How To Belay

The belayer controls the rope for the lead climber. They feed out rope as the lead continues, take in when needed and stop any rope from feeding when the lead climber falls.

Disclaimer: Rock climbing is an inherently dangerous sport. This article or any article on this site is no substitute for real life instruction. Learning here will give you more knowledge for when you attend your first course or are learning from an experienced climber.

Top Rope Belaying

Top rope climbing is when the rope goes through an anchor at the top of the climb. Due to the rope already being in place it means that there is minimal slack in the rope at all times. Top ropes are most often set up under two circumstances:

  1. When beginners are learning to climb.
  2. When someone wants to work a route that they would not be comfortable leading or will take many falls on.

Before belaying someone on lead you will want to learn how to belay someone on top rope This way you get the feel for the rope and can learn in a more controlled environment.

How To Top Rope Belay

You can practice learning to belay indoors. Set up a rope over a pull up bar. Attach a heavy bag to your rope and belay it across the kitchen floor.

When Top rope belaying there are three main stages:

  1. Taking in: As the climber climbs you take in the slack.
  2. Locking off: When the climber gets to the top you will lock off stopping any more rope from feeding through the device. The climber should let you know they are ready to descend.
  3. Lowering: Once you have communicated with the climber you will lower the climber with both hands on the dead rope. Say “lowering” before you begin.

Taking In

“V to knee 1-2-3”. When learning the steps it’s good to recite the words “V-to-knee-1-2-3”.

Locking off

When locking off you hold the rope down on the belay plate, somewhere around the hip.


Always lower with two hands!

Backing Up

When learning, it is good to have someone backing you up. This means that someone else will hold the rope a few feet behind you.

Belaying A Lead Climber

Now that you have got the feel of belaying you can start belaying someone on lead. Remebember, the consequenses are alot higher when someone is leading as there is is always the chance of the lead taking a fall.

Lead belaying is a lot different and more unpredictable. If you are learning to lead belay make sure it is with an experienced climber and they are climbing easy routes.

Tips For Belaying

Belaying outdoors is alot different to in the gym, especially when trad climbing.

  1. Find a safe and secure stance: Make sure you identify all danger ie. loose rock, boulders, roof.
  2. Buddy check: Make sure your partner checks your belay.
  3. Belay hand is on the opposite side of the wall. You don’t want it getting crushed.
  4. Wear a helmet. Rocks fall from overhead.
  5. Add protection if you are in a dangerous position (steep stance, by the sea etc.)

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