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Learn How to Climb: Belaying Basics

Belaying is a Basic Climbing Skill

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Learn How to Climb: Belaying Basics

Proper belaying technique requires that the rope is threaded through a belay device and the brake hand always on the rope below the device.

Stewart M. Green Man belaying his climbing partner

Follow these two belaying rules: Pay attention to the lead climber and don't let go of the rope if he falls.

Photograph copyright Jordan Siemens/Getty Images Learn How to Climb: Belaying Basics

Nigerian girl belaying a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs.

Photograph copyright Stewart M. Green

Belaying is one of the most important climbing skills you will learn and master in the indoor climbing gym. Belaying is the basis of climbing safety, of ensuring both your and your partner’s safety. Belaying, simply put, is a simple process of holding the rope and the climber in the event of a climbing fall. The rope links both the climber and the belayer together in a safety partnership, allowing the climber to fall without fear of hitting the ground and suffering injury or worse.

The Mechanics of Belaying

In the controlled gym situation that you are now in, one person will be the belayer while the other person will be the climber. The rope, which is anchored to safety gear at the top of the wall, is attached to both the climber and the belayer (this type of climbing is called top-roping). The climber is tied directly into the end of the rope (with a Figure-8 Follow-Through knot), while the belayer is attached to the rope with a belay device, a mechanical device which enables the belayer to safely and efficiently hold the climber’s weight with the rope. It is the belayer’s responsibility to keep the rope snug on the climber as he ascends the wall, to hold him in case he falls, and to lower him back to the base after he reaches the top of the wall.

Finding a Belayer

Remember that climbing gyms do not supply belayers (although some might offer a belayer-for-hire). You need to be trained yourself to safely belay and to bring a properly trained belayer to climb with you. If you don’t have a belayer, you can often hook up with another partnerless climber on busy evenings and swap climbs and belays.

Gym Belay and Climbing Tests

Most climbing gyms require new climbers to take an introductory crash course to indoor climbing that acquaints them with gym rules, how to tie into the rope with a Figure-8 Follow-Through knot, how to belay and lower, and basic climbing movements. Most also require a belay test that demonstrates your belaying competency as well as a knot-tying test to make sure that you can properly tie a figure-eight follow-through knot to secure the rope to your harness.

You Can Belay! Let's Go Climbing!

You and your partner have passed the gym belay test, you're tied into the rope, and outfitted with shoes and harness. Now you're ready to rock and roll. Let's go climbing. Go to the next section on Climbing Up to learn the basics of climbing movement.

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