A fall of 30 feet is significantly more serious if it takes place with 15 feet of rope out after the climber has placed no protection and falls past the belayer, than if it occurs 100 feet above the belayer (a fall factor of 1.15), in which case the dynamic stretch of the rope more effectively cushions the fall.
A factor 2 fall is very bad. Indeed, it is actually possible that an anchor may fail in the event of such a fall. As such, it is imperative that climbers place gear immediately after they start to climb as they leave a belay station. This will limit the possibility of a bad fall.
In the following video a climber is approximately twenty-five feet out from his belayer. He falls eight feet above his last piece of pro. With rope stretch and slippage he actually falls approximately twenty feet. That piece of pro eight feet below makes his rather large fall totally acceptable with a fall factor of 1.32.
If you are interested in finding out what kind of fall factors you've sustained or might have come close to sustaining, an online fall factor calculator may be found here.
After a breakdown of fall factors such as this, some people will still be confused. So the question must be asked, what are the main points that you should take away from this? They're actually quite simple:
- Always put in a piece immediately after you climb away from the anchor. This will protect your anchor from sustaining a factor 2 fall.
- This should be an obvious one. Always use a dynamic rope that is in good shape.
--Jason D. Martin
There are two problems with this post that were pointed out in the comments below. First, my math is a bit off in the last paragraph above the video. And second, the online fall factor calculator doesn't appear to be working properly. Not surprisingly, I used the faulty calculator to come up with my number. The actual fall factor would be 0.8.
Special thanks to the two anonymous commentators who pointed these things out.