Although most of the time everything will go smoothly and without a problem, there is a chance that something bad will happen during your rock climbing session, so, besides knowing how to belay, it is important to learn how to belay escape, in case you have to help an injured partner or a fallen climber.
What Is Escaping Belay
To escape belay is to free yourself from belaying, so you can address any situation that needs to be addressed and rescue someone if needed. It is without a doubt one of the essential skills you’ll have to learn before you decide to climb any more challenging route.
When Is Belay Escape Needed?
Here is when you’ll need to escape the belay:
- If an accident happens and your partner needs help so you have to descend to use the first aid kit
- If you have to remove yourself from the rope completely to go and seek help
- If your climbing partner is leading and falls down
- If your climbing partner needs to haul through a crux while following
Belay Escape Checkpoints
To perform the belay escape safely you’ll need to follow these four checkpoints:
- Free your hands
- Move the climber’s weight to anchor
- Move the climber’s belay to anchor
- Remove extra carabiners, knots, and prusiks
Belay Escape Equipment
To perform a belay escape, you’ll be needing the following equipment:
- A belay device, depending on your preference and choice
- Cordelette – between 15 and 20 feet, with its ends tied together using a double fisherman’s knot or a short prusik cord and double-length sling, clipped together using a locking carabiner
- Half of dozen locking carabiners
Methods Of Escaping The Belay
There are two basic methods to know that can be used to escape the belay. These are:
- From your harness, when the anchor is within reach
- From your harness, when the anchor is out of reach
All of these can be done wholly, or if needed, partially, when the situation requires.
Consider Options Before Starting
Before you begin escaping the belay, stop and think for a second to see whether it is the best option. Sometimes there is a much simpler solution. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to react as quickly as possible, then escaping the belay is the best option. Also, check out this list of 20 best rock climbing knots you should know.
Method #1 – When The Anchor Is Within Reach
Tie the belay device off with a mule-overhead to get your hands free.
With a long Cordelette or a short prusik cord attached to a double-length sling tie a prusik hitch on the weighted rope while paying special attention to double fisherman’s bend, as it should be near the prusik hitch.
Now it is time to clip a screw gate to the master point of the anchor and tie a munter hitch using a Cordelette to it. Then, flip the munter to get it into lowering position and pull the slack through. Finish by tieing a mule-overhand backup in the Cordelette.
Grab the prusik and slide it along the rope in the direction of the climber to remove possible loose parts in the Cordelette.
As carefully as possible release tied-off belay device and let a bit of slack through to move the weight on the Cordelette.
Add a carabiner to the master point and tie the brake rope with a munter hitch. Pull the bigger part of the rope through while leaving enough slack to remove your belay device.
Hold on to the munter’s brake strand and remove your belay device. Now pull the extra slack through the munter hitch and then flip it to put it in the lowering position. Add a mule hitch and an overhand backup. Now it is time to release the mule-overhand from the Cordelette and transfer the climber’s weight from the Cordelette to the rope.
Now when the weight is completely on the rope, you can say you’ve escaped the belay, so remove the Cordelette and continue with your task.
Method #2 – When The Anchor Is Out Of Reach
In case the anchor is out of the reach and you don’t have a long Cordelette available, this is how to escape the belay:
Free your hands by tying off the belay device with a mule-overhand. Now fasten a prusik on a weighted rope and add a screwgate to it.
Take the free end of the tie-in at the anchor. If you can’t reach it, run through the rope stack until you do. Then, tie a munter-mule-overhand on the screwgate using this end of the rope and follow by removing any additional slack by sliding the prusik down the rope.
Release the tied-off belay device to move the weight from it to the prusik. If the rope starts to stretch, don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal before the weight transfers to the prusik.
The essential part of the next sequence is to hold on to the brake rope. Move back to the anchor and add a munter hitch with the brake strand of rope. Now, remove the belay device and bring the slack excess in.
Add a mule-overhand to the munter, and remove the one from the rope attached to the prusik. Using the munter, transfer the weight from the prusik to the anchor-based munter-mule-overhand.
When the weight is completely on the anchor, remove the prusik and the munter hitch.
Things To Know
There are some additional things to look out for before or as you escape the belay:
Check The Anchor
This is crucial. Make sure that your anchor is solid, then see if it is multi-directional so you know how to adjust it or place it in the first place.
Transferring The Load
When the anchor is placed where it should be and you prepare to transfer the load, tie off the belay device using a mule overhand to have your hands-free. Then, hitch a prusik on the rope’s weighted end with a Cordelette, above the belay device, and clip a locking carabiner to the master point of the anchor with the Cordelette leftovers. Tie off a prusik with a Munter-mule and flip it to lowering position.
It is recommended to slack the end of the rope from the below of the belay device, tie another munter-mule on an additional locking carabiner on the masterpoint to have it as a backup.
As you prepare for every move, double-check if everything is alright before you take it. It may take some time and require some patience, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Even the smallest mistake can lead to catastrophic consequences.
After you’ve escaped a belay, it is time to take additional steps to improve your situation.
Now it is time to assess the situation. See what the situation is, any potential dangers and think about your next move. Try calling the injured climber and see if they can respond.
Calling For Help
Once you have all the information, try to call for help. Using a cell phone or a radio will do, but if neither of these is an option, then try to see if there are any climbers nearby. If the answer is yes, yell to draw their attention.
Drop The Rope Down
Take the longest rope available and drop it down so the rescuers can reach you and the injured climber more easily.
Access Your Partner
If possible and safe, try to access your partner. You may also think about self-rescue, but most of the time it is too risky, so it is a better option just to evaluate the option and wait for help.
Globo Surf Overview
Escaping the belay should be among the top priorities for every climber out there. It is an essential piece of knowledge that will help you get out of the many uncomfortable situations and if/when needed, it will make a rescue way easier.