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When bouldering, how do I fall safely?

When working a boulder problem, you should mentally rehearse the movement in your head before your feet leave the floor. Look at the crux moves. Look at the body positioning. Look for awkward top-outs or scary swings. Think about the context in which you could fall, before you do anything else.

And then, as you begin climbing, construct a mental semaphore where you permit yourself to climb higher if and only if certain conditions are met. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you close enough to the ground to not get hurt?
  • If necessary, do you have a spotter? Are they paying attention?
  • Is there sufficient padding underneath you?

If any answer to one of these questions is no, don't attempt the movement unless you're absolutely certain that you won't fall. As you improve as a climber, you will hone an instinct for what sequence of movement you can perform without falling and you can then tackle highball problems and other more dangerous climbs.

In the case that you do fall, the best thing you can do is crumple. Don't try and stick a gymnast's landing. Instead let your body roll, impacting the pads along the length of your body to best distribute the kinetic force.

Injuries while bouldering far outnumber injuries while rope climbing, so be careful. It's certainly not poor style to downclimb the problem (using rainbow holds) after you've reached the top. Falling can be hard on the body — particularly as you get older, so do as little of it as possible.

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