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Whenever a fictional character has to climb without a rope or the likes he is bound to slip or grab a ledge that breaks off so he will be hanging on one hand. The character will then inevitably look down, take a deep breath and resume climbing. Bonus points if the climber is under attack or has to hurry.

If this occurs in visual media, the camera will follow the falling rocks on their downward path, showing just how far the character would fall.

Related to Plummet Perspective. Contrast Literal Cliffhanger, which is about the hanging in general, while this is about the character almost falling to their death.


Examples:

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     Advertising  

  • One Marine commercial shows a man climbing the side of a mountain, as symbolism of conquering challenges to be the best of the best, and at one point, one of his hands slips, and he hangs for a second before regaining his grip and finishing the climb.

     Anime and Manga  

     Comic Books  

  • In an example of Tropes Are Tools, this was used as a central metaphor in the classic Elektra story from Daredevil, where the monastery of the heroic ninjas is atop a forbidding cliff that only the spiritually pure can climb. Unsurprisingly, Elektra can't quite climb it due to her serious anger issues, and her literal fall foreshadows her later metaphorical fall.
    • Also inverted after Daredevil manages to spiritually purify her, and she's shown having reached the top without any apparent trouble in the final panels of the story.
  • Ordinarily this never happens to Spider-Man for obvious reasons, but it does turn up in stories where he loses one or more of his powers and has to fake it.
  • In the Johan and Peewit book "Le Sortilège de Maltrochu", Johan sneaks out of Maltrochu's castle by climbing down the wall from his window. His feet slip and he finds himself hanging by his fingers, conscious that he won't be able to hold for more than a few seconds, manages to find support for one foot in time.

     Film — Animated  

  • Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie: Seen near the end of the film, while Ryu is free climbing in the mountains of Cambodia. A foothold crumbles beneath his weight, but he saves himself by quickly grabbing onto a spur of rock overhead.
  • The Castle of Cagliostro: Lupin has a close call of his own, while scaling the rooftops of the Count's castle in order to reach Clarisse, who was being held captive in the castle's tower. He uses his zipline to secure himself and scale the remaining distance, once the angle becomes too steep.
  • Trying to reach a second story window, Francis from Felidae has to climb a tree. Since it's snowing in that scene, he slips on the bark and nearly falls, but he keeps climbing.

     Film — Live Action  

  • This happens in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Kirk is rock climbing, and the trope happens as described. Spock shows up and casually chats Kirk up because Spock is wearing anti gravity boots.
  • Mission: Impossible II: Happens to Ethan Hunt whilst on holiday free soloing - rock climbing without ropes - in Utah.
  • This happens in The Lord of the Rings movies when Frodo and Sam are following Gollum to Shelob's lair.
  • This, one of the posters for the Sylvester Stallone film Cliffhanger.
  • At the climax of the Bond film For Your Eyes Only, though that version did involve a rope. In this case a guard has seen the rope and is hammering out the pitons so Bond will fall to his death. Despite falling as each piton goes, Bond climbs high enough to kill the guard Just in Time.
  • The Guns of Navarone. To infiltrate the German-occupied island of Navarone, the commandoes have to climb in the cliffs in the rain, at night. At one point the expedition leader Mallory slips and is caught by Andrea. The only problem is Andrea has a vendetta against Mallory and has stated he's going to kill him. The two exchange a long look...and Andrea pulls him to safety.

     Literature  

  • In Dragons of Autumn Twilight, this happens to Goldmoon, who's terribly afraid of heights, when she needs to climb down a vine-encrusted cliff.
  • A Clash of Kings, the second book of A Song of Ice and Fire, has this happening to Jon, in one of his chapters.

     Live Action TV  

  • Sheppard does this in the Stargate Atlantis episode "Quarantine", while he's climbing the exterior of one of Atlantis's towers, trying to get to the control center to lift the quarantine.

     Video Games  

  • This happens in the N-Gon Mountains level in Geometry Blaster each time you get a problem wrong.
  • In Far Cry 3, this happens nearly every time Jason has to jump to continue exploring, such as when jumping in the radio towers.
  • During the Mulan world in Kingdom Hearts II, the party climbs one of the nearby columns to enter the Emperor's palace. Mulan then slips down, but regains her hold and continues to climb.

     Western Animation  

  • The Simpsons: Homer does it as he climbs to the top of what he hopes to be the worlds tallest human pyramid.
  • Repeatedly happens in various episodes of Inspector Gadget, most notably in the opening sequence of "The Coo-Coo Clock Caper."
  • The Ellipse-Nelvana animated version of Tintin in America added this to a scene that had averted it in the book. Made more egregious by Tintin outright pulling himself up using only his arms to climb back on the platform.
  • During the Bravestarr episode Legend of a Pretty Lady, Judge J. B. Mc Bride is moving along a cliff edge when part of the cliff breaks away and causes her to fall. She manages to hang on, however, and climbs back up.


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