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Tips for Lead Belay


Original Post
Dyll Pickle · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 0

I just started transitioning from top rope to leading sport routes. The thing I have the most trouble with is lead belay. Any tips for the beginner?


Kurt G. · · Reading, PA · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 150

what exactly are you struggling with when it comes to lead belay?

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 745

Best thing to do would be to find someone who knows how to lead belay well, on the same belay device that you are using, and watch them do it / have them watch you and give you advice.

Abram Herman · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined May 2009 · Points: 20

Don't let go of the brake.

Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0

Don't lower them off the end or take them off belay until you are sure - then check again.

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 108

I think it's helpful to become proficient with an ATC-style device for the sake of good habits, but ultimately I think you'll want an assisted braking device. I use the Click Up, but the GriGri is more popular.

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 108
Eric Engberg wrote:

Don't lower them off the end or take them off belay until you are sure - then check again.

You should also tie a double overhand with a foot of tail in the end of your line to avoid lowering-off-the-end issues.

Fredrik Ehne · · Stockholm, Sweden · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Give an armlength of slack as they're reaching down to grab the rope to clip ie before they've grabbed the rope, then give one more if needed as they're raising their hand with the rope. 

Kurt G. · · Reading, PA · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 150
David Kerkeslager wrote:

I think it's helpful to become proficient with an ATC-style device for the sake of good habits, but ultimately I think you'll want an assisted braking device. I use the Click Up, but the GriGri is more popular.

+1 for the Click-Up

Mae Rae · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 20

You have to jump at just the right time.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

So, barring specific questions...

1) Stand close to the wall.

2) Know how to feed slack quickly.  For a Grigri, this means placing your thumb on the cam without letting go of the brake.  You should be able to pull out an arm’s length on short notice without thinking, or else your climber will hate you.

3) Don’t leave too much slack, especially for the first 3 clips.  If you’re good at #2, you should be able to keep a minimal amount of slack while the climber is climbing and only pull it out when needed.

4) Watch weight differences.  If one climber is significantly heavier than the other, they will take much bigger falls and the belayer can get sucked into the first draw.

5) Pay attention.  Lead belaying is much more active than toproping and requires focus as you constantly feed and take in slack based on the climber’s movements.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
cyclestupor · · Woodland Park, Colorado · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 91

We all start lead belaying at some point, but unfortunately there are a lot of unskilled/dangerous belayers out there.  Some are beginners, others have been belaying for years.  Don't be one of those people!  When you are belaying you should be extremely focused.  You need to be aware of exactly what your climber is doing, what your hands are doing, and what the rope is doing at all times. You should constantly be imagining what will happen if your climber falls at this moment.

Since you are a beginner, you will probably short rope the climber a few times.  That is ok.  Short roping is much better than having too much slack out (of the first 2-3 bolts anyway.).  Remember, a climber may bitch about being short roped, but they never bitch about too much slack (until they deck), so just ignore some of the bitching until you build more confidence.

Some people will tell you that there are times when extra slack is a good thing.  This is true, but you need to become good at judging what will happen in a fall before you start giving extra slack.

Also DON'T try to give a soft catch by jumping.  If you haven't caught many falls, then you definitely shouldn't try jumping yet.  Its not so much of a jump anyway, its more like bending your knees when the climber comes off the wall, and letting your legs spring up when the climbers weight comes on the rope.  After you have caught a bunch of falls without trying to jump, you will probably start to naturally get a feel for this springy action of your legs.

Once you feel confident as a lead bealyer, punch yourself in the nose for feeling too confident.  Read accident reports, to stay focused.

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 867

Tie a fucking knot in the end of the rope.  

Look up and evaluate the height of the route vs your rope length.  

Communicate with your partner whether you plan to rap or lower.  

Tie a fucking knot in the end of the rope.

Daniel T · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 35

Dont be these guys!!




K. Le Douche · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2008 · Points: 100

I hear this guy is available for private belay lessons.  His prices are said to be outrageous though...


https://vimeo.com/238755057

Mae Rae · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 20

The best part about knowing anything about belaying is that you can preach endlessly about the nuances of proper belay technique.

Eric L · · Roseville, CA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 115

Lots of good advice so far!  I'll add, make sure you are always in or near brake position, even when feeding slack (PBUS is still king).  I see too many people casually holding the tail up by the rope on an ATC; it's f-ing dangerous as a quick fall can pull the rope through the ATC and rip it out of your hand.  I'm going to get crap from the pull pinch fans now who argue it's easier to feed rope (I never died..!); with a munter or auto braking device it's not as much of a problem, but good habits should be practiced.  When you are nervous and new, pull-pinch is a bad idea.  Especially watch on the fist few bolts and don't give too much slack, use your position to the wall to manage rope if feeding quickly is a problem.

Maya L · · Chicago, IL · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 35

Great comments so far! I'll just add three points that weren't mentioned by others:

- I'm always trying to calculate in my mind where my climber would end up if they were to fall now. It's not so crucial at the gym, but on real rock you have roofs, overhangs and ledges, and even though decking is still the worst and should be prevented at any cost, hitting a ledge or slamming your face into an overhang can be bad too. You want to give them just the right amount of slack to account for that.

- (Actually this was mentioned by Ted) Be aware of weight differences. I've seem so many unnecessary (albeit minor) injuries resulting from folks ignoring weight difference that's more than 30%. 

- More general advice about how to be a good belayer (not specific to lead belying) - always be attentive to- and focused on- your climber, be supportive, and offer snacks.

Finally, my take on the ATC vs. GriGri discussion: get used to an ATC - it gives you good habits. After a while, if the GriGri feels more comfortable, that's fine.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 476

Get belay glasses. You'll be able to stay attentive when your climber is far up the route if you're not craning your neck the whole time.

Andrew Schindler · · Lakewood · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 75






Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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