In a dark red cave, thirty feet above the belay, the polished walls and darkness above told me I was off route.
Down climbing is an essential skill to have as a climber. It can get you out of a jam, or allow you to “save” the onsight. I’ve trained for (or been force to use) downclimbing off and on since I began climbing, here are a few tips I’ve gathered…
Above is a display of suspiciously good downclimbing skillz. As an added bonus, I’ve included a clip from my recent trip to Yosemite.
1. If you’re training in the gym, don’t use an auto belay. They support too much of your weight while downclimbing. Have you’re belayer feed out chunks of slack at a time, so you aren’t supported by the rope.
2. Seeing you’re feet may be one of the hardest parts of downclimbing. If the holds allow (read positive), push your upper body away from the wall to look at your feet. If not, a stomach slide & prayer usually find a good foot.
3. Train your opposing (pushing) muscle groups. Tricep dips are good.
4. You may try to down climb to avoid leaving gear while bailing from a route (picture down “leading”). If you do this, remember the second climber is more at risk for injury, and take caution removing pro, just like when traversing.