice climbing toprope
Falling in “Top rope” is easy and safe.

Top rope falls” are the first and easiest step of falling practice.
It is suitable for beginners, inexperienced and anxious people, but also for the long-time climber who wants to regain some confidence. 

First falling experiences
Beginners gain their first falling experiences and learn to trust the equipment and the belayer. In addition the basic movement patterns for absorbing a lead fall are learned.

TOP ROPE – 3 step-falling practice

Step 1: Sit
The climber merely sits down in the top rope situation. Here the climber can push himself off the wall and train gentle absorbing of the impact. 

Step 2: Increase the height of the fall.
Climb up a little higher (the belayer does not pull in slack) and practice first falls. The fall is completely unproblematic and can be repeated several times – slowly increase the fall. 

Step 3: Pendulum fall
The climber jumps slightly left or right of the anchor into the rope. This results in a pendulum movement, which is quite common especially on natural rock faces.

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climbing falling practice lead
There is no real danger – because of the heavily overhanging wall.

The fall during a lead climb differs from top rope falls.
The anchor point is located under the climber and thus the intensity of the impact against the wall increases considerably.

Belaying a lead climb is also much more demanding and requires exact technique and timing. 

Falling practice is equally important for the belayer as it is for the person falling. 

A prerequisite for falling practice is a flawless dynamic belaying technique (especially in longer falls).

Basic principles: small steps, don’t overwhelm and ensure to practice regularly.

LEAD CLIMBING | 6 step – falling practice

  • Go through the individual steps until you reach your current limit.
  • Practice each point until you have mastered it and then move on to the next point.

At the end of the 9 steps program you will not only enjoy climbing more, but also be more relaxed and better climbers.

Drop without warning

From now on it is all about letting go without warning and without consulting your rope partner. This point is essential and must not be ignored.

No hesitation, no eye contact, no calling out.
Just let go. Grow beyond yourself, strengthen courage and confidence in your abilities and those of your rope partner. You can do it!

It is important to fall without announcement to simulate a realistic fall. This is the only way you can effectively overcome your fear of falling.  

1. Clip and Fall.
Climb up to the quickdraw, clip the rope in and fall. Start at about the third quickdraw and work your way up the whole route from quickdraw to quickdraw. Just clip and fall. This exercise is perfect for warm up routes.

2. Quickdraw at waist level
Climb until the quckdraw is directly in front of your waist – and let go.
Increase the height in small steps.

3. Quickdraw at knee level and – drop.

4. Quickdraw at foot level and – drop.

Repeat every single point until you feel comfortable and no longer feel any fear.

5. Pendulum falls.
Leave the straight path (offset left/right approx. 1m), consciously expose yourself to a pendulum fall and learn to compensate for it.

6. Falling on command.
As soon as your rope partner gives the command, you let go immediately. It is about letting go abruptly, no matter what position you are in.

The belayer must not abuse the climber’s trust with “mean” commands in difficult situations.

Do not go one step further until you have completely mastered the current step. Completely mastered means that the current step no longer challenges you and that falling out of the situation is boring.

Falling Practice climbing steps
Falling practice instructions – fear of falling

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4 Tips for the falling person

Challenge yes – but do not overwhelm yourself! 
To lose the fear of falling, you have to convince yourself that it is safe to fall and that your fear of falling is unfounded.

Repeating positive experiences
This requires repeated positive falling experiences. Every successful fall strengthens your confidence and gives you more confidence. 

It is unlikely that you will lose your fear of falling in one day, although even a single falling practice sessions can work wonders. If you regularly add 3 falls to your climbing routine, you might collect up to 20 falls in one day.

Before each fall breathe deeply for 3 times and let go on top the third exhalation. Continue to exhale throughout the fall and impact. Make it a routine and it will help you to initiate the fall.

Timing and technique – falling practice

Keep your hands ready to cushion the impact against the wall. 

Keep your hands away from the rope, it can form loops and cause injury.

falling practic lead climbing
Unfortunately, not an ideal fall position (hands off the rope!).

Let yourself fall out of the wall. 
Especially in overhanging terrain it is not necessary to actively jump away from the wall. Unnecessary jumping off the wall leads to a pendulum movement which increases the force of the impact.

Body tension. 
Tense your core and prepare to cushion the impact with your legs. 

Screen the area of impact
During a fall everything happens incredibly fast, but still try to keep track of where you are. Screen the area of impact for possible obstacles.

Breathe in deeply 3 times and initiate the fall with a strong exhalation. 

The rope must not end up behind the foot or thigh. 
Otherwise there is the possibility of falling down headfirst. The risk of injury increases considerably.

Note: Keep the rope always in front of the body – ideally between the legs.

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Falling practice – Tips for the belayer

Falling practice is teamwork 
Support and motivate the climber where you can. Falling practice requires a lot of patience and attention, especially from the belayer.  

Use Sturdy shoes

If you fall in the climbing gym (normally with the rope leading straight up to the climber), considerable forces are exerted onto the belayer.

You will be pulled towards the wall and upwards.

Anyone who belays barefoot or in flip-flops can easily injure themselves. 

belay falling practice climbing
Better to belay with good shoes.

Use assisted braking devices

Assisted belay devices are best suited for sport climbing routes. My personal favourite is the PetzlGriGri.
As with any device, it needs to be learned and practiced. Once you get used to it, it is suitable for beginners and professionals alike.

Petzl – GriGri*

Each device requires thorough training to minimize possible sources of error.

Master “Dynamic belay technique”

Dynamic belaying should not be considered a nice option, but the standard. Below you will find an excellent instructional video for “dynamic belaying”.

Unclip the first quickdraw

It is easier and less dangerous for the person belaying if the first quickdraw is unclipped.

The forces resulting from the fall can pull the belayer up to the first quickdraw. This can lead to unnecessary injuries or, in the worst case scenario, a malfunction of the belay device. 

Use Prism glasses

These glasses are equipped with mirrors and allow constant eye contact with the climber – without having to strain your neck.
After a few days of climbing you will get used to the mirrored glasses (best to practice while top rope climbing). Here is the model I use myself – works perfekt.

belay glasses climbing
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4 more tips – falling practice when climbing 

1. Climb until you fall off the wall. 

Now that you are no longer controlled by the fear of falling you can climb till you literally fall off the wall. It‘s a shortcut to improve your climbing.

2. Fall consciously 

You will profit the most if you consciously perceive every fall.

Falling with open eyes
Notice exactly what is happening, keep your eyes open, breathe and feel how gravity pulls you down.
Uncertainty produces fear. Being aware of all the details leaves no room for uncertainty and allows your mind to learn faster.

3. Make falling practice a part of your warm-up routine. 

Include 2-3 controlled falls in each warm-up.
Falling is a skill which is improved and strengthened through repetition. Fall a lot and turn a weakness into a strength. 

4. Clip the anchor point and fall from there. 

Get used to falling right after you have clipped the anchor (even before your rope partner has pulled in the slack). This way you will have a little falling practice with every route you complete.

Fear of falling, the chance for growth

Everyone is afraid of falling. Absolutely everyone.

It is an instinct that is innate to us and has contributed to the survival of mankind, because “actually” vertical cliffs do not belong to the natural habitats of homosapiens.

Actually not… if it weren’t for the climbers who voluntarily expose themselves to this environment and consciously confront their fears. 

Fear begins in the head – so does courage. 

The conscious confrontation with fears enables us to overcome these very fears. During falling practice, we deliberately create situations in which we feel fear. Decide not to run away from it but to turn towards it, look it in the eyes and face your fear.

More about fear of falling – can be found in our article “Climbing – How to get rid of the fear of falling? Overcome your fear of falling today.” In this article, we will explore the fear of falling even deeper.

how to get rid of the fear of falling
Fear of falling & How to get rid of it.

Strengthen self-confidence
To face one’s fears is a truly heroic act whose effects go far beyond climbing. All those who have the courage to let go and fall are strengthened and rewarded with confidence in their own strength.

Further questions – Climbing falling practice

How long does falling practice take?
Falling practice is an ongoing process that lasts a lifetime of climbing. Falling will always be a part of climbing and therefore it is best to get used to it from the beginning. After 100-200 controlled falls, the fear of falling will be noticeably and continuously less.