What Is A Climbing Belay: A Guide For Newer Mountain Climbers

What Is A Climbing Belay: A Guide For Newer Mountain Climbers

There are a few skills that are more crucial than others when you are learning how to rock climb. You may be wondering why a particular skill would be more important to learn than another in the world of climbing, and the answer is simple. The most critical skills are the ones that are directly related to keeping you safe.

Rock climbing is an activity which can be more dangerous than other forms of exercise. Some would say that the rush you get from the danger of being able to fall at any moment is one of the best parts of rock climbing. While the feeling of danger is indeed a powerful one, you will want to reduce that threat as much as possible, in practice.

Rock Climbing

That brings us to today's subject, of all of the equipment in your gear bag, your belay device will be one which you will grow to rely on. You will depend on your belay device so much that you will be trusting your safety and possibly even your life to it, and the person on the other end of the belay line, of course.

Without any further delay, let’s take a look at what exactly belaying is and why you need to practice it if you want to ensure that you can climb safely.

What Is Belaying?

Belaying is a technique which is used to ensure that a climber does not fall if they end up losing their grip while they are midway through a climb. It is difficult to describe belaying because various techniques result in an almost entirely different process depending on which one you use.

Typically, however, there will be a rope used to ensure that there is enough tension and as well as enough counterweight to ensure that the climber doesn’t end up falling. While belaying may be a skill that takes a little bit of time to master, you will find that it is one which you will need to learn.

When belaying is used in a climb, there will be two people, one participating on the climb and the other holding the belaying rope on the ground. The climber who is holding the line should often be the one who is more experienced as they will be responsible for the safety of the climber who is going up.

If you are not confident holding the end of a belaying rope, you should let your partner know before they start their climb, as their safety will depend on you. Being unsure of yourself is one of the several ways that someone can end up hurt at the end of a climb when a belaying technique is being used.

Why Do We Need To Belay?

If you are wondering why belaying is necessary is many climbs, it is because it dramatically increases the safety of undertaking a climb. Having someone on the other end of the belaying rope significantly reduces the chances of being injured or even killed in the event of a fall, which is the main risk in climbing.

While there are other ways to ensure that you do not end up injured if something goes wrong during a climb, you will find that most methods are not as effective as belaying. Belaying is a better choice than other static tethering methods because you have a living person on the other end of the line.

Man Preparing Climbing Rope

Other methods to secure yourself during a climb make use of static objects which are not as reliable as a person. Where a line around an object like a rock or a tree trunk can end up slipping, even in ideal circumstances, a person can account for any slack which starts to develop in the line while you are climbing.

While having someone who is unreliable holding the other end of the belaying rope is a prime way to endanger yourself, this is almost never the case. Nobody wants to put themselves in a position where they have a life in their hands unless they are confident in their abilities, and the same is the case in belaying.

Belaying Devices

We have covered the theory behind belaying, but you may be wondering what exactly you use to belay while you are climbing. Let’s move on to the devices that will be used to ensure that you remain secure while you are climbing.

Automatic Belaying Device

Growing more and more common, the auto belay device is the one which is easier to use as it will automatically compensate. Most auto belay devices make use of a magnetic braking system which allows them to be more reliable as well as more comfortable to use than models which make use of friction braking.

Manual Belaying Device

This type of belaying device is slowly being phased out, but some climbers prefer to keep using them instead of automatic belaying devices because of the higher degree of control they feature. While the choice is mostly up to personal preference, we would recommend at least some belaying experience before using a manual device.

Safety

You will also want to ensure that everything proceeds safely and smoothly while you are belaying. One of the best ways to make sure that everyone is safe is to make all of the necessary safety checks before the climb begins. One of the pieces of equipment that you will need to check is the belaying device and its connection.

Close Up Of Belay Device

Since the belaying device will have to be knotted into the climber's harness, you will want to check each of the knots before sending the climber up. If there are any loose knots, the climber can end up injured, or worse, in the event of a fall or any other accident.

Conclusion

We hope that we have been able to describe belaying accurately enough for your needs. If you have any questions or remarks, feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below.

Resources:

USBR​

Eric​

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