Belaying 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.
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.
(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.
(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.
Libby is a highly qualified mountain leader with over 25 years experience, having worked as an instructor at Glenmore Lodge and Plas y Brenin and also having travelled the world seeking out the best climbs. She offers bespoke guiding, instruction and coaching sessions in climbing and mountaineering in her local area of North Wales - one of the best areas in the UK for outdoor sports.
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