Basic voice commands used by climbers

Follower: "That's me"

You have pulled up all the slack in the rope and are now tugging on my body; don't pull any more.

I am belaying you.

1 am, or will resume, moving up.

Response to "Climbing."

Give me some slack in the rope and leave it out until I call "Climbing." (If you want to indicate how much slack you need, the command would be "Slack X feet," with X being the amount of slack.)

(Usually to upper belayer.) There is slack in the rope; pull it in.

(Usually to upper belayer.) Take up all slack and hold my weight. (Should be used sparingly by beginners, to avoid overdependence on rope. Say "Watch me" instead.)

Assume your braking position and brace for a pull on the rope. About half of the rope remains. What length of rope remains?

Forty feet of rope remains; find a belay soon (best used when 50 to 20 feet remain).

I am secure and no longer need your belay. Take it apart and prepare to follow the pitch.

I heard you.

(After taking apart the belay.) You may pull in all the slack and remaining coils when you are ready.

(Very loudly, immediately, and repeatedly until falling object stops; mandatory.) Falling objects. Look up or take cover.

A rappel rope is about to be thrown down by another party. Look up or take cover.

Climbers also use some discretionary voice commands, depending on local custom or prior agreement with a climbing partner. These are examples, and many idiosyncratic variations are also used.

Belayer: Climber: Belayer: Climber:

Climber: Climber:

Climber: Belayer: Leader: Belayer:

"Belay on" "Climbing" "Climb" "Slack"

"Up rope" "Tension"

"Falling!" "Halfway" "How much rope?" "Feet... four ... zero'

Leader: "Off belay"

Anyone: Follower:

Anyone:

Anyone:

"OK" "Belay off"

"Rope"

Leader:

Climber: Climber: Climber:

"Protection" or "Cleaning"

"Good belay" or "Watch me"

"On top"

I have just clipped into the first protection. Or I have clipped into protection located above my harness tie-in, so the direction of rope movement will reverse twice as I move up through a difficult spot.

I am placing or cleaning protection and will not move up for awhile.

I anticipate a fall or difficult move. I have passed the difficulty.

Contrary to a popular misconception, there is no automatic clamping effect with a properly designed belay device. Your hand is the ultimate source of friction, and without your braking hand on the rope, there is no belay. The total friction is determined by the strength of your grip, the total number of degrees in the bends or turns the rope makes, and the rope's internal resistance to bending and deforming against the sides of the device and carabiner.

There are a number of popular belay devices (fig. 7-11). One general type may be referred to as an aperture device: It simply provides an aperture through which a bight (loop) of rope is pushed and then clipped to the locking carabiner on your harness or at the anchor. In one widely used version of this type, the aperture consists of a slot, or slots, in a metal plate. (The original and best known of these is the Sticht plate [fig. 7-1 la].) In another version, the aperture is a cone-shaped tube (fig. 7-1 lb).

The figure-8 device (not to be confused with the figure-8 knot) was originally designed only for rap-

pelling, not belaying. Some figure-8s now serve double-duty, for both rappelling and belaying. Fig-ure-8s are seen in three different configurations as belay devices. One is the standard rappel configuration (fig. 7-1 If)- Another is set up like the Bachli (fig. 7-1 le), described below. If the hole in the small end of the figure-8 is the size of a typical aperture device hole, it can also be used similarly to a slot or tube (fig. 7-1 lc). Make certain that your figure-8 was intended for belaying use by the manufacturer; most are not.

The Bachli device (fig. 7-1 Id) is, in appearance, a sort of streamlined figure-8. The bight of rope goes up through the large hole and is then dipped into a locking carabiner attached both to your harness and to the small hole in the device.

Your tie-in to the anchor should be on the braking-hand side when using a belay device. This way, your body rotation under the force of a fall will assist, rather than hinder, you in separating the ropes.

In belaying a lead climber, try to prepare for the possibility that before placing the first piece of pro-

Fig. 7-11. Major categories of belay device: a, slot; b, tube; c, figure-8 in aperture configuration; d, Bachli; e, figure-8 in Bachli configuration; f figure-8 in rappel configuration.

tection, the leader could fall, plunging below your position. The braking hand should be on the opposite side of this possible fall, or you won't be able to separate the ropes entering and leaving the device.

Belayers rarely wear gloves when using a belay device, in part because the device itself provides a greater proportion of the total friction. However, rope burns are a possibility, although they seem to be rare.

When taking in or letting out slack with an aperture device (slot or tube), keep the ropes strictly parallel. Otherwise, the rope will pull the device up against the carabiner, and braking begins. Eventually the practice becomes automatic.

Among devices, slots and tubes produce the least friction in routine rope handling, which allows you to take in rope faster when the climber is on easy ground, and a slightly improved feel for small movements of the climber and elimination of slack. The Bachli configuration, however, generates less friction than slots and tubes when it holds a fall. This characteristic lends the Bachli to use on

ice and snow, where stances and anchors are usually weaker and would benefit from a lower force, and where the consequences of a longer fall are often less important.

A belayer is called upon not just to stop falls, but to hold the climber stationary under tension, or lower him to a ledge. Devices vary significantly in how easily they perform these tasks. Slot devices require the least force to hold the climber's weight, but are the least smooth in lowering the climber.

Slots and tubes can be attached to a tether to keep them from sliding out of reach. Some of these devices include a hole for attaching the tether. A tether to your harness must be long enough so it doesn't interfere with belaying in any direction.

Like any piece of critical equipment made of metal, a belay device that is dropped a significant distance should be retired because internal stresses could cause it to break when holding a big fall.

Hard-anodized devices tend to glaze the outermost surface of the rope when stopping a fall, but this effect is purely cosmetic and not harmful. (The metallurgic process of hard-anodizing produces a thin layer of aluminum oxide whose surface is hard and microscopically pitted, and appears dull gray, black, or brown.)

Belay devices are also used for rappelling. Slot devices produce a jerky ride that puts unnecessarily high loads on the anchor. However, the slot design that has a spring may be OK, and tube devices may be acceptably smooth. The Bachli device and fig-ure-8s are the smoothest for rappelling. However, figure-8s put one twist in the rope for every 10 feet of descent, producing snarls in the coils later.

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