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In climbing gyms, you are protected by auto belay systems. The automatic or semi-automatic belaying device ensures that you do not fall and injure yourself.
But what happens if you do not meet the standard? Can you still climb safely with a few pounds too many? But underweight should not be ignored either.
For the upper weight limit for auto belay systems, experts recommend a maximum weight of about 265 pounds or 120 kilograms and a minimum weight of 22 pounds or 10 kilograms.
Below you will find all the important information about the weight limit for an automatic belay system in climbing gyms.
Your Own Weight is Hardly a Problem
Many overweight persons would like to climb. But is that even possible with overweight? In principle, climbing is even recommended for overweight people:
- Climbing protects the joints
- Weight is cushioned and reduced
- Muscles are built up
- Your general fitness is improved
- Especially the knee joints are relieved
However, the overweight should be kept within limits. Extremely overweight people cannot climb and must generally exercise under medical supervision.
Related article: Am I too heavy to climb? Do I weigh too much?
Climbing is also recommended for underweight people. You just have to be able to guarantee that you have enough strength. So you can see that your own weight is the least of your problems.
Differences in Weight Between Climber and Belayer
You know the situation yourself: Hardly anyone goes into a gym and looks for a climbing partner. Usually, you go climbing with friends or relatives.
But this is where the problems usually start. The difference in weight between the climbing partners is too great.
This situation can cause serious problems with an auto belay:
- In the event of a fall, the fall path is extended
- The risk of falling to the ground increases
- Risk of injury from contact with the wall
- Danger of the so-called rushing through
So you can minimize the danger if you climb with partners of equal weight. A small difference is allowed. Experts recommend that the following rule should be followed:
The climber should not weigh more than 1.3 times as much as the climber to be secured.
But there is also a belay device that allows you to climb with a greater weight difference: The Edelrid Ohm belay device*.
In this article you will learn all about it: Heavy climbers belaying: technique + special equipment
Different Belay Devices
Many consider the maximum of 1.3 times this amount to be excessive. Professional climbers in particular still see room for maneuver here. They claim that especially for experienced climbers a weight difference of 1.5 times as much does not cause problems.
This has led to great discussions and so experts have been arguing for years about the maximum limit in climbing gyms. All this is done with the consideration that there is hardly any friction and with a semi-automatic machine. But here, there can only be a definite clarification if one compares a semi-automatic machine with a dynamic safety device.
In principle, experts recommend a dynamic belay device for securing in the gym. This can minimize the risk of falling. This is especially true if the climber is heavier than the belayer. The biggest difference here is the braking force.
As a rule, the braking force is increased if a semi-automatic brake is used for belaying. But is that enough? No! You also know this situation: Sometimes you use too much rope or despite all your efforts the distance to the wall is too big. Such unintentional belaying faults are independent of the device and therefore cannot prevent a fall to the ground.
In addition, a semi-automatic machine blocks immediately. This is also done without the rope passing through. This can cause further problems. This procedure directly blocks the brake. If a fall occurs, then all the energy of the fall is transferred to the belayer alone.
Related article: How to choose a belay device: Guide & Best of
Simulated Belaying Situations
Experts have conducted some tests and simulated climbing situations. The fall heights and consequently the attachment of the quickdraws also varied. Another difference was the size of the rope. The test results were as varied as the conditions. However, the experts agreed on one thing:
The lower the gym and thus the height of the first quickdraw, the fewer securing possibilities remain.
As a rule, all gyms have sufficient height. However, it should always be ensured that the safety device stops at a height of 8 feet. This is the only way to guarantee optimum securing for any weight.
You have to be particularly careful if the belaying devices only stop at the first quickdraw. You can certainly imagine that the belay device is then possibly pulled into the quickdraw. Depending on body weight, the power here can be enormous. In the worst case, even the blocking function is overridden. In this case, serious injury to the hands may occur.
The Optimal Weight Difference
Experts have analyzed the individual test results and contributed their own experience. They came to the following recommendations if you climb without a special belay device like the Edelrid Ohm* and without much experience in belaying:
- If the climber weighs up to 11 pounds or 5 kilograms less than the belayer, we advise against climbing.
- If the climber weighs more than 11 pounds or 5 kilograms less than the belayer, the climb can be made if soft belaying is used.
- If the climber weighs up to 22 pounds or 10 kilograms more than the belayer, then the belayer should be trained and have climbing experience.
- If the climber weighs more than 22 pounds or 10 kilograms more than the belayer, we advise against climbing.
The optimal weight difference is when the climber weighs a maximum of 11 pounds or 5 kilograms more than the belayer!
However, experienced belayers can increase these limits by clever cushioning of the fall. So it is also possible to cushion a much lighter climber gently if you jump a little with the fall or give more rope.
The other way around (climber is heavier than belayer) is even easier to manage with the Edelrid Ohm*.
Assessing Dangerous Situations Correctly
Of course, you go climbing with your friends. Sometimes the climbing partnerships just come up and you hardly think about the difference in weight.
But you should do this, because dangerous situations can arise quickly. As a general rule, you should not secure a climber who is more than 22 pounds or 10 kilograms over your bodyweight unless you have sufficient experience or the right equipment*.
Otherwise serious problems may occur. In the event of a crash, you will probably not be able to hold it without additional measures. The danger becomes even greater if you use a thin rope for belaying.
In addition, the climber should also be experienced. He must also be able to press his feet against a wall without any problems. However, this causes problems especially for overweight people, because they are not always so maneuverable.
Therefore, the same applies here again: You must check your climbing shoes regularly because the adhesion to the wall must be secured either way. Worn soles prevent safe climbing!
Climbing with Heavyweight Partners
Do you still have the desire to climb with a heavier partner? Then you are welcome to try it if you are an experienced climber and take additional measures. These measures are essential if you want to climb safely and without danger. These measures could take the following form:
- Artificially increase your own weight
- Pay attention to friction
- Secure yourself
- Use special equipment like the Edelrid Ohm*
Increase Your Weight
You don’t have to put on extra weight. Good climbing gyms offer so-called artificial weight increases for this purpose. These weight increases are usually ballast bags or ballast sacks.
You can easily attach these ballast bags to your rope loop. The bag is equipped with a sling. Make sure that you always apply the extra ballast in the opposite direction of your hand that you use for braking. In addition, the ballast bag should always be placed underneath the karabiner that you use for belaying.
If you follow these measures, you will avoid collision. You should also make sure that the connecting sling does not hang loose. Optimal is when the sling is under a slight tension. In general, the ballast bag should always be placed to the side and rather behind your body.
If this is guaranteed, then you can shorten the rope faster and also return to your original position more quickly.
Dangerous Friction on the Hands
Basically, increasing the ballast prevents serious situations. First and foremost, the extension of the path is blocked in case of a fall. Nevertheless, the pressure on the hand remains enormously high and is approximately equal to the weight of the climber and thus to the additional ballast.
There is a dangerous friction. Therefore, you should not overdo it when putting on the ballast. Extreme differences in weight should therefore not be compensated for.
In principle, experts recommend limiting the ballast to a maximum of 44 pounds or 20 kilograms. In open terrain, the loading of a safe ballast is hardly possible. Here you only have additional protection. Therefore it is advisable that you protect yourself on the rock. A firmly rooted tree is ideal for this.
Do not Underestimate Friction
As soon as you belay with additional ballast, there is no significant friction. The same applies if you do not attach the first or lowest quickdraw at all.
In the open, you automatically prevent friction if you additionally secure yourself against a tree. You can also act on friction in an artificial way.
These artificial measures are especially recommended if you do not have enough strength in your belay hand, for example. Climbing experts also recommend learning certain belay techniques and intensifying them later.
It should become routine. So-called friction boosters are also available in specialist shops. They are attached to the first quickdraw. Clips have another advantage. With the clips, you can fix the rope in one of the neighboring routes and get additional safety. All these measures reduce the effect on the belaying hand enormously.
The climbing sport is gaining more and more fans and so climbing gyms are usually fully booked. It is therefore usually just wishful thinking that neighboring routes can be used for security purposes.
Leaving out the first Quickdraw as the Alternative?
In principle, the quickdraws have already been attached in the climbing gyms and can therefore not be moved. It therefore depends entirely on the height at which the first quickdraw is placed.
Basically, the first quickdraw hangs much lower in the gyms than on the rock. This is because the ceiling height in gyms is limited. Remember that this can shorten the braking distance. So it can happen that you will be pulled up during belaying. In extreme cases even up to the first quickdraw.
In some gyms, the first quickdraws are placed very high despite the limited height. Keep in mind that the person belaying can be pulled up much further. On the other hand, the fall distance is also extended for the climber.
The risk of collision is therefore inevitably increasing. In the worst case, there is even a risk of falling to the ground.
All these tests and safety checks have shown you that there is no ideal weight for climbing.
So it always depends on the difference in weight. In principle, climbing is also recommended for overweight people, as it is easy on the joints. On the other hand, experts recommend a maximum weight of about 265 pounds or 120 kilograms.
In most gyms, only climbers up to this bodyweight are generally allowed. But much more important than your own weight is the ratio of the weight between you and your climbing partner.
In general the difference should not be too big. Although the person making the securing can put on additional ballast and secure himself additionally, problems that occur cannot always be prevented.
Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on climbtheearth.com only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.
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