I came across this interesting article (PDF) by The Climbing Wall Assocation on Facebook a few days ago, the thrust of which is that spotting indoors mightn’t be a good idea. And I think they have a good point.
The primary goal of spotting is to protect the falling climber’s head and neck, it’s not to catch them or prevent them hitting the ground. At a properly designed bouldering wall there should be no obstacles to avoid and nothing to hit but the matting.
The article outlines three reasons why spotting is a bad idea:
- Bad spotters. Spotting is tricky and a beginner is unlikely to do it well and may do more hard than good.
- The spotter compresses the matting and makes it less effective.
- The falling climber could get injured if they hit into the spotter.
The article then goes on to outline a few instances in which spotting may be appropiate indoors:
- Foot cams
- Roof climbing
- High heel hooks or hooks on incut holds
- Overhead foot placements
The risk with these moves is that the climber will slip and either land inverted or else their foot will stay in place (in the case of foot cams) potentially causing severe damage.
The article concludes by recommending that climbing walls should focus on teaching boulderers how to fall properly rather than teaching them to spot.
Obviously the outdoor enviroment is completely different and spotting is highly advisable outdoors.