Logo Jim Frankenfield
jim@mountain-guiding.com; 1-877-604-0166

Mountain Guiding; Mountain Safety
An Experienced Professional

Rope Bar

Guiding Newsletter

June 1998 - Tech Tip Supplement


Fall Factor and Rope Drag

Now that the weather is warming and people are doing more rock climbing it seems a good time to review a few basics of lead climbing. Fall factor and rope drag are important things for a lead climber. Remember that these are brief notes and are not intended to teach lead climbing.

Fall Factor - Fall factor is what determines the amount of force the climber experiences in a fall. Modern climbing ropes are designed to absorb the energy of a fall. The ratio of the distance fallen to the amount of rope out is the fall factor and gives an indication of how well the forces will be absorbed by the rope. When a lead climber has just left the belay and placed no anchors a fall will be factor 2, since they will fall from some distance above the belay to the same distance below it. As the leader places anchors to hold the fall the factor will decrease. This is why it is important to place solid pieces more frequently at the start of a pitch. As the leader progresses it is possible to place anchors less frequently and still keep the fall factor down.

Rope Drag - Another important factor is rope drag. Rather than clipping the rope directly through anchor placements it is usually best to extend the anchor point with a sling or quick-draw. This will keep the climbing rope running in a straighter line and running more smoothly. If the rope develops too much drag it will become difficult or even impossible for the leader to move up or to pull the rope up behind. A couple years ago in Utah there was an unfortunate accident which resulted from this. The leader was bound by rope drag and decided that the end of the pitch was so close that they would unclip from the rope and solo to the top. (Can you identify some options here - near the end of a pitch with too much rope drag to progress?)


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