Belaying for sport climbing

Belaying for sport climbing

Belaying is the system that enables climbers to effectively hold a fall by means of a friction device and rope handling skills. Here's the pros and cons of various styles of belay devices for sport climbing.

Effective belaying is achieved through a combination of appropriate rope handling and correct use of a belay device alongside attentiveness. The belayer must watch the climber at all times in order to feed the rope at the appropriate pace and anticipate any falls. 

Belay device

There are three categories of belay device:

Slick devices (e.g. ATC and Bug). These offer maximum ease of handling when paying out, taking in and abseiling i.e. they run very smoothly but that also means the belayer must react quickly to hold unexpected falls. Even experienced belayers have dropped their partners due to the fast running of such devices.

Gri gri
Gri griGrabbing devices (e.g. Sticht Plate and Betterbrake) These older style plates jam-up readily which makes paying out, taking in and abseiling less smooth, but they do have the advantage that falls are easier to hold.

Semi-locking devices (e.g. Grigri) This device was designed to take the uncertainty out of holding a falling lead climber. The device itself locks the rope when submitted to a rapid jerk (such as the leader falling) even if the belayer has let go. However, it is not a hands-off device and it does require considerable practice to master its use correctly, particularly when paying out the rope and when lowering the climber.

Search advice