Belaying: Simple Top-Rope Belay

By Don Graydon.

A simple top-rope belay is a basic way to let your partner climb up to you with little danger of any serious fall.
Hip belay.

The specific method of belaying described here - a method of applying friction to the rope to stop a fall-is called the hip belay (or body belay). As we'll see, there are other and (mostly) better ways to apply friction to the rope.

  1. Put a runner around the tree, clip a carabiner into it, and then attach the climbing rope to the carabiner with just enough rope between your harness tie-in knot and the carabiner so you can sit comfortably near the edge and perhaps brace your feet on something. The rope runs from your tie-in knot around your left side to the carabiner. You are now anchored to the mountain.
  2. Pull up the slack rope. When the slack is all out and I feel a tug on my body, I yell "That's me!" or some other prearranged signal. Next, put the rope around your back and grip the rope with your right hand with the palm up, making sure that none of the slack you pulled up is between your right hand and me: the rope runs from your right hand around your back or hips from right to left, running over the section of rope that attaches you to the anchor. The right hand is now the braking hand and the left hand is the feeling hand.
  3. Now you yell down "Belay on!" which tells me that I can start climbing.
  4. How will you be able to stop me? Simply by gripping the rope tightly with your braking hand and assuming the braking (or arrest) position at the instant I shout "Falling!"
  5. Never remove your braking hand from the rope.

What is the point of attaching yourself to an anchor?

  1. Consider that the upward "stopping" force you can exert on me through hand grip and friction is there only because you are resisting a downward force on you, a force that could pull you off. What normally enables you to resist that force is your weight and position, with your feet braced. But if I am much heavier than you, or the ledge is sloping downward and there is nothing for you to brace your feet on, you could be pulled completely off the mountain if not attached to an anchor.
  2. Now consider your position. You are facing away from the anchor, roughly in line with the direction of force. This contributes to stability; if the force of a fall is fairly high, you won't be jerked one way or the other, possibly losing control of the belay. You also have a certain stance, a sitting one in this case, with your two legs and butt forming a tripod, with the rope running between your legs down to me. If you are able to brace your feet, this is a very strong stance, one you can hold against fairly large forces without being pulled off or out of position. It thus enables you to protect the anchor-that is, to prevent any force from going on it, so the anchor becomes a backup to your stance.

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