Do you love the exhilaration of getting higher and higher off the ground when you’re rock climbing? If you’ve made the climb to the top, then you know the feeling. At the same time, you’d also understand the dangers it can pose if you’re not following the right safety techniques.
Rock climbing belay is a type of various techniques rock climbers use when exerting tension on the climbing rope. These techniques are used both for safety of the climber and also to ensure a falling climber will not fall very far.
If you’re new to rock climbing, learning how to belay is taught early on in your lessons because it is a fundamental skill that every climber needs to know and master. This article will help you understand its basic mechanism and importance so you can gain more confidence in rock climbing.
If you’re a new climber, it’s likely that you start at an indoor gym and in a controlled environment. Here, you will learn about the basics of climbing before you’re ready to climb outdoors. Regardless, every lesson should be taken seriously no matter how much you’ve progressed.
What do I need to know about belaying?
You may have to make the climb on your own, but rock climbing is a team sport – you and your belayer. A good belayer not only knows what to do, but he or she is assertive and confident because your life depends on them when you make that climb.
Because it is an important skill for any climber, many climbing gyms will ask for your belay certificate or require you to complete a belay test before you’re allowed to belay a climber.
There are four focal points in belaying i.e. gears, setting-up, communication, and techniques. All these play their own vital role in ensuring a safe climb because they help to control the movement of your rope and thus avoid you from having a nasty fall.
First things first, your hardware. The most basic equipment you need are rope, harness, belay device, and carabiner. A belay device is a mechanical equipment used to control the rope. A carabiner is a spring-loaded metal loop used to hold your rope.
There are five types of belay device and each has its own merits. Choosing the right one depends on your experience, preferences, and climbing objectives. It’s not unusual for a climber to have different belay devices so they can use them in different situations and circumstances.
However, because it’s currently the most technologically advanced belay device in the market, the assisted-braking belay device is usually preferred. It does a good job in helping the belayer to stop the climber’s fall and it feeds the rope smoothly. We like this Petzl GriGri belay device.
Assisted-braking belay device is preferred because of its, yes, assisted braking feature. This gives a better sense of security to the climber other than it is useful in holding the climber while he or she is resting. Plus, its easy-to-control rope feed gives the climber a smooth descent.
A good carabiner is also important. You need to know how much weight does it support and what differences do the shape make. A carabiner shape is its most distinguish differences because each shape is designed to operate differently.
There are D-shaped carabiners, asymmetrical D shape, and oval carabiners. The D-shape unit is considered to be the strongest and most durable. There are two types of carabiner gates i.e. locking and non-locking. For locking ones, there are some made to lock automatically and some manually.
Check out the video below to understand more on the best carabiner to use with belay device. Watch video:
Defying gravity can be challenging and dangerous so it’s important that you’re set up correctly. Starting with using a figure 8 knot, you close the rope system with a stopper knot. This is crucial because it will ensure your rope will not pass completely through your belay device.
Here’s a closer look at how you properly tie the figure 8 knot.
Ensure your harness is snug and the buckles are securely fastened. Set up your belay device by putting the rope through the tube nearest to your dominant hand. Finally, attach your locking carabiner. It must pass through the bight, the belay device cable, and the belay loop of your harness.
It helps if you get high quality item because these items are what you have to count on when you’re high off the ground. Take your time to choose the right one. Preferably, consult experienced climbers to get their input.
The Black Diamond Momentum Harness is a favorite among many climbers. It’s favored because of its pre-threaded speed adjust waist belt that allows easier adjustment. It also comes with four pressure-molded gear loops and trakFIT adjustment for easier customization of your leg loop.
A well-fitted rock climbing harness should fit snugly above your hip and when fitted correctly, the harness can’t be pulled down over your hipbones. Also, the leg loops should be snug and not tight. To check this, you should be able to just slip your hand between the loop and your upper thigh.
A belayer is a climber’s life line – literally. You need to make sure you are clear (and loud) because miscommunication can be as disastrous as any other type of climbing failure. Go over your common commands before you begin a climb to make sure you got everything right.
Clear communication is important, especially when you’re learning how to belay someone. Always start a command with your partner’s name to ensure you have their attention. At times, the environment can be noisy so using your partner’s name is a good way to communicate efficiently.
It’s also helpful to determine an agreed set of commands and stay consistent on them. There may be other climber and climbing parties in a good climbing spot. So, it’s imperative to make sure you and your partner are able to distinguish each other’s command over others’.
The more climbs you make with the same partner, the more you will learn each other’s groove and communication style. However, if you’re climbing with a new partner, go over every detail, command, and possible scenarios to help make communication as efficient as possible.
A smooth and excellent climb can be made sure through safe belay rock climbing techniques. As you gain more experience, you will learn to hone your techniques, but there are several universal belay rules to help keep you and your partner safe at all times.
These universal rules are: always keep your brake hand on the rope (seriously, always), only slide your hand when your rope is firmly in brake position, and always maintain your attention to your partner. It’s also important to keep a keen eye for any surrounding dangers and/or hazards.
Remember, practice makes progress so never stop practicing! If you want to be an excellent rock climber, techniques should come to you like breathing. There’s no shortcut to this so you need to make sure you practice and practice.
You may be an intermediate climber slowly progressing to an expert, yet it’s always helpful to make sure you still refresh on your basics. Here is a helpful video on rock climbing basics. Watch video:
A good climber is not someone who “powers through” a climb; they ensure their techniques are on point to help make their way to the top. And the bottom of it is a good belayer who knows what to do. This is anything and everything from ensuring proper belay stance to proper hand position.
In rock climbing, both climber and belayer need to have strong climbing techniques. This helps to keep each other on guard as well to look out for anything amiss.
As mentioned, there is no shortcut to become a good climber. You need to try and climb at any opportunity you get so you’re able to hone and improve your techniques. Knowing how to belay is one of the important parts of rock climbing.
If you’re looking at becoming a good belayer, you need to make sure you have the confidence and the assertiveness. Whether you’re belaying for a lead climber or a beginner, it’s equally important you take your role seriously. They count on you to help keep them safe and achieve the climb.
It’s an important job to know how to belay rock climbing enthusiasts. This includes understanding and mastering the techniques, reading and knowing the style of the climber, and knowing your equipment in and out. Any oversight can be costly for both you and the climber.
Besides spending time honing your skills as a belayer, you also need to spend time researching and practicing. Doing research on latest and best-selling equipment such as the Petzl GriGri and the Black Diamond harness can help you to better understand how these can help your climber.
Furthermore, it’s equally important to spend as much time as you can with your climber so the both of you can get each other’s rhythm. This way, whenever an unforeseen incident happens, you will know how to react and know exactly what to do.
Once you have gained the rights and respect as proficient belayer, the experience of guiding and belaying for a climber can be an honor and rewarding.