The right way to use Belay Device on Belaying
You have been climbing a couple of times and now are looking to carry it to the next level. Most noteworthy, you can not do it without the proper belaying technique. Belaying is a fundamental part of top-rope climbing both inside and outside of the gym.
But if you are new to climbing, belaying may be a unique thing for you, and that is perfectly fine. There are several techniques to which belaying may refer, but by definition, belaying is the act of exerting the tension over a climbing rope to counterbalance the climber while they fall.
The Belayer: A Person holding the rope is called the belayer, he/she pulls the rope through a belay device, as the climber goes up. This way, when the climber falls, they do not fall very far. Essentially, the belayer is required to manage the rope for the climber in the process and apply all the necessary friction using the belay device to avoid a ground fall.
Belay and ATC devices
- Harness: In the case of top-rope climbing, the most essential gear is a harness. While there is always an option to rent a harness at the gym but having your harness is way more comfortable.
- Carabiner: You will need at least one locking carabiner for your belay device. It is always a good idea to have a couple of these handy, in case you need to anchor in as well.
ATC stands for air traffic controller that was originally the name of one of Black Diamond Equipment's belay devices. It has now been the standard term for all the brand's devices with the same design.
Most noteworthy, an ATC is said to be a non-auto-locking belay device. What this means is that if you let loose of the break line, the rope will not catch itself and the climber may fall. But the important point to be considered here is that ATCs are probably the cheapest and most widely used option for belaying.
Mostly, belay devices are put to use while top-roping, sport climbing, trad climbing, rope soloing, rappelling and ice climbing. The only time you do not need a belay device is when you are bouldering.
The key steps in learning how to belay include:
- Gearing Up to Belay: In case you are planning to take up a class to learn belaying, usually a rope, helmet, locking carabiner, harness, belay device and rock shoes are either provided or available for rent.
- Setting Up the Belay: In the meantime, while the climber ties into the harness using a figure 8 knot, do the following steps:
- By tying a stopper knot at the end of the rope close the system. This will ensure that the end of your rope will never pass completely through the belay device, hence dropping the climber.
- In case the climber is much heavier than the belayer, consider tying into a ground anchor.
- Set up the belay device by just sliding a bight of rope through the tube which is the closest to the dominant hand.
- Attach a locking carabiner that should pass through the bight and belay-device cable, as well as the harness belay loop. To avoid stressing the cable on the belay device, cross-check that the rope bight does not cross over the cable. Make sure to lock the carabiner.
- Performing the Safety Check: Before climbing, make sure that the climber and belayer always double-check each others setup:
- Knots: Verify if the climber’s figure 8 is tied correctly and also that the belayer closed the system correctly with a stopper knot.
- Buckles: Check if both harnesses snug with buckles is securely fastened. And whether it is inherent in the buckle design or the climber must perform the task, the straps must double back through buckles to secure them.
- Belay Device: Check if the belay device is properly threaded. And verify if the carabiner passes through the rope, belay-device cable and harness belay loop. Also, if the carabiner is locked.
- Command Check: There are chances that the terms may vary, so run through the communication to review the terminology.
- Belay Communication: Try and be loud while communicating, because miscommunication can have similar adverse effects as in any other type of climbing-system failure. Make sure to review commands initially to be sure that you and your partner are on the same page.
- The take command: Many climbers use the take command rather than using tension command in case they want the belayer to remove slack and take the weight on the rope.
- Naming names: Try and start every command with your partner’s name. Mostly, in a crowded crag or a busy gym, voices are hard to distinguish. Therefore, a sure way that your partner will know that the command came from you is when you add your partner’s name to it.
- Other Important Commands: If you hear these shouted by a climber, with or without a name, be prepared.-
- Rock: This is used for anything, natural or manufactured, that gets loose.
- Watch Me: This command means that the climber thinks a fall is likely to happen.
- Falling: This exactly means what you think it means.
Here is a list of Best Belay devices for your reference: