Communication between climbers – especially between the belayer and the lead climber – is extremely important. Bad communication when out rock climbing can be a recipe for disaster – it can cause accidents. Using standardized climbing commands, which are relatively universal throughout different climbing cultures, can help decrease the confusion that sometimes occurs within climbing parties.
Most rock climbing beginners are generally not familiar with belay commands. To ensure that the leader can communicate clearly with his/her belayer, we will look at the top climbing commands.
Climbing Commands and Their Meaning
1. Climber: “That’s Me!”
The belayer above is taking all the slack rope in before putting it into his belay device. The climber calls this when he/she is tugged by the climbing rope above. This indicates that there is no additional rope to take in.
2. Belayer: “Belay on!”
The belayer is already anchored in and he/she has the rope set up through the belay device. The belayer calls the command to let the lead climber know that he/she is ready to belay.
3. Climber: “Slack!”
The climber calls this command when he/she needs more rope to either finish taking his/her belay anchor apart or to make the first move.
4. Climber “Up Rope!”
The rock climber no longer needs the slack in the climbing rope. He/she asks the belayer to take it in.
5. Climber: “Climbing!”
After donning his/her climbing shorts and climbing shoes, the climber calls this command to signal that he /she is ready to start climbing.
6. Belayer: “Climb on!” or “Climb!”
This is one of the most common belay commands. The belayer uses the climbing term to indicate that he/she is ready for the climber. It tells the climber that it is safe to start climbing.
7. Climber: “Watch Me!”
This command applies to types of climbing that feature falling risks. The climber calls the command when he is making a move in which he might end up falling. The command asks the belayer to be ready to catch him.
8. Climber: “Tension!”
This term has the same meaning as “Watch Me!”. The climber uses it to tell the belayer that he/she might fall.
9. Climber: “Falling!”
The rock climber is falling and hence putting sudden stress on the rope. The belayer is supposed to have the rope rocked off. Also, the belayer should be braced for any shock.
10. Belayer: “Halfway!”
This command is used by the belayer to let the lead climber know that he/she has half the rope’s length left to use.
11. Belayer: “Feet-three-oh! Four-oh, etc.”
This is one of the more popular belay commands. The belayer uses it to let the climber know how many feet of climbing rope are left for him/her to use.
12. Climber: “Off Belay!”
This command is used by the climber to indicate that he/she is tied into the rock with his/her anchor. It indicates that he/she no longer needs the belayer.
13. Belayer: “Belay off!”
This is one of the climbing commands that follows the “Off belay!” command. The belayer uses it to signal that he/she has taken the rope out of the belay device and is not watching the climber.
14. Climber (Rappeller): “On rappel!”
Climbers learning how to rappel often have to use this command. The command signals the people below to get out of the way of loose rock and to be ready to grab the end of the climbing rope if needed to stop the rappeller.
15. Climber: “Off Rappel!”
The climber uses this command to tell the partner above that he/she is disengaged from the rope. It lets the partner know that he/she can rappel now.
16. Climber: “Ready to Lower!”
The climber calls this command to let the belayer know that he/she is at the anchors on the sport climbing route and is ready to come down.
17. Belayer: “Lowering!”
The belayer uses this command to signal that he is going to lower the climber down.
18. Climber: “Clipping!”
The climber uses this command to indicate that he/she is ready to clip the rope into the carabiner. The belayer is supposed to give the climber some slack rope.
This is one of the belay commands that can be used by anyone at the top of a cliff. The person at the top calls the command after looking for a clear space below to throw his/her rope for a rappel or to send the rope back down.
Anyone – irrespective of whether he/she is at the top of the cliff or below – calls this command repeatedly when a rock is falling until everyone is out of the rock’s way.
21. “Take it!”
Climbers who use their gym climbing shoes are generally familiar with this command. The command is used in climbing gyms by the climber at the top of the climbing route. It asks the belayer to take the lead climber’s weight on the climbing rope and lower him/her down.
Note: Take is not used in traditional climbing because the climber is not lowered, but rather is expected to anchor in before he/she is taken off the belay.
Tips to Make Climbing Commands More Effective
Sometimes, you will find yourself out of the climbing partner’s hearing range. Rushing streams, wind, and even other climbers in the area could make verbal communication difficult. When this happens, you can use the tips below:
- Use names – This will help you avoid confusion when more than 1 team is within earshot.
- Agree on the rope signals – This is an ideal alternative when the voices cannot be heard. For example, you can use a system of tugs on the rope to signal your intentions.
- Use 2-way radios – These will allow clear communication when you are on long routes or on windy days when you can’t hear each other.
Globo Surf Overview
Rock climbing can be dangerous – the level of danger increases when communication is not effective enough. Understanding the different belay commands and when to use them is the first step towards ensuring that you and your climbing partner understand each other. The commands outlined above should help make your rock climbing safer.