by Kevin

October 20, 2021

How to Belay

Belaying in rock climbing is whereby the climber generates friction on the rope to keep him from falling. While rock climbers push themselves upwards with their legs and arms, an inadequate hand-grip or uneven overhang could result in the climber slipping, after which the rope holds them and prevents them from getting injured. 

Here, the climber depends on his partner to handle the rope, hindering too much tension or slack through good belay techniques. Today, we talk more about how to belay, and here’s everything you need to know about it.

The four major steps to learning how to belay are:

  • Preparation; 
  • Setting up;
  • Belay communication;
  • Technique. 

How to Belay: the Step-by-Step Process Explained

Here is how to properly gear up for your belaying session:

How to Belay with an ATC Device

Step 1

Pick a climbing harness with belay loops. The belayer and climber should wear reliable rock climbing harnesses and ensure they have a belay loop, buckles, tie-in position, and waist belt. All the same, some harnesses feature a similar tie-in position as the belay loop. 

You can purchase rock climbing-specific gear at various stores that retail outdoor activity equipment. Besides, you could rent this equipment for indoor climbing from your gym. 

Step 2

Wear the harness properly. Step inside it as you would when wearing pants. Your feet should go via the leg loops, with the risers that fasten the loops onto the belt looking backward. 

Haul the belt upwards over the hips, with the belay loop and tie-in point facing forward. Utilize the leg loops and waistbands to modify the harness, allowing it to fit comfortably. 

Step 3

Go for a reliable locking carabiner to use with the belay gadget. Buy a locking carabiner explicitly made for climbing. 

Because this locking carabiner is the only equipment holding the belay gadget and rope linked to the harness, it has to be robust and durable. 

Step 4

Have a reliable pair of rock climbing shoes. Rock climbing shoes are constructed to be versatile and with great grip. A reliable climbing shoe should feature tacky and soft rubber that generates a decent amount of friction. 

You can buy these shoes from sporting or outdoor recreation stores. On the other hand, if you decide to rent them, ensure they have good soles. 

Step 5

Utilize climbing chalk as it comes in handy, lessening moisture on your hands, thus improving your grip, whether you’re handling the rope or climbing.

However, most gyms don’t let climbers utilize chalk or have limitations on the kind of chalk to use. Liquid chalk is more commonly allowed at gyms.

Setting Up for Belaying

As the climber wears and fits into the harness, here are several things you have to do:

How to Belay Technique
  • Lock the system by securing a stopper knot in the rope’s end; this way, this end of your rope will not completely pass through the belaying gadget, letting you fall off. 
  • If the climber is heavier than you, you could secure a knot to a ground anchor. Besides, this anchor comes in handy when you have to belay under less-than-ideal conditions or where there’s an obstacle between the wall and yourself. 
  • Assemble the belay gadget by putting a bit of your rope via the tube nearest your dominant arm. While numerous belay gadgets tend to be symmetrical, some feature a corrugated interior surface on either side of every tube. This offers extra friction if required when belaying a weightier climber or while using a thinner or slipperier rope than usual. 
  • The climber’s side of the rope extends to the anchor and back to the climber and is supposed to be on the upper side of the belay gadget. 
  • Fasten a locking carabiner, which should pass via the climber’s side of the rope, the belaying gadget cable, and your belay loop’s harness. To prevent straining the cable on the belay gadget, ensure the rope does not touch the cable. Lastly, lock your carabiner. 

Safety Check

Before you begin climbing, make sure you double-check your and the climber’s setup. Here’s what to check for; 

Knots

Check whether the climber’s 8-knot is appropriately tied and whether you locked the system adequately using a stopper knot. 

Belay Devices

Is the belay device appropriately threaded? Also, is the carabiner going through the belay gadget cable, rope, and harness loop as it should? Finally, check if the carabiner is locked. 

Buckles

Both harnesses are supposed to be fitting with the buckles appropriately fastened. Also, if the harness is compatible with the buckle’s construction, the straps need to double-back via the buckles to fasten them. 

Command Check

Since phrases can vary, check your communication to confirm the terms you’ll use. 

Communication

When belaying, you have to be loud since miscommunication may result in misunderstandings between you and the climber. Double-check the commands before beginning your adventure to ensure that you and the climber understand each other when belaying. 

How to Belay the Step-by-Step Process Explained

You can use the “take” or “tension” command to eliminate slack and take on the climber’s weight in the rope. On the other hand, whether you can use “take” to replace “tension” is typically confused for “slack.” Confusing these terms may lead to misunderstandings between you and the climber. 

What’s more, try to start each command with the climber’s or belayer’s name. This is especially if you’re belaying in a busy gym or crowded crag since voices are relatively challenging to distinguish. Therefore, mention your partner’s name before every command so that they know you’re speaking to them. 

However, here are some terminologies that should get you preparing yourself once you hear them: 

  • “Falling” – Yes, this means that someone is falling, even if it’s not your partner.
  • “Watch Me” – when you hear this, it means that someone thinks there’s the risk of falling off. 
  • “Rock” – this means that something, whether manufactured or natural, has become loose. If you hear this, look down, as this allows your helmet to shield you in case of anything.

How to Belay Technique

Here are some belay principles and hand positions you should know:

  • Never remove your brake hand from the rope; 
  • Do not slide a hand unless the rope is secure in the braking placement; 
  • Pay attention to your partner, and watch out for any danger in the surrounding; 
  • Always place the brake hands in their most secure natural placement. 

Belay Stance

In terms of athletics, this translates to placing your submissive foot in front, with your knees bent and your body ready but relaxed. On the other hand, geographically, this means you’re almost done. 

To prevent impact from a rock or your partner, you’re far enough from being beneath the climber’s terrain directly. 

Organizationally, it translates to neatly stacking all ropes on the ground, thus avoiding entangling as you belay. 

Correct Hand Placement when Belaying

Setting Up for Belaying

Brake hand

Position the dominant hand approximately 5 inches beneath the belay gadget and securely hold the rope. The forefinger and thumb should be up. 

Guide hand

Position your submissive hand on the rope on the climber’s side. Hold it a few inches overhead, at a comfortable height. 

How to Belay with an ATC Device:

You will require: 

  • A climbing harness; 
  • An ATC belaying gadget;
  • A locking carabiner.

Here’s how to belay with ATC:

  • Fasten the ATC inside the carabiner and attach the carabiner inside the harness belay loop; 
  • Take a bight of your rope, pass it via the ACT slot’s right hand, and attach the rope via the locking carabiner. Once you’ve done this, lock the carabiner.

Note: Do not remove your right hand from the rope’s loose end!

  • Begin with your right hand on the rope’s loose end and your left one on the climber’s side of the rope. After this, pull up using your right hand to eliminate a bit of slack from the rope. 
  • Upon pulling, push the rope down using your right hand to generate a rope loop beneath the ATC. 
  • When you’re done pulling and braking, place your right hand on top of your left hand.
  • This is then followed by sliding your right arm to remove the rope loop. 

How to Use a Belay Device

Once the climber’s tied to the rope, you must clip their belay gadget to the remaining end of the rope and their harness too. The instructions here are for a top-rope belay using a belay gadget, which is different from lead climbing:

  • Pass a part of the rope via the belay gadget slot; it usually has two slots, though you can choose any. 
  • Fasten a screw-gate carabiner to the belay loop. Then attach the carabiner via the loop of the rope and belay gadget cable. It is vital to clip via these two areas. 
  • Fix the screw on the carabiner.
How to Belay Top Rope

Friction notches

The market is filled with different belay gadgets, and some of them feature friction notches, which offer additional assistance in preventing falling off. 

Nevertheless, ensure that the brake ropes and the notches are positioned on the same side and not the climber’s side of the rope. 

How to Tie a Belay Knot

Here’s how to make a figure-8 knot:

  • Create a loop on one end of the rope, approximately 3 ft from the rope’s end. 
  • Bend the rope through the strand beneath the loop. As you hold the loop you’ve created, push the rope trail across the main strand’s front, though relatively beneath the bottom of the loop. This will give you an ampersand’s shape. 
  • Now, haul the tail via the top rope loop, and then pass the rope’s end via your initial loop from the back. At this point, you should have a loose number 8 knot, but don’t tie it yet. 
  • Haul the rope’s tail via the difficult points in the harness of the climber, and begin the procedure for linking the knot to the harness of the climber. Take the rope’s end where you’ve created the knot and run the rope’s tail via the loops on the climber’s harness’s front. Haul until the knot is positioned 2 to 3 inches from the climber’s harness. 
  • Begin to follow through, and when the rope’s tail is passed through both loops, take the tail’s end and begin to place it back into the knot. Begin where the tail appears to form the figure 8 knot. 
  • Locate the path of the initial knot and cautiously push the tail via the figure 8 knot by tracing the original knot’s path till you achieve a knot with two strands. 
  • Ensure all the ropes are correctly aligned and hauled to make the knot tight. Pull the four strands to tighten them correctly, and this should leave you with about 6 inches of rope. Double-check it to ensure it is tied and secured correctly. 

How to Belay Top Rope

  • The first thing you need to do when belaying top rope is to tie the climber. Pick the rope nearest to the wall to keep both ropes from coming into contact. You have to clip the climber to a reliable rope that will not fail when climbing. 
  • The next thing is to tie a figure 8 knot since it can survive a significant amount of pressure and load and can be undone effortlessly when you’re finished climbing. 
  • Set up the belay device. The rope on your side should be passed through the belay gadget and secured to your harness utilizing a locked carabiner. Attach the belay gadget and rope so that the brake rope is beneath the strand on the climber’s side; then finalize by locking the carabiner. 
  • You can use an anchor, especially if the climber is heavier than you by more than 50 pounds. To utilize the ground anchors, clip an extra locking carabiner to your loop beneath the belay gadget, and then fasten a loop on the anchor leaving it somewhat stretched. 
  • Make a stopper knot beneath the belay gadget; this should be tied, leaving about 6 inches of rope and a double overhand for safety when it’s time to lock the system. 

How to Self-Belay

Correct Hand Placement when Belaying
  • Find the center of your rope and fix it to the top anchor at the route. Ensure it is a UIAA certified single rope. 
  • Use a single strand of the rope as the climbing rope, and make backup knots in the second strand at specific rifts. To allow for smooth rope feeding via the self-belay gadget, it would help to tie something weighty at the climbing rope’s end. You could tie gear or a bottle of water. 
  • Fasten the self-belay gadget with a secure line, and attach it to the harness’s belay loop with a locking carabiner. 
  • After every 10 feet, make sure you create a backup knot in your rope that’s not linked to the belay device. Utilize an additional locking carabiner on the loop to fasten the backup knots when climbing. 
  • Once you reach the top, connect to the anchor, remove your self-belaying gadget, and switch it for a rappel. 
  • Rappel down using the climbing rope.

How to Belay from Above

Fasten your belay gadget to a rope or belay loop. You can set it up such that the brake rope protrudes from the bottom or top of the belay gadget. In many circumstances, the falling climber’s weight will haul down from you. Due to this, you have to lock off the brake rope upwards.

While you can apply this technique for numerous belay situations, in case your partner falls off, their weight could dangerously pull on your legs or harness. The most suitable circumstance to utilize this method is when you have utilized your rope to balance the anchor. 

How to Lead Belay

  • Secure your belay gadget with a few feet of rope separating it from the climber’s knot. 
  • Once the climber has begun climbing, you’ll require pushing the rope out instead of pulling it in. Then position one arm on the strand on top of the belay gadget and the other hand beneath the brake rope. Utilize both arms to move the strand upwards via the belay gadget. Then, glide your hands down the strand, allowing you to provide more slack. Nonetheless, don’t release the brake rope. 
  • When the climber has secured the quickdraw, even though he’s below it, it is called a mini top rope; thus, you’ll require grabbing a bight of rope until it’s even with the quickdraw. This guarantees that the slack rope is not too much. 
  • In case you fall from an anchor like a bolt, his weight will be more significant than a mere top rope; therefore, it will be more difficult to hold. For this reason, hold on to the rope correctly and stay focused. 

How to Belay with a Grigri

  • The first step is to ensure that you’re utilizing the suitable rope for your belay gadget. 
  • Then fasten the grigri to the harness by opening the belay gadget and passing the rope through it. Then close it, and attach the screw-gate carabiner to the belay loop. Finally, secure the grigri onto the carabiner and clip the gate. 
  • After this, pull the rope via the grigri, similar to a typical ATC device, ensuring you don’t let go of the brake rope. 
  • In case the climber falls off, remember to lock off downwards and not upwards. It will manage to hold all the weight, or at least most of it. 

Final Thoughts on How to Belay

While belaying might sound complicated, it is worth trying out. However, it would help if you understood these basics about belaying beforehand.

Well, there you have it, how to belay. Hopefully, this guide has been handy in helping you learn more about belaying.

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About the author 

Kevin

Kevin loves bouldering. Mainly because he can practice it alone without considering other people. Although he rediscovered this hobby in the last three years, the boulders turned out to be his most visited landmarks.

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