‘Seconding’ is the term commonly used to describe a climber who ‘follows’ a lead climber. Typically, this means that the rope is above the ‘seconds’ head, and with attentive belaying a climber ‘seconding’ a straight pitch shouldn’t travel any significant distance.* This is only the case if a climb or ‘pitch’ is straight (up) and involves no traversing.
On climbs with long traverses or girdle traverses, the prospect of a fall for a ‘second’ could involve a swing or pendulum meaning that it could be as serious to climb it ‘leading’ or ‘seconding’. Climbs with big traverses require forethought and skill from the ‘leader’ to protect both themselves and their partner or ‘second’ to prevent large and potentially damaging swings.
The skills outlined below (not exhaustive) are what we recognise as the basics for becoming a competent second:
*Climbers typically use ‘dynamic’ ropes, so in the event of a fall, there is some stretch in the rope to absorb high or excessive impact loads. In reality, this means that if a ‘second’ falls, they will also cause the rope to stretch and travel down anything from a few inches to a couple of feet depending on the characteristics of the rope (diameter; shock absorbency, etc.), as well as the amount of rope out from the belay and the climber’s weight.