Tying-in to the climbing rope and moving as a member of a rope team increases the climber's margin of safety on difficult, exposed terrain. In some instances, such as when traveling over snow-covered glaciers, rope team members can often move at the same time, relying on the security of a tight rope and "team arrest" techniques to halt a fall by any one member. On steep terrain, however, simultaneous movement only helps to ensure that if one climber falls, he will jerk the other rope team members off the slope. For the climbing rope to be of any value on steep rock climbs, the rope team must incorporate "belays" into the movement.
Belaying is a method of managing the rope in such a way that, if one person falls, the fall can be halted or "arrested" by another rope team member (belayer). One person climbs at a time, while being belayed from above or below by another. The belayer manipulates the rope so that friction, or a "brake," can be applied to halt a fall. Belay techniques are also used to control the descent of personnel and equipment on fixed rope installations, and for additional safety on rappels and stream crossings.
Belaying is a skill that requires practice to develop proficiency. Setting up a belay may at first appear confusing to the beginner, but with practice, the procedure should become "second nature." If confronted with a peculiar problem during the setup of a belay, try to use common sense and apply the basic principles stressed throughout this text. Remember the following key points:
• Select the best possible terrain features for the position and use terrain to your advantage.
• Use a well braced, sitting position whenever possible.
• Aim and anchor the belay for all possible load directions.
• Follow the "minimum" rule for belay anchors—2 for a downward pull, 1 for an upward pull.
• Ensure anchor attachments are aligned, independent, and snug.
• Stack the rope properly.
• Choose a belay technique appropriate for the climbing.
• Use a guide carabiner for rope control in all body belays.
• Ensure anchor attachments, guide carabiner (if applicable), and rope running to the climber are all on the guidehand side.
• The brake hand remains on the rope when belaying.
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