Rock Climbing — The instructions outlined here are explained as if you were inside a climbing gym; although they could work equally well outside too.
Upon arriving at the gym you would put on a harness, which is the complex-looking matrix of nylon webbing and metal buckles, and tie the rope into the harness with a special knot called a figure-8 knot.
Your belayer would also be wearing a harness. The belayer is the name given to the person who will safeguard any falls you might take.
The belayer will use a belay device to create friction to stop the rope if you should fall, and to lower you back down when you reach the top of the climb. The Black Diamond ATC (Air Traffic Controller) is my belay device of choice as it is simple to use, functional, and can be bought most anywhere at a good price.
As you climb up, the rope running from you up to the top anchors will become slack. Your belayer will pull on her side of the rope and take out the slack through the belay device. Now the rope is tight running from you up to the top anchors, through the anchors, and back down to your belayer.
Before the climber begins to ascend, he and the belayer need to be on the same page. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what would happen if the climber started climbing before the belayer was ready to start belaying. A few verbal signals can help prevent any mishap.
When the climber is ready to climb he will say “On belay?” in the form of a question, because he truly wants to know if the belayer is ready to belay. The belayer when she is ready to belay, has checked that she and the climber’s harnesses are properly buckled, the rope is correctly tied into the climber’s harness and the rope is correctly run through the belay device will say “Belay is on”. The climber after double checking that his knot is properly tied, his harness is securely buckled and the belayer is ready to belay will say: “Climbing”. The belayer now says: “Climb On”. That is the signal for the climber to begin ascending. These principles apply anywhere a climber and belayer may be.
While the climber is ascending the route he may discover that he has too much slack in the rope. A verbal signal given to the belayer typically used is for the climber to say “Take”. This means the belayer needs to ‘take’ slack out of the rope by pulling more rope through the belay device. If the climber needs more rope he may simply say “Slack”. The belayer would allow some rope to pass back through the belay device. Whatever belay device you do end up using, make sure to thoroughly read the instructions before using it, or ask a qualified person to show you how to use it.
Belaying is a serious job and should not be taken lightly. You have the climber’s life literally in your hands.
Belayers should anticipate the climber’s moves and be prepared to give slack, take slack, and catch a fall. Belayers should always pay attention, and not be looking around or checking out the climb they want to do next once their job as the “belay slave” has ended. Be as vigilant belaying as you would want someone else to be when you are taking the “sharp end” of the rope.
Back to New Climbers Start Here Part 1
• Beginner’s Guide to Rock Climbing
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