When your climber is beginning their climb, they’re in “decking range”, or “the ground-fall zone”. Until they are clipped to a bolt high enough above the ground that they cannot hit the ground if they fall, they are in “decking range”. In the next few minutes, we’ll discuss how to give a good lead belay to your climber when in the ground fall zone.
Most of this article will discuss climbing in the ground fall zone when climbing indoors, for several reasons:
- When climbing inside, the first bolts are often quite close to the ground. Outdoors, first bolts are often high enough that once you’re clipped, you’re out of the ground fall zone. (This means you will either need a stick clip, or you’ll be climbing dangerously high unroped to get to it…)
- When climbing indoors, there are situations where it’s OK for the climber to fall and end up standing on the ground. Outside, this is pretty much never the case, so you as the climber/belayer have more flexibility and room to practice what it’s like to catch falls low to the ground indoors.
- Most of us climb most often inside. By speaking just to indoor lead climbers, this guide can apply quite broadly without constant caveats to address how a climber/belayer might address the same situation outdoors.
Disclaimer: All that follows is in the context of INDOOR SPORT CLIMBING. When outside evaluate the landing zone, decide how risky it is to let your climber come anywhere close to the ground. My rule of thumb: if I think I might fall, I’ll stick clip as far as I can up the wall.
First, where is the “ground fall zone”?
Inside, a good rule of thumb is “before the first bolt”.
In the picture below, the climber has for some reason skipped the first bolt. With such a high first bolt, he should not have skipped clipping the first bolt. The climber outweighs the belayer significantly, so we’ll say he was in the ground fall zone until he clipped the 3rd bolt.
In this second picture, the first bolt is much lower to the ground than in the first picture, but because each bolt is so close together, the climber is still out of the ground fall zone when he or she clips the third bolt.
Rules for belaying in the ground fall zone
These rules are the same as in the guide to giving soft catches:
- Stand in the right spot
- Have the right amount of slack out
- React correctly to the fall
Lets unpack each of these: