How To Use A Climbing Belay
Do you want to know how to use a climbing belay? A belay is the safest way to assure that a climber will take the least out of a fall, in case that happens. Even though using a belay does not guarantee that the climber will be unharmed, it offers a good way for the belayer to hold the climber as high as possible.
What you need to use a climbing belay is:
- A climbing partner.
- A climbing rope.
- A belay device.
- Two harnesses.
- A belay device.
- A locking carabiner.
- Attach the rope to an anchor at the top of the climb. To begin using a belay, a top rope setting is recommended for simplicity and ease of use. Leave the half rope mark in touch with the anchor.
- Tie the climber to one end of the rope using a figure eight double loop knot. Both climber and belayer must have their harnesses on before starting.
- Attach the other end of the rope to the belayer´s harness. Use the locking carabiner clipped to his harness.
- Establish a communication code between the climber and the belayer. Find short non confusing words for actions like slack, tight, secure, hold. Visual signals will not always be available, as the climb might block the view between climber and belayer.
- Go through a double check between both members of the team. All the gear must be checked before starting.
- Before starting to head up, the climber must ask the belayer whether he is ready or needs more time. The etiquette varies between teams, but the most common is: Climber: "Am I on belay?". Belayer: "Belay is on/Belay is not on". Climber: "Climbing!". Belayer: "Climb on!/Don´t climb!"
- Once on the vertical, the climber rules. He may need more rope to un climb in case of a search for the route, or he may ask for a tighter hold if making a risky move. Here´s when the conventions come in handy.
- The belayer must keep both hands on the rope and both eyes on the climber at all times. Depending on the belay device being used, the hands position may vary slightly, but generally the belayer must stand at the bottom of the climb, but away from debris or rocks falling from the wall. The coil of unused rope must be kept clear to the strong hand´s side of the belayer, ready to be used at any time and ideally on top of an open rope bag or other protective surface.
- The belayer must keep the right tension on the rope. The degree of tension will depend on the climber´s preference. Some climbers are not comfortable with a tight rope, whilst others prefer the safety of a tense line. Again, communication is the key.
Remember to use helmets while climbing, both the climber and the belayer. This is specially important, because in the event of an accident suffered by the belayer, the climber will remain by himself on the wall.