Forums: Climbing Information: Beginners: Correcting belay errors - Part 1: Edit Log


Jul 25, 2004, 4:35 PM

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Correcting belay errors - Part 1
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The following is a list of very common belay errors, each of which I observed yesterday at the crag; not that yesterday was anything out of the ordinary, as you can probably observe these any busy weekend at any crag. These are mistakes made by beginners and veterans alike; however, the old-timers don't listen, so I'm posting in the Beginners forum. Please feel free to post comments and questions.

  1. Keep a hand on the brake side of the rope at all times. This seems pretty basic, but I see this rule violated frequently. When you say "Belay on" you are making a contract with your partner to not let go of the brake side of the rope, even for an instant, until he says "Off belay." Even if you don't go through the formalities of using these commands, the principle is the same.

  2. Never grasp both sides of the rope simultaneously with your brake hand. Some climbers make this mistake when taking in or paying out rope. It is as serious a mistake as taking your brake hand off the rope. If your partner falls while you are holding both ropes in your brake hand, you will have to let go of his side of the rope while not letting go of the brake side, and then lock off. Good luck doing that quickly and correctly.

  3. Lower with both hands on the brake side of the rope. Running the rope through one hand is dangerous enough to require a back-up; namely, the other hand. Running a kink in the rope through your hand can knock your hand off the rope (it's happened to me twice, but using a grigri), as can a shard of glass or other sharp debris in the rope. The other day, my partner found an open staple sticking through his rope(!), though he had no idea how it got there.

  4. Stand up while belaying a leader. You need to be able to dodge rockfall, position the rope out of your partner's way, dynamically belay, etc.

  5. Generally, the best place to stand while belaying a leader is up close to the rock and just enough off to the side of the climber so that he won't fall directly onto you. This is especially true at the beginning of a climb, when the impact force on you will be the greatest and your partner could hit the ground if he falls. If your partner falls and you are not standing up close to the wall, you will be pulled into the wall. This increases the distance your partner will fall (not a good thing close to the ground), and you could also lose control of the belay. After your partner gets higher up and clips several pieces of protection, there will be more rope in the system and thus less impact force transmitted to the belayer in a fall. Then, you can move back a little to get a better view of your partner, and relieve your neck somewhat.

  6. Run the rope correctly through the belay device. Clip your belay device into your belay loop (as opposed to the tie-in points). This orients the slots in the belay device vertically. Then, put the rope into the belay device so that the rope going to the climber is coming out the top of the slot, and the brake side of the rope is coming out of the bottom. Then, when you lower the climber, lower with both hands (on the brake side of the rope) in front of you, not at your side. This keeps the rope from running over the side of the belay device, which twists the rope. When lowering, do not shuffle your hands up and down the rope, giving the climber a nauseating, bouncy ride to the ground. Instead, keep your hands in one place, let the rope run smoothly through them, and adjust your grip and the angle that you run the rope through the device to lower your partner at a safe, comfortable speed.

    Click here for Part 2.

    (This post was edited by jt512 on Sep 19, 2008, 1:45 PM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by jt512 () on Sep 19, 2008, 1:45 PM

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