So many times when we go climbing, the sole focus is on the climber. However, the belayer is equally important to the team. A lead belayer should not take their job lightly. A casual approach can cause injuries – and possibly worse. The belayer’s job is to provide a safe and reliable catch should the leader fall. The last thing the climber wants is to stress about the belayer’s ability. Here are four easy to follow tips to help you become the best lead belayer at the crag.
This seems so simple and rudimentary, however it sets you up for success. Start with one end of the rope, and flake the rope into a neat and orderly pile until you get to the climbers end of the rope. Consider using a rope bag, tarp or ground cloth if you are outside. Keep the rope on the tarp to help eliminate snagging on rocks or tree roots. By taking the time to complete this process, it will help to keep the rope free of knots and will help you feed rope out with ease.
No matter what type of belay device you choose to use, you should consider wearing a pair of belay gloves. We rely upon friction to control the rope. The smaller the diameter of rope, the harder it can be to control the friction. A gloved hand will simply protect the skin from the heat created when handling the rope. This seems even more important if you choose to use an ATC style device to belay. There are many styles and manufactures to choose from. Whatever brand you choose, be sure the glove fits well. The gloves may take some getting used to, but they will protect you and the climber in a fall scenario and when lowering the climber to the ground.
When you are belaying, you should be fully engaged. Begin by finding a comfortable stance that you can maintain for the duration of the climb. It is important to find a place that will help you stand in balance, so that you do not pull the climber off the route. Standing up right in an athletic stance will also allow you to be in a ready position if a fall occurs. Allow yourself to be light on your feet if a fall comes and be prepared to be pulled upward. Finally, standing upright will allow you to stay safe and move out of the way if rock falls. Also consider wearing a helmet.
As the belayer you should be one hundred percent focused on the climber. This is not the time to be eating your sandwich or using the phone. Pay attention and be aware as the climber advances. Keep talking and idle chitchat with the climber and others to a minimum. Be aware of over spraying beta as well. Be mindful and do your best to watch the climber. If you are having problems looking up constantly, try using belay glasses such as *CU glasses or *belaggles to help you see. The last thing you want to do is be an absent minded distraction to the climber.
Belaying is a real job with consequences. It as an example of a very trusting give and take relationship between two partners. The climber is putting their life in the belayer’s hands every time they agree the belay is on. This verbal contract is the foundation for a safe day out. By implementing good judgment, being mindful and following these four tips, you will be on your way to being a great belayer. A great climber once said, “If you are not belaying, you are just climbing.” Have fun out there!
For more info, to see photos or to follow Dawn Glanc go to:
*CU Belay glasses- cubelayglasses.co.uk
*Belaggles belay glasses– www.belaggles.com