What's the best method for catching a leader fall on a multipitch route? Specifically when you're using a gear anchor.
—Sam, via Ask the Master forum
Catching a fall on a multipitch route is not that different from catching a fall on a single-pitch route, but here are a few considerations.
Practice. The best place to learn how to catch a leader fall isn't eight pitches up a route. If you haven't caught a lot of leader falls,
you'll need to first practice in a safe environment before heading up a multipitch climb. Find a safe sport crag or gym and start to get a feel for
how much force a person generates in a fall. Practice with different sized partners and at varying heights above the ground. This will help you gauge
when a fall might pull you into the anchor and when you might want to take some preventative steps. Be careful. Learning this important skill is dangerous
if executed poorly. A good coach or mentor is highly recommended.
Build strong anchors. Learn how to build solid, multi-piece anchors that can handle multiple directions of pull.
Place gear early and often. Once you move on to catching falls on multipitch routes you want to make sure the leader is
placing gear early and often. This is not only a good way to keep the leader safe, but it also limits the potential impact on the belayer. Keeping
the falls shorter near the bottom of the pitch limits the amount of force that gets transferred to the belayer and minimizes the potential of the belayer
pulling upward on the belay anchor.
Protect the belay. If you cannot protect the pitch adequately or your leader outweighs you by a considerable amount you will have
to take other steps to "protect the belay" from an upward pull. One obvious step to protect the belay is to put an upward directional in the belay
to hold down the main pieces. Other methods include extending your cove hitch tie-in so you are farther away from the belay. This not only gives you
more room to absorb the fall, but it also gives the leader the option to clip the belay with more rope in the system, providing a softer catch if the
leader falls before getting in his or her first piece.
[Read: Should You Clip the Belay As Your First Lead Pro?]
More options. On tricky pitches when I'm working with two climbers, I sometimes tether the belayer to the other climber. The second
climber acts as a bit of a sandbag and helps keep the belayer in position. Finally, the direct anchor belay is getting more popular these days. It's
best used on bolts or ice screws, but something worth researching if you want to know more about techniques for catching falls on multi-pitch routes.
Got a question about climbing? Submit your question in the Ask the Master forum and either Jeff Ward (AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide) or Martin Volken (IFMGA Mountain Guide) will supply the answer.