Behind Every Send is a Great Belay

Behind Every Send is a Great Belay

  • Posted by kaleigh
  • On November 8, 2017
  • Comments

I watch a lot of belayers, it’s part of working in a gym. One of the things I’ve noticed over the past year is that we climbers are pretty inconsistent in our application of belay skills. Watch a seasoned belayer for a few minutes and you may see various changes such as going back and forth between PBUS, “slip slap slide,” and “the shuffle.” You might notice the belayer getting distracted by conversation or their cell phone. You might see the belayer struggling to feed out rope for a clip or notice that their break hand came off the rope. These sorts of errors occur every day, but they shouldn’t. Belaying is a simple skill, one we need to take seriously and perform with great consistency. Providing a great belay is something that we should take pride in.

Here are some tips that go hand-in-hand with a great belay:

1. Be an expert in the use of your belay device of choice.
Take time to read the manufacturer’s specifications for the use of the device, and practice until you are fluent. We are past the days of universal belay methods, every device had different procedures, and it can be difficult to adjust to a new device.

2. Be consistent.
Most of us probably assume that we are consistent in how we belay but observations suggest otherwise. Being consistent means following correct procedure every time, without changes. Observe yourself when you belay and see how consistent you are.

3. Be attentive.
This means actively watching your climber and knowing how you would respond to their needs at any given moment. If they were to fall, would they need a soft catch or a shorter fall?

4. Be responsive.
This is about anticipation, having a sense of when to start feeding out rope before a clip, being able to “take” quickly and keep the climber at the highest possible point thus reducing the need for them to pull themselves back up.

5. Be a great communicator.
When you are belaying and climbing do you give clear commands, and do you let your climber or belayer know if there is a problem?

6. Be great at partner checks.
The partner check is where accidents are prevented before they happen. A high quality partner check needs to happen every time.

This month The Front is initiating its Assisted Braking Device policy at both gym locations (Salt Lake City and Ogden). With the introduction of this new policy, The Front is offering 20% off any Grigri or Grigri + until November 25th.

Petzl has graciously offered to come in during our transition period and do free clinics for our members and guests on proper use for the Grigri/Grigri +.

SLC Petzl GriGri Clinic Dates:

Tuesday Nov. 14th  6-8pm

Thursday Nov. 16th 6-8pm

Monday Nov. 20th 6-8pm

Ogden Petzl GriGri Clinic Dates:

Wednesday Nov. 15th 6-8pm

Friday Nov. 17th6-8pm

Tuesday Nov. 21st 6-8pm

Along with the Petzl clinics, our staff will be available to provide instruction on your device or a new device that we sell here at the Front. Belay instruction will be available every hour on the hour until 7pm. Please don’t hesitate to learn proper mechanics for your ABD!

Here are a few short videos produced by Petzl, Edelrid, and Black Diamond on the proper way to belay with their devices: Petzl GriGri 2Petzl GriGri +EDELRID Micro Jul & Mega Jul ENBlack Diamond ATC Pilot

BY DOUGLAS HUNTER
PROGRAM DIRECTOR AT THE FRONT CLIMBING CLUB