How To Belay When Rock Climbing

Do you want to know how to belay when rock climbing? Either top roping or lead climbing, the role of the belayer is crucial to provide safety to the climber in the event of a fall. A climbing team is composed by a climber and a belayer, that may switch roles. Depending on the characteristics of each team, the belayer may also provide some kind of advice to the climber regarding the route, but his main role is to provide safety and pay attention to the climber´s needs.

What you need to belay when rock climbing is:

  • A climbing rope.
  • A climber and a belayer, each with his harness.
  • A locking carabiner.
  • A belay device.
  • An anchor.
  1. Both team members should have their harnesses. They need to be properly put and fastened before starting.
  2. Choose and adopt a communication code that covers the main maneuvers during a climb. Short and distinguishable sounds such as "slack", "tight", "hang", "down" and "up" must be agreed before starting a climb. The etiquette varies with each team, but a guide can be found in the book "Mountaineering."
  3. The belayer must always stand at the bottom of the route, close to the straight downward line from the anchor. More importantly, though, is that the belayer stands clear of falling rock. So keeping a clear visual of the climber is only second to protecting himself.
  4. Keep your eyes on the climber and your hands on the rope. At all times, the belayer must pay attention at how the rope runs, because the rope getting stuck might be problematic for the climber. In such case, the belayer must try to solve the problem by himself, and only when not able, tell the climber to help him freeing the rope.
  5. Double check the climber´s hardware setting before he starts a climb. In any case, both team members are responsible for each other´s safety.
  6. Keep the unused rope coil to your strong hand´s side. Placing the rope on a protective surface is always good to prevent dust and water from damaging the rope. But the coil must always be ready for use, without excessive twists or loops.
  7. Maintain the rope with adequate tension. Depending on the climber´s preference and the route characteristics, more or less rope slack will be necessary. Always hear what the climber needs, and follow all reasonable instructions.
  8. When the climber is leading, pay special attention to the anchors. Even though the belayer is further from the anchors than the climber is, sometimes because of the perspective the later is able to see a flaw or a problem with the anchor. In such case, the belayer must tell the climber to reset the anchor.
  9. After the climber has made the top of the climb, wait for his signal to lower him. Sometimes the climber will need a couple of minutes to rest after a challenging climb. Let him rest and wait for him to tell you when he wants to be lowered.
  10. When lowering a climber, do it smoothly. Sudden drops are not only uncomfortable, but also unsafe as they load the system unnecessarily. So always lower the climber slowly and steadily.

Wear a helmet when belaying. The belayer is exposed to falling rock, and if he faints, the climber will be left alone up the wall.



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