How To Belay: Belaying Techniques

How_To_Belay_Belaying_Techniques

Belaying is one of the cornerstones of safe climbing especially when it comes to outdoor climbing. Incorrect belaying can result in the climber falling into the ground which can lead to injuries or even death. As such, learning how to belay is one of the primary climbing skills that you’ll learn when you’re getting started with rock climbing. Despite sounding complicated, it is pretty easy to learn, although truly mastering belaying and a belaying technique or two is something you can only gain through experience.

Nonetheless, below you’ll find some of the most common belaying methods and techniques utilized by climbers all around the world. Note that the guide assumes that you already have basic knowledge about belaying (e.g. how to attach a belaying device, the difference between a GriGri and an ATC, etc.). Otherwise, you may want to brush up on your belaying basics before moving on. 

The “Cup Method”

The “Cup Method” is a belaying technique that is used to quickly feed slack rope to the climber. The technique itself is pretty easy, although it isn’t generally recommended since it involves removing your brake hand from the brake line during execution. However, the technique can still be executed safely provided that it is done as quickly as possible and the brake hand is returned to the brake line immediately after execution.

Here are the steps to executing the “Cup Method”.

  1. Remove your brake hand from the brake line and put it on top of the GriGri. Position your brake hand so that it forms a cup over the said belay device and your thumb is facing your body.
  2. Using your guide hand, quickly pump out one or two arm lengths of slack rope.
  3. After you’re done pumping slack, return your brake hand to the brake line immediately.
  4. If necessary (and is most likely will be) fine-tune any slack in the line by gradually feeding rope.

The “Speedy GriGri”

The “Speedy GriGri” is another belaying technique used to quickly pump out the slack rope and works best for speedy climbers and quick clips. Again, this method of pumping out slack rope involves removing your brake hand from the brake. Nonetheless, you can still execute this method safely provided you return your brake hand immediately to the brake line after execution.

Follow the steps below to execute the “Speedy GriGri”.

  1. Remove your brake hand from the brake line and use it to temporarily grip the GriGri’s locking cam.
  2. Using your guide hand, quickly pump out the slack rope.
  3. After dumping out enough slack rope, return your brake hand to the brake line immediately.
  4. Adjust the amount of slack by gradually feeding out the rope.

Make sure that you don’t keep your brake hand on the GriGri throughout the climber’s pitch. Doing so interferes with the GriGri’s locking cam and exposes the climber to injuries or even death when they fall.

Quick Feed

One of the most common issues when it comes to feeding out slack rope too quickly is that doing so sometimes engages the cam and locks the belay device which is not ideal in certain scenarios like when the climber is clipping a quickdraw. Belayers will deal with this issue by employing the following technique.

  1. While gripping the brake line with all fingers in your brake hand, extend your forefinger and thumb outwards to leave only three fingers wrapped around the brake line.
  2. Slowly loosen your grip on the brake line and slide your brake hand up the line until your forefinger rets under the side-lip of the GriGri.
  3. Place your thumb over the rear-end of the handle and push it down. This will temporarily disengage the GriGri’s locking mechanism.
  4. With the locking mechanism now disengaged, quickly pump out the slack rope.
  5. Remove your thumb and slide your brake hand back down and return to the primary belaying position once you’ve dumped enough slack.

The advantage of this belaying technique over the ones mentioned earlier is that it doesn’t require the belayer to remove his or her hand from the brake line, hence making it safer.

However, keep in mind that it does require the belayer to temporarily disengage the GriGri’s locking mechanism, which in itself is dangerous when the climber falls. When that happens, immediately remove your thumb from the handle and grasp the brake line with all fingers in your brake hand.

The “PBUS” Technique

The “PBUS” technique is one of the most commonly used methods or techniques of belaying. If you take a course on indoor rock climbing for beginners and how to belay, this is most likely the technique your climbing and the belaying instructor will teach you.

The name of the technique is suggestive of the steps necessary to execute it: Pull, Brake, Under, Slide.

  1. Pull the guide rope down towards the device while pulling the brake line upwards and away from the device using your brake hand.
  2. At this point, your guide hand will be near the belay device while your brake hand is above and away from it. So now simply pull the brake line downwards to lock it.
  3. Remove your guide hand from the guide rope and move it underneath the brake hand. Make sure that you grip the rope tightly.
  4. Slide your brake hand up towards the device leaving your guide hand in the same position.
  5. Remove your guide hand from the brake line and move it back to the guide rope and repeat the process.

FAQ

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Q: How do I pass belay certification?

A: 

To pass a belay certification test, follow the steps below:

1. Know the Requirements. The requirements for passing a belay certification test may vary from one place to another. For instance, in one place you may be required to perform the test using only one type of belay device (e.g. tubular belay device) while in some places they may require you to show proficiency in two types of belay device (e.g. tubular belay device and assisted braking systems).

Besides, you’ll also want to know what climbing gear will be provided by the test center and what you’ll need to bring. Climbing ropes, climbing harnesses and other climbing gears like climbing helmets are usually provided for you either for free or for rent while climbing apparel like rock climbing shoes, climbing pants or climbing shorts, and others are not.

2. Practice. Once you know the requirements start practicing how to belay. This includes knowing how to properly use the type of belay devices to be used during the certification test. It also helps to learn some techniques in belaying which may come in handy during the test.

You also need to remember the different belaying communication, perform safety knots more specifically the figure-8 follow-through knot, and perform safety checks pre-climb.

3. Take the Test. Lastly, go to a testing center and take the test. Relax and keep calm during the test and just do what you’ve been practicing. If all goes well you’ll be walking out the door with the belay certification under your belt.

Q: How do you belay for rock climbing?

A: 

Belaying for rock climbing employs pretty much the same steps and techniques as those in indoor rock climbing. However, keep in mind that there are certain factors in outdoor rock climbing routes that can make belaying more challenging like strong winds, eroding footholds, blinding sunlight and more.

Q: How can I practice belay at home?

A: 

To practice belaying at home, you’re going to need your own climbing wall. You can either build one or buy the mass-produced ones. Also, you’ll need to have a partner who will climb up while you belay. Be sure to have a bouldering crash pad underneath to catch the climber in case of a fall.

Q: How can I belay faster?

A: 

There are certain tricks and techniques that you can employ to belay faster like the “Speedy GriGri” and the “Cup Method”. However, such techniques should only be used by belayers with enough climbing and belaying experience under their belts. Climbers who are just getting started with rock climbing or learning how to belay should never attempt these techniques in belaying just yet.

Q: Can you self belay with a GriGri?

A: 

The manufacturers themselves highly prohibits using GriGri as a self-belay device. They especially advice strongly against modifying the said device to make it an “acceptable” alternative to actual self-belay device. Climbers are advised instead to purchase and use only belay devices specifically designed for solo climbing and self-belaying.

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Proper belaying is critical in the sense that your climber’s safety depends on it. When you belay a climber, remember that they’re putting their line in your hands so you want to make sure that you don’t screw up. That said, you must practice how to belay properly and learn a belaying technique or two. Wearing belaying gear like belay glasses and belay jackets can also help keep you from getting distracted so you can focus on belaying properly.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!