by Jullie

October 15, 2021

What Is a Belayer in Rock Climbing

The technique used to keep rock climbers safe while climbing is called belaying. Using the right belay device, the rope draws friction. If a climber falls, the friction prevents the rope from running down uncontrollably. 

So, what is a belayer in rock climbing? A belayer is usually a lead climber who helps climbers and keeps them safe. In short, they are holding the other climbers’ life in their hands. Moreover, it takes time and effort to become a proficient belayer. 

A belayer has to keep the climbers safe. In the case of an unfortunate fall, a belayer might be held responsible. Continue reading the post to learn more about what is a belayer in climbing. 

How Does Belaying Work?

What Is a Belayer

Belaying controls the friction and tension on a climbing rope. That way, it supports the climber’s weight without making the belayer come in contact with the rock face. 

The harnesses used in climbing feature belay loops that connect to a belay device through a locking carabiner.

The device allows the rope to pass through it as the climber advances to the top. The belayer uses the belay as a friction brake to catch a climber in the case of a fall. 

The job of a belayer is to ensure that a climber has adequate slack to ascend and has enough tension to hold them if they fail.

What Kind of Belay Device Should You Use?

Belaying, for a lot of recreational rock climbers, involves using a belay device. It is a compact piece of plastic or metal designed to add friction to the rope. Without a belay device in place, there isn’t added friction to the rope system. 

As such, climbers have to rely on their strengths to hold up the weight of another climber. However, a belayer holds only a fraction of the climber’s weight when they use a belay device. 

This is an important part of belaying, especially for climbers who belay people two times larger compared to themselves.

You can find a lot of belay devices out there. And, each of them has its advantages and disadvantages. However, the most popular types of belay devices are assisted and tubular braking. 

What Is the Right Way to Use a Belay Device?

What Is the Right Way to Use a Belay Device

It is wise to make good use of a belay device according to the specifications set by the manufacturer. Commonly, most people tend to throw away the owner’s manual that comes along with every climbing equipment. 

So, whenever you buy a new belay device, you should glance at the piece of paper. There is no shortage of people getting injured or killed because of the incorrect use of the belay devices. 

Having a clear understanding of the belay devices and following the instructions help prevent accidents to a great extent. 

Safety Tips for Belaying:

Taking the right precautions makes a rock-climbing expedition a good one. These safety tips give you the best possible results.

1) Practice a lot 

Even experienced rock climbers practice their climbing techniques in indoor gyms. Most of the gyms are equipped with assisted-braking devices that help you a lot to learn the technique. 

2) Become a master in tying knots

Ultra-securing the knots means safe climbing. So, work on your knot-tying abilities and make them perfect. You should master the stopper and the figure-eight knot. 

What's the Role of the Belayer

3) Keep the brake hand on the rope

Your primary brake hand should be your dominant hand. Don’t take it off the rope. Remove your hand only when your climbing partner reaches the ground. 

4) Use your body to catch a fall

The weight of a falling climber jolts a belayer and can slam them to the rock wall. 

Avoid the situation by leaning back and pulling your brake hand. That way, the body and climbing harness absorbs a major part of the impact. 

5) Communicate constantly

Listening and responding to the issues help to avoid accidents and make a successful rock climbing. 

So, whether you are belaying climbers up or helping them rappelling down, call out and let them know about the obstacles such as loose rocks or overhangs. Also, listen to their feedbacks as well.

How Can You Become a Good Belayer?

Safety Tips for Belaying

Now that you know what is a belayer in climbing becoming a good belayer is challenging. However, when you follow certain rules, you can become a proficient belayer. 

1) Always double check

As a good belayer, double-check your belay knot and climbers knot. You should cross-check every time while climbing a route. 

2) Pay close attention

Pay attention to the climber and note if they are doing fine. Know when they are about to clip and need the rope. Keeping an eye on them is what you should be doing.

3) Go for a soft catch

When you soft catch, it helps a climber to absorb some force of the fall. 

On the contrary, a hard catch can injure the climber by making them swing against the wall and spraining an ankle. So, never resist the pull of a leader during a fall. Instead, go with it. 

How Can You Become a Good Belayer

4) You should avoid short rope

Short roping is when a climber reaches the rope’s clip and experiences resistance from the belayer not providing enough rope. Or—or not providing the rope fast enough. 

The situation becomes intense when the climber wants to clip the rope as fast as it can get. Anticipate the clip and stay ahead of it when the climber needs the rope quickly. 

5) Watching the leg

Sometimes the rope tends to go behind the leg of the climber. As such, it results in a fall. Even with helmets on, this can be a nasty fall. So, call out and make the climber aware of the rope going behind the climber’s leg.

6) Lower in a controlled manner

You should smoothly lower the climber. Wait for the climber to gather the quickdraws before you lower them to the next level.

Lower at a speed that you are comfortable with. Keep both your hands on the rope and allow it to slip through them. If the friction gives you trouble, use gloves and go slow.

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About the author 

Jullie

Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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