How To Belay From Above

Knowing how to belay from above is a key part of becoming qualified to undertake multi-pitch climbs. Until you can multi-pitch, you’re restricted to climbs no higher than half the length of your rope, which is about 150 feet. For the most part, a top belay is the same as a bottom belay. You just need to take more care with your anchors and your partner communication.

  1. Anchor yourself for the top belay by clipping on to at least two rock anchors, either set by you or drilled into the rock itself.
  2. Confirm that your climbing partner is securely anchored below. Because the person you belay may be several hundred feet below and out of sight, this step sometimes takes some effort.
  3. Grip your belay rope near where you’ve tied it to your climbing harness. Fold it in half.
  4. Slip the folded rope, called a “bight”, through the hole in your belay device. Loop it through your carabineer. Clip and lock your carabineer.
  5. Feed your rope through the belay device, moving the slack towards the end of the rope tied to your harness.
  6. Communicate to your belay partner that you are ready to belay.
  7. Pay slack through your belay device as your partner climbs towards you.
  8. Listen to your partner and feel the rope for tension and movement. During a top belay, your partner will be out of sight more often than from a bottom belay.
  9. Keep an eye on your anchors as you belay to confirm that they remain solid. If possible, put most of your weight on the rock face.
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