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Belaying is the technique is used to protect another individual, usually a climber or a participant on high elements of a ropes course, by utilizing climbing ropes. A running belay1 connects a climber to a belayer by a rope that is held by the belayer, so as to catch and keep safe the climber should he or she fall.

Following are a series of steps to set up an effective running belay, keeping in mind the three major characteristics of such a system: anchor, friction, position.

Set up:
1. Anchor
An anchor is necessary to make sure that if the climber were to fall suddenly from a large hight the belayer wouldn’t be pulled off his or her feet. The anchor point anchors the belayer to a tree or other large unmovable object.
a. Have the belayer put on a waist loop – preferably use a sit harness or, if necessary, a sling tied with a bowline.
b. Use an eyelet and a sling rope with a figure eight on a bight on both ends
c. Hook the belayer’s waist loop to the figure eight on a bight with a carabiner

2. Friction
One or more friction points are necessary to create friction that will absorb the force of the climbers fall to make belaying easier and safer for the belayer.
a. Find a secure tree or similar stationary object that will form a triangle between the anchor and the climber.
b. If there is not already an eyelet, tie a loop of sling around the tree (preferably with a knot like a water knots).
c. Hook two identical carabiners into the eyelet or loop.
d. Run the rope from the climber, through the two carabiners, to the belayer’s anchor location.

3. Position
Without the proper position, a belay can become quite unsafe.
a. The belayer should align him or herself with the anchor tree and point of friction.
b. The belayer should stand at the end of the anchor line so as not to leave any slack.
c. Put the rope from the climber through the belayer’s stitchplate device allowing the free end of the rope to lie in the belayer’s dominant hand.

Procedure:
1. Procedure
a. The dominant hand, the brake hand, should hold the rope tightly at all times. On a stichplate, the braking motion is simply moving the free end of the rope out to the side, away from the stichplate. The bend in the rope creates a situation where the rope can not move through the device.
b. The weaker hand, the guide hand, should also hold the rope to sense the movement of the climber and to assist in taking up and letting out slack as is necessary.
c. The motions are quite simple, and are repetitive. The belayer’s dominant hand should pull the rope through the stitchplate while the guide hand helps by moving rope through the device. The guide hand then moves up the rope, and grabs the free end so that both ends are in the guide hand. Then, without removing the dominant hand from the rope, the dominant hand moves the rope up towards the stitchplate. Repeat these motions over and over.
Note: The hand motions for a rappel or for a descending participant are in fact the exact opposite.

2. Communication
a. Communication is crucial between belayer and climber to keep both comfortable and safe. Make sure to have some system of communication standardized before the climb so the climber can get extra support as soon as is necessary so as to prevent injury. An example conversation could be as follows
Climber: “On belay?”
Belayer: “Belay on.” (if silence, then the climber must wait for the belayer to be ready.)
Climber: “Climbing?”
Belayer: “Climb on.” (This might be the most important command, as it insures the climber doesn’t have any false security in belayer who hasn’t started his or her job yet.)
If the climber wants more slack: “Slack please”
Belayer: “Okay/Thank you
Climber wants less slack: “Up rope”
Belayer: “Okay/Thank you”
Climber: “Off belay.”
Belayer: “Belay off.”

1 This guide is just for running belays. The other type of a belay is a static belay which secures an individual to a fixed point like an eyelet in a tree. The individual using a static belay should have a sit harness or sling tied around his or her waist with a bowline and a figure of eight on a bight with a carabiner. Static belays can be used to secure a person to a given position above the ground.


This has been adopted from The Park School Appalachian Challenge Manual, Fourth Edition

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