Choosing A Belay Technique

The climber may choose from a variety of belay techniques. A method that works well in one situation may not be the best choice in another. The choice between body belays and mechanical belays depends largely on equipment available, what the climber feels most comfortable with, and the amount of load, or fall force, the belay may have to absorb. The following describes a few of the more widely used techniques, and the ones most applicable to military mountaineering.

a. Body Belay. The basic body belay is the most widely used technique on moderate terrain. It uses friction between the rope and the clothed body as the rope is pressured across the clothing. It is the simplest belay, requiring no special equipment, and should be the first technique learned by all climbers. A body belay gives the belayer the greatest "feel" for the climber, letting him know when to give slack or take up rope. Rope management in a body belay is quick and easy, especially for beginners, and is effective in snow and ice climbing when ropes often become wet, stiff, and frozen. The body belay, in its various forms, will hold low to moderate impact falls well. It has been known to arrest some severe falls, although probably not without inflicting great pain on the belayer.

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