"In direct" is not a climbing command, it's a status update!


Original Post
cdec · · SLC, UT · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 460

I keep hearing “in direct” at the crag and then, invariably, actual climbing commands or a conversations ensues about what is happening next. 

“In direct” is totally unnecessary and often a source of confusion and if it isn't the cause of an accident it will be.
Again today I watched a lively cliff top to base discussion about what the climber was going to do next after declaring himself 'in direct". 

If you tell your belayer “in direct” what does that mean for them? Can they be less attentive? Take you off and walk away? Should they keep belaying as before?

Take, slack, off belay, lower, belay is on, climb on are actual climbing commands used when at the anchor.

“In direct”, when used, is the equivalent of "stand by", simply a  status update.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175
cdec wrote:

I keep hearing “in direct” at the crag and then, invariably, actual climbing commands or a conversations ensues about what is happening next. 

“In direct” is totally unnecessary and often a source of confusion and if it isn't the cause of an accident it will be.
Again today I watched a lively cliff top to base discussion about what the climber was going to do next after declaring himself 'in direct". 

If you tell your belayer “in direct” what does that mean for them? Can they be less attentive? Take you off and walk away? Should they keep belaying as before?

Take, slack, off belay, lower, belay is on, climb on are actual climbing commands used when at the anchor.

“In direct”, when used, is the equivalent of "stand by", simply a  status update.

Yes, in direct means stand by. After someone is in direct the belayor needs to give some slack regardless if they are going to rap or lower.

caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,470

"In direct" is a command to the belay letting them know they can chill for a second.  I.e., give you a little bit of slack, get comfy, but to keep you on belay.  It is a courtesy extended from climber to belayer during dogging sessions.

I don't think you should use it while cleaning an anchor... you should just have them keep "taking" until you're connected hard to the anchor and then just call for the "slack" so you can thread, and "take" again when you're ready to lower.  

cdec · · SLC, UT · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 460

I was speaking to it being used at the anchor.

Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 925

The real issue you're upset about is the breakdown in communication between climber and belayer.

I understand "in direct" to mean "stop taking" but distinct from "slack". I don't use it, but I don't care if others do, provided that the meaning is well defined and understood by all involved parties.

I do not think we as climbers *need* universal, standard belay commands, and I would fight strongly against any attempt to enforce such a thing.

Ryan Mac · · Seattle · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 5

Hey here's a thought, discuss with your belayer what this means before leaving the ground? Not on a message board? Commands do not have to be universal; if they are thought  to be universal, and not meriting discussion between climber and belayer, then that defeats the purpose. Say "in direct", "on me", or "the Eagle flies at midnight", as long as your belayer knows the command (because you have already agreed on it), it doesn't matter. 

cdec · · SLC, UT · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 460

I'm not upset. 

I just see it happening and it seems so unnecessary. 

So what I have gleaned so far is this.

Rather than have 6 words or phrases that are clear, concise and cover what you need we should just agree that "everyone deserves music" than "sweet music" is a climbing command for some as long as it is agreed upon.

Also that 'in direct" means "chill and give slack" or "stop taking but not slack"

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 549

You raise an interesting question.

I'm guessing that the 'authority' of the standard commands came from either Belaying the Leader or the Rockcraft books.

There really isn't anything, book, website, or anything, with that kind of reach any more.

I think 'in direct' is useful and what my friends and I mean by it is understood amongst ourselves. 

But the definition might differ regionally or even between climbing groups in the same area.

Miscommunication is a genuine risk until the meaning of the phrase congeals.

Bill Czajkowski · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 30
cdec wrote:

I keep hearing “in direct” at the crag and then, invariably, actual climbing commands or a conversations ensues about what is happening next. 

“In direct” is totally unnecessary and often a source of confusion and if it isn't the cause of an accident it will be.
Again today I watched a lively cliff top to base discussion about what the climber was going to do next after declaring himself 'in direct". 

If you tell your belayer “in direct” what does that mean for them? Can they be less attentive? Take you off and walk away? Should they keep belaying as before?

Take, slack, off belay, lower, belay is on, climb on are actual climbing commands used when at the anchor.

“In direct”, when used, is the equivalent of "stand by", simply a  status update.

You forgot "dirt me" as a command. Just sayin'.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
Mark E Dixon wrote:

You raise an interesting question.

I'm guessing that the 'authority' of the standard commands came from either Belaying the Leader or the Rockcraft books.

There really isn't anything, book, website, or anything, with that kind of reach any more.

I think 'in direct' is useful and what my friends and I mean by it is understood amongst ourselves. 

But the definition might differ regionally or even between climbing groups in the same area.

Miscommunication is a genuine risk until the meaning of the phrase congeals.

I was thrown off a bit recently when a climber said "Safe!" at the anchor. WTF? Was I supposed to be doing "dangerous" up until now? Didn't get that memo, sorry! Lol! 

Best, H.

Tomily ma · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 290

"Safe" at the anchors means you failed to tag the leader and you are still it for the next round. 

If only there were 8 or 9 recent threads about miscommunications at anchors that nearly killed or maimed people.

Jeremy Bauman · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 720

I'm glad this is getting brought up. A big pet peeve of mine is unnecessary communication. IMO: the only times a climber should be yelling commands is when they want a specific action done. The rest is just fluff and confusing. Either go, "off belay" meaning you want your partner to walk away, or "slack, take, lower!".  No need for going in direct. 

While we're spraying opinions on the internet: I also dislike it when I clip the first piece and my belayer now says, "belay's on now". --- what the heck? We're the ropes not ready before? I get it, but still.

Ryan Mac · · Seattle · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 5
Jeremy Bauman wrote:

I'm glad this is getting brought up. A big pet peeve of mine is unnecessary communication. IMO: the only times a climber should be yelling commands is when they want a specific action done. The rest is just fluff and confusing. Either go, "off belay" meaning you want your partner to walk away, or "slack, take, lower!".  No need for going in direct. 

While we're spraying opinions on the internet: I also dislike it when I clip the first piece and my belayer now says, "belay's on now". --- what the heck? We're the ropes not ready before? I get it, but still.

Makes sense to me for single pitch or the first on a multipitch. You aren't on belay until there's a piece clipped. 

20 kN · · Hawaii · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,352

"In direct" can be used to modify the term "slack" to indicate that they are at the anchors and need slack to thread the anchor, and NOT that they are mid-climb and need slack to flick the rope off a flake or something. If I cant see you and you just say "slack" I dont necessarily know if that means you're at the anchors and need lots of slack or you're still climbing and need a bit of slack. Obviously an experienced climber can figure it out pretty quickly, but less experienced climbers could be confused easily.

When I get to the anchors and clip in I usually say something like "Alright, I'm solid, give me some slack" as opposed to just calling slack with nothing else to indicate that I am done with the climb.

Old lady H wrote:

I was thrown off a bit recently when a climber said "Safe!" at the anchor. WTF? Was I supposed to be doing "dangerous" up until now? Didn't get that memo, sorry! Lol! 

Best, H.

It's not that uncommon, I've heard it several times. It's just another version of "in direct" more or less.

Jeremy Bauman wrote:

While we're spraying opinions on the internet: I also dislike it when I clip the first piece and my belayer now says, "belay's on now". --- what the heck? We're the ropes not ready before? I get it, but still.

You can add to that "On belay? Belay is on. Climbing? Climb on." Or "clipping! Okay, clipped!" while climbing in plain sight. I love that one.

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

In direct means stop paying attention to me and check your facebook page.  

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,740
Jeremy Bauman wrote:

I'm glad this is getting brought up. A big pet peeve of mine is unnecessary communication. IMO: the only times a climber should be yelling commands is when they want a specific action done. The rest is just fluff and confusing. Either go, "off belay" meaning you want your partner to walk away, or "slack, take, lower!".  No need for going in direct. 

Agree 100%.  I suspect "In direct" will NOT be universally understood as folks here are defining it.  Someone somewhere will take it to mean Off Belay and take the climber off and start eating their lunch.  Whether they get their climber back on belay or not before that climber leans back on the rope is too critical to leave to chance.

And I tend to hear "Safe" mostly from foreign climbers.  Also, "Assure" (Ah-syur-AY) from the Frenchies.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Jeremy Bauman wrote:

IA big pet peeve of mine is unnecessary communication. IMO: the only times a climber should be yelling commands is when they want a specific action done. T

A couple of other unnecessary communications I've admonished my newer partners about:

"Lowering" (after I've told you "Lower," you don't need to say that. I'll know I'm being lowered)

"Rappeling"  (that comment adds nothing. You've already yelled "Rope," so you don't need to tell everyone you're rappeling...just rappel)

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175
Nick Goldsmith wrote:

In direct means stop paying attention to me and check your facebook page.  

You mean check MP.

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
Jeremy Bauman wrote:

While we're spraying opinions on the internet: I also dislike it when I clip the first piece and my belayer now says, "belay's on now". --- what the heck? We're the ropes not ready before? I get it, but still.

If the belayer is spotting you before you make your first clip, then yes, the ropes are not ready to catch a fall until you make the first clip and they bring their hands down, possibly pull in excess slack if any, and one hand grips the brake strand below the belay device. For some people this takes a few moments to do depending on their skill, speed, and how much slack is out. And I've seen many a belayer that has so much slack out for the first clip that if the climber fell immediately after making the first clip, they would deck. I find this command useful. It lets me know when I can trust that the rope system and belayer can catch me.  

Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585
Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 871

Indirect or in direct is a great phrase.  I use it when a have gas and let one go.  I yell "indirect" to let me friends know they may need to back away.  Then, I sample the air.  If it is benign, I shout "safe" to let everyone know they can come back in the room.  These phrases are great in the bedroom, too!

When I'm leading, I like to dive for the anchors.  If I successfully grab them, I yell "safe", like a baseball player diving for home plate.  

These terms have added no appreciable benefit, and, possibly, some confusion to climbing.  Miscommunication is now one of the leading reasons for climber injuries and deaths.  Keep it simple people.  

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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