For no-fall zones, you weigh how much strength you have left compared to how much strength and skill it will take to climb and not fall. You usually climb more slowly, stay on routes below your technical limit, and you do listen to your mind if it tells you to stop. For yes-fall zones, you weight the fall consequences against your experience taking such falls. You climb more quickly, get on routes at or above your technical limit, and you don’t listen to your mind if it tells you to stop (figure 3-3).
When you’re at a mini decision point (a stance with protection), determine whether the next section is a no- or yes-fall risk. What is the DAO of the fall? How much actual experience do you have taking such falls? If you determine it to be a yes-fall zone, then when you commit, you don’t listen to the doubts in your mind. You’ll commit with the intention to “make the next move” regardless of what your mind tells you. Conversely, if you determine it to be a no-fall zone, then you’ll commit with a different intention. You do listen to the doubts in your mind and retreat if necessary.
You may be at a mini decision point where you have protection and see the next possibility for pro 20 feet higher. Your mind, noting the runout and your pump, may label the situation no-fall, convincing you to retreat. A no-fall label may be accurate, but recognize your mind’s tendency to think in all-or-nothing ways. Recall in the Awareness chapter we discussed “finding little ways to engage.” One such way is to probe into situations that initially seem to be no-fall. You may identify a micro decision point 10 feet into the runout. Climbing to that point could still keep you within a yes-fall zone. By probing you allow the engagement of your body to clarify your mind’s conception. You may engage with the option to down-climb again. Doing this allows you to learn initial sequences and how strenuous it is to do them. For no-fall zones, you’ll engage with the intention to “probe, stay in control, and be ready to down-climb if necessary.”

figure 3-3For no-fall zones, you weigh how much strength you have left compared to how much strength and skill it will take to climb and not fall. You usually climb more slowly, stay on routes below your technical limit, and you do listen to your mind if it tells you to stop. For yes-fall zones, you weight the fall consequences against your experience taking such falls. You climb more quickly, get on routes at or above your technical limit, and you don’t listen to your mind if it tells you to stop (figure 3-3).

When you’re at a mini decision point (a stance with protection), determine whether the next section is a no- or yes-fall risk. What is the DAO of the fall? How much actual experience do you have taking such falls? If you determine it to be a yes-fall zone, then when you commit, you don’t listen to the doubts in your mind. You’ll commit with the intention to “make the next move” regardless of what your mind tells you. Conversely, if you determine it to be a no-fall zone, then you’ll commit with a different intention. You do listen to the doubts in your mind and retreat if necessary.

You may be at a mini decision point where you have protection and see the next possibility for pro 20 feet higher. Your mind, noting the runout and your pump, may label the situation no-fall, convincing you to retreat. A no-fall label may be accurate, but recognize your mind’s tendency to think in all-or-nothing ways. Recall in The Awareness Process (TAP) we discussed “finding little ways to engage.” One such way is to probe into situations that initially seem to be no-fall. You may identify a micro decision point 10 feet into the runout. Climbing to that point could still keep you within a yes-fall zone. By probing you allow the engagement of your body to clarify your mind’s conception. You may engage with the option to down-climb again. Doing this allows you to learn initial sequences and how strenuous it is to do them. For no-fall zones, you’ll engage with the intention to “probe, stay in control, and be ready to down-climb if necessary.”

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Greetings Arno, I read this post w/great interest. As I am a new climber, less than a year, I have very little experience w/falling other than a big trad fall I took about a month ago which I wrote about. This last week I had my first opportunity to climb w/out the presence of an “expert” or mentor. My buddy who lives in a different state w/the same level of experience, was my partner. The background is to contrast and try to gain some understanding of the no fall/yes fall question. My falling experience is rather skewed, some minor psudo falls sport climbing and my big fall I shared previously. His is limited, no big falls and admitting that had he made a fall like the one I took he probably would have quit climbing altogether. He was reluctant to do any leads, lots of “I’ll fall and get hurt” or “I can’t” mind chatter. Which I could see he was defeating himself before he even got on to the wall. I did 3 including a new personal best of a 5.8 lead. I was aware of the possibility of a fall, on one climb there was a ledge that created a fall hazard other than the ground, but my committed self said, “I can do this.” in spite of any chatter to the contrary. So I went on and had a very affirming and exhilerating experience. So I guess I’m just trying to gain some understanding; are we kind of skewed in opposite directions? Me, having survived what some might find a frightening fall him never having any real falls at all. Am I being to trusting or cavalier in my attitude? It doesn’t feel like it. I have anxiety and “mind chatter” as I go. I just manage it or myself w/committed and focused action… At least that’s what I tell myself…:) I realize this is a long post and may be to esoteric or personal to be useful to the blog so feel free to edit as you see fit. Thanks! Dennis

    1. Hi Dennis, to answer your questions consider how much falling experience you and your partner have. Knowing that will help determine what is a no- or yes-fall. Arno

  2. An ındıvıduals make up and experıence determınes who they are. It ısn´´t just clımbıng that contrıbutes to thıs. We can be naturally bıg or small, red or dark-haıred and bold or tımıd. Thıs combınes wıth our past experıences (eg havıng taken a few bıg falls wıth no negatıve experıences versus seeıng someone hurt).

    These experıences dont just relate to clımbıng. If for example your parents always told you to keep back from the edge you mıght have a dıfferent outlook from someone who has had a less cautıous upbrıngıng.

    The ımportant thıng ıs just as the artıcle says to be able to dıfferentıate between fall and no fall sıtuatıons and know when to stıll the ınner voıce and when to lısten up.

    Clımb attentıvely

    All the best John

    1. Hi John, Thanks for your post. Yes, being able to make that differentiation is important. Making it has to be based on what is personal to each of our experience level. Arno

  3. Identifyng “Yes-fall” zones or routes in climbing has helped me become a much better climber. I’ve jumped up an entire grade because I am now able to clear my mind of distractions in stressful situations. I actually began applying this concept at work. If things got stressful and I started worrying about my performance, I would ask myself whether I was in a Yes-fall or No-fall situation. Often times, the answer was Yes-fall — I could make small mistakes and still be okay, while in the process learning what I needed to succeed in the future.

    Thanks again, Arno, for shifting my paradigm and helping me regain confidence.

  4. Hi RJ, Nice bridging example of how this material can be applied to non-climbing situations. Arno

  5. Hi Arno! So I was wondering if I have relatively little experience falling on lead outdoors or indoors, and therefore little experiential knowledge of falling while on lead what would be the best way to judge yes and no fall zones? And also what would be the best way to star getting experiential knowledge of falling while learning how to properly take a fall? I ask this because I know my lack of experience with falls contributes to my fear of falling because it is largely outside my comfort zone and I simply don’t know what to expect. Thanks -Dallas

    1. Hi Dallas, Thanks for your comments and questions.
      ww assesses yes/no fall zones based on experiential knowledge with falling. So, if you have “little experiential knowledge” of falling then almost all lead climbing you do should be considered no-fall. You go on lead with the mental approach of: Pace myself well, don’t fall, probe as needed, downclimb as needed, but climb with the intention of staying in control and not falling, backing off if necessary.
      Espresso Lessons outlines how to practice falling in small increments so you take on a little stress, stretching you out of your comfort zone a little, and building on that small experience with another small experience. Basically, short toprope falls, longer toprope falls, and then incremental lead falls.
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