Hot Tip Tuesday: How to be a Supportive Belayer - World Class Academy

Hot Tip Tuesday: How to be a Supportive Belayer

In some ways, belaying – and the belayer – is almost as important as the climbing. Yes, the climber actually does the hard moves, takes the falls, and clips the chains. But without the belayer, the fall wouldn’t be pillowy soft. The climber may not remember a key foothold. They might not remember to take that calming breath before launching into the crux.

Being a supportive belayer is essential to the process. Here are a few tips:

  1. Ask – it may sound simple, but the best way to be a supportive belayer is to ask your climber what they need. Every climber is different. Some people love encouragement, and others don’t. Some love the phrase, “You’ve got this,” or “Breathe”; others may just want you to scream, “c’mon”. Whatever your climber wants is what they should get. And the best way to do this is to ask.
  2. Words of Encouragement – Unless your climber wants complete silence, which does sometimes happen (which you’ll find out if you ask), it’s nice to encourage your climber by saying, “I’m with you,” “You’re safe,” “Try hard,” “Breathe,” “You’ve got this,” or whatever other words inspire them. I’ve definitely had the courage to try when I otherwise wouldn’t when I’m told I’m safe and my belayer is with me.
  3. Give a soft catch – When climbers know it’s safe to fall, they are more likely to try hard and go “al muerte”. Make sure you’re paying attention and can give a soft catch. It can go a long way toward having others trust you and want to climb with you again and again.
  4. Slack – It’s also nice to know the rope is there yet at the same time to not feel it. Getting short roped stinks. Be a supportive and attentive belayer by giving your climber appropriate slack, especially when clipping, so that they can put the rope through the draw effortlessly, without expending extra energy on the clipping process.
  5. Listening and Responding – If your climber is projecting, it’s nice to listen to them as they think about beta and talk about it aloud or listen as they go through the crux sequence after lowering. However, it’s important to remember that they may not want beta, even if you know it like the back of your hand. You can always go back to suggestion 1 at that point – ask. Ask if they want your beta or just want you to listen or even if they want you to ask them questions. Asking, as well as listening and responding, are important to being a supportive belayer.

Those are some basic tips to being a supportive belayer.

And if you’re ever in doubt about what to say, you can always check out Brendan Leonard’s 39 Supportive Things You Can Say to the Climber You’re Belaying.


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