The Lead Test →

How do I avoid putting my foot in front of the rope?


The most common error among lead climbers is failing to position their body or feet in such a way that one of their legs is not clear of the rope in case they fall. Almost every climber makes this mistake at least once. The consequences of falling in this situation can range from no injury at all, to a rope burn, a broken ankle, or a cracked skull.

Preventing this scenario is a matter of visualizing your body's trajectory during a fall as you move up the route. Always, always, always make sure that your feet are not in between the rope and the wall. As you make a foot movement, step around the rope if necessary to correct your body position in relation to the rope. In particular, pay attention to how your heel could hook the rope during a fall.

When climbing traverses you'll often find that a sideways movement either puts your heel perilously close to the wrong side of the rope, or -- if you step over the rope -- the front of your foot is actually tucked into the wrong side entirely. In situations like this, it's best to adjust the rope to run over your hip, so that in case of a fall, your legs clear the rope entirely. This guidance also applies when trad climbing in cracks, where your feet are often jammed mere inches away from the last protection you've placed.

To belayers:

If your climber has made a movement and subsequently downclimbed or has — in some other way — generated too much slack on her end of the rope, be sure to take in the excess so that it doesn't snare their feet. Every situation is different, so use your judgement in considering the appropriate amount of slack to have out.

In cases where the protection is good (such as a gym) but the movement is uncertain, it's always better to take a controlled fall with good body position than risk a wild fall and end up with a concussion.


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