Gold Standard: A Curriculum to Standardize American Belaying

Photo: AAC member Drew Smith

Photo: AAC member Drew Smith


American climbers currently learn to belay from professional climbing instructors and guides, from formal and informal mentors, and an increasing number learn to climb in indoor/artificial climbing structures and facilities. While there is general competence with belay related skills and techniques, an underlying belay-related accident/incident rate underscores the lack of uniformity among American belayers. While certain belay techniques, tools, and principles seem to predominate, a national adherence/advocacy for a single set of guiding fundamentals, best practices, and standards does not exist.

The following curriculum is designed to not only define the content used to teach belay education programs for the American Alpine Club, but eventually consolidate and reform American belaying entirely.


  • Belaying Equipment
  • Attaching the climber to the climbing rope
  • Fundamental Principles of Belay
  • The Belay System
  • Belaying a Top Rope
  • Lead Belaying
  • Use of Ground Anchors

I. Belaying Equipment

All of the equipment used to implement this curriculum should be designed, tested, and manufactured for climbing specific applications by a reputable manufacturer. Any one of a handful of options are available in the United States, and unfamiliar or foreign manufacturers can be cross-referenced with several third party organizations that confirm and endorse the strength, durability, and integrity of all the equipment mentioned in this curriculum. (See appendix 1)


All harnesses used for rock climbing should be tested and designed specifically for that purpose. A modern climbing harness should consist of the following components, at a minimum:

  • Waist belt
  • Tie in points *
  • Belay loop *
  • Buckles

*Some harnesses have the same point for tying-in and belaying.

There are a few consequential variations in harness design: Harnesses with a single belay and tie-in point are oriented horizontally on the waist belt. As a result, the attachment of a belay device will have a left or right orientation that should be consistent with the belayer’s dominant hand.

Harnesses with two hard points are usually connected by a vertically oriented belay loop. As a result, the tie-in occupies a separate reinforced path than any carabiner that may be clipped to the belay loop. The vertical belay loop also results in a belay device orientation that is centered on the belayer’s body, negating the relevance of their specifically dominant hand.

Belay Devices

Unlike the terrain or body belay techniques used historically in rock climbing, a modern belay device introduces a more consistent and functional supply of friction to a belay system. When combined with an adequate counter-weight or a load-bearing anchor, a belay device can retard or halt the movement of a climbing rope, thereby arresting falls, creating comfortable lowers, and otherwise securing a climber in a climbing environment.

It is important to note that no belay device effectively secures a climber without a correct setup, effective and correct use, and/or an adequate counterweight or anchor.

While many different models, colors, and styles exist, they all fall into two major categories:

  • Plate/Aperture/Tube Devices
  • Assisted Braking Devices

Locking Carabiners

Since the connection of a belay device to a counterweight or anchor is vitally important, ensuring the safety of a climber, a secure and reliable connection is a prudent practice.

Historically, a single carabiner with a carefully monitored locking mechanism has proved adequate. However, since the locking carabiner is a vital critical link in the climbing system, the security of its locking mechanism must be supplemented with a thorough understanding of the strengths and weakness of the unit, vigilant supervision during use, and careful inspection that precedes any belay sequence.

Parts of a locking carabiner:

Basket/Basin: Larger side of the carabiner can accommodate bulky ropes, hitches, or tools.

Locking Mechanism: The locking mechanism keeps the carabiner’s gate from opening unintentionally. The different styles can be characterized the number of physical movements it takes to open a locked carabiner. Screwgate closures require two physical movements, unscrewing the locking mechanism and then opening the gate; it is a two step locking mechanism. Other styles often require three steps.

Long and short axis: the long axis is designed to be loaded. The short axis is not.

Locking carabiners are designed to load the long axis. Horizontal loads (loading the carabiner along its short axis) or tri-axial loads (loading the carabiner in three directions) can decrease the strength of the carabiner significantly and may compromise the overall climbing safety system.

Climbing Ropes

Climbing Ropes are the most iconic tools in rock climbing. They are manufactured in dozens of varieties, but the ropes most important to this curriculum should be those specifically designed and tested for single strand rock climbing applications. The most relevant variations in climbing ropes are length, diameter, elongation, and middle indications.

Length-Most of the climbing and belaying done indoors involves a rope that is redirected from the top anchor so that both ends of the rope will reach the ground. In such an arrangement, the climbing rope should be twice as long as the climb. Indoors, these lengths are usually specifically cut to accommodate the length of the climbs in the facility. Outdoors, climbers usually purchase precut lengths, typically sold in 60m-70m options.

Diameter-The rope’s diameter has logical consequences for different climbing applications. Wide ropes are more durable but heavier, so they tend to be more popular indoors, where ropes do not need to be carried by climbers. Outdoors, climbers have a greater appetite for skinnier ropes, because they are lighter. However, as the rope diameter decreases, so does the overall durability.

Elongation-Climbing ropes stretch to absorb the energy of a falling climber and reduce the impact force sustained by the climber’s body, the belayer’s body, and the anchor/top piece. But, the amount of stretch can vary. Stretchy ropes are beneficial when lead climbers are taking falls, but less elongation is valuable for toproping, when climber’s prefer not to lose too much progress on the climb each time they fall.

Middle indication- In many climbing applications, it is important to be able to quickly find the middle of the rope. The middle can either be indicated by a marking, inked or died onto the rope, or the sheath of rope may change pattern or color and the mid-point.

II. Attaching to the climbing rope

Attaching the climbing rope to a climber’s harness is a routine task in any climbing context. Indoors, it is common for the climber to tie in to one end of the rope, while the other end of the rope is simply managed. Outdoors, it is common for the climber to tie in to one end of the rope, while the belayer ties in to the other end of the same rope.

In both cases, the Figure 8 Follow Through is one of several different options for attaching the rope to the climber, but it is the option that tends to dominate because it easy to teach, easy to learn, easily recognizable when tied correctly, while also being a secure and strong knot. This curriculum will emphasize tying the figure 8 follow through in a standardized manner, and it will propose the knot as the definitive attachment technique for American climbing.

Tying the Figure 8 Follow Through

When tying the Figure 8 Follow Through, it is important to remember what sets the knot apart from all other options. It has a natural symmetry, and therefore an opportunity to create uniformity in the climbing system. 

Remember what makes the Figure 8 Follow Through the ideal knot for climbing teams. Certain gestures create uniformity, so that the knot looks the same every time it is used:

  • The symmetry of the knot is based on having all strands parallel to each other.
  • The gap between the knot and the waist belt is the same size as the belay loop.
  • The knot has a 6 inch tail. No longer no shorter.

Step 1: Tie the Figure 8 Follow Through

Tie the figure 8 knot first; the knot is tied by wrapping a tail of rope around a loop and then passing the tail into the loop.

Each time, try to perfect the amount of tail. Different rope diameters will require slightly different amounts of tail to complete the next steps, but 12-18 inches is usually adequate.

Step 2: Pass the tail of the rope through the harness. Pass the tail of the rope through both tie in points. Try to avoid passing the tail through the belay loop in the process. Pull the knot next to harness to begin the step.

Step 3: Complete the follow through by retracing the original Figure 8 with the tail. Use the original Figure 8 as a road map and retrace each turn of the knot with the tail. It will be helpful to start on the outside of the knot. Each time the knot is tied, make an effort to keep all the strand parallel. There will be fewer steps to complete if the knot is simply well-dressed in the first place.

Step 4: Make any gestures needed to standardize the knot. The figure eight follow through should be tied with all strands parallel to each other. It should have a 6” tail, and the gap between the knot and the waist belt should be the same size and the belay loop.

III. Fundamental Principles of Belay

Belaying has a long history. Innovated primarily in nautical applications, the earliest known belay techniques logically transferred to mountaineering, where climbers needed to a tool to secure each other during mountain travel. The fundamental principles that optimized the effectiveness of those early belay techniques have not changed. In fact, it is hard to imagine modern belaying without the standards and principles that preceded it.

The earliest belayers learned that in addition to the fundamental principles of belay they also needed to be attentive, vigilant, and take their responsibility to secure the climber very seriously. Today, that same attentiveness, vigilance, and seriousness should also characterize modern belaying.

Principle #1: A brake hand must be maintained at all times.

The earliest belayers quickly learned that relinquishing a firm grip on the brake strand of a belay system creates an opportunity for catastrophe. If the climber falls in the instance that brake strand is not being maintained, the accelerating fall and rapid movement of the rope is almost impossible to arrest. Accordingly, one hand must be holding the brake strand of the rope at all times.

Principle #2: Hand transitions should happen in the position of maximum friction

Modern belay tools, and the body and terrain techniques that preceded them, use friction to enhance the grip strength of the belayer. The friction of a belay tool dissipates the amount of mass the belayer needs to hold, and then the belayer’s bodyweight or the anchor is used to arrest the climber’s fall. As a result, there are points in the belay cycle where there is a maximum amount of friction and a minimum of friction. In the sequence of belaying, a belayer will need to continually move slack through the belay system, so there is a continual sequence in the which the rope is moved the system, and then the brake hands adjust their position on the rope in order to move slack again. The time when the hands transition is one of the most vulnerable moments in the belay cycle, and during that time the rope should rest in a position of maximum friction while the hands reset.

Principle #3: The hands and limbs should be positioned ergonomically

Pulling on the rope, pulling slack through a belay system, resting in the brake position, and sustaining a fall, all require belayer to use their bodies and joints in a repetitive and sometimes strenuous way. It is important that hands and limbs take advantage of the natural ergonomics of the belay system so that stamina, reactivity, and grip strength are optimized.

Tertiary Principles Specific to Rock Climbing:

Back up belay(er)s are a valuable addition to any belay system. Another set of hands, another set of eyes, and a measure of redundancy are great ways to enhance the security of a belay. But, another person has not historically been a part of belaying. When available though, and especially when belayers are still learning, it can be a valuable principle to adopt.

Belayer’s grip strength and the amount of friction applied by a belay tool can be instantly negated if the belayer’s body mass does not provide an adequate counterweight to a climber. When a climber weigh more than 40% of a belayer’s body weight, it will start to be difficult for the belayer to avoid displacement. In these scenarios, adequate use of a ground anchor (for ballast) or friction on the rope system (through twists, wrapping an anchor bar, an adequate number of directional, or the inherent friction of the rope running over the terrain) will be needed.

Climbers will need belayers to continually move slack out of the belay system, but they will also need belayers to pull all the stretch out of the rope at times, when the climber wants to rest on a tight rope for example. Due to this circumstance, belayers must become adept at not only belaying slack but belaying stretch as well. Belaying requires enough strength to pull latent elasticity out of the belay system so that the climber can rest without elongating the rope an inordinate amount.

IV. Belay System

When a climber understands the Fundamental Principles of Belay, the Belay System can be mastered. The Belay System has four essential phases: The Setup, Communication and

Double Checks, Belaying and Lowering, and Termination.

The Setup

To setup a Belay System, the climber and belayer will need to manage both ends of the rope; either by tying in with a Figure 8 Follow Through or knotting the end of the rope. The belayer will need to select an appropriate belay tool, set it up correctly on the rope, and determine the need for a ground anchor. If an anchor is needed, that must also be set up.

Communication and Double Checks

A climber and a belayer are co-dependent. They must work as a team. So precise communication and double checks are an imperative part of their teamwork. The following communications should be learned and recited on every climb/belay:

Climber Belayer Corresponding Action

“On Belay, [Name of Belayer]?”

“Belay on, [Name of Climber]?” The belayer begins a vigilant,

The climber displays his/her tie-in, harness, helmet, and climbing rope, while inspecting the belayer’s harness, belay setup, helmet, and ground anchor. The Belayer checks the climber. When all these double checks are affirmed, the belayer can confidently continue to communicate.

attentive, and serious administration of the belay system.

“Climbing, [Name of Belayer].”

“Tension, [Name of belayer].”

“Climb On, [name of climber]” The climber begins climbing

“I’ve got you, [Name of climber].” The belayer pulls all latent elasticity

“Ready to Lower, [Name of Belayer].”

“Off Belay, [Name of Belayer].”

“Lowering, [Name of Climber].” When the climber is ready to lower,

“Belay Off, [Name of Climber].” If the climber is safe, firmly footed,

Conditional Communication

“Slack, [Name of Belayer].”

“Up rope, [Name of belayer].”

“Rock!” “Rock” If any object is falling, all those who out of the belay system so that the climber can lean back and put weight on the rope. When the rope is tight, the climber leans back and relinquishes all body weight to the rope. 

the belayer lowers the climber gently and smoothly to the ground. and secure, there is no longer a need for belay, and the belay system can be deconstructed.

The belayer provides one arm length of slack. If the climber requires more slack, they will request more

If the climber needs the belayer to move slack out of the belay, the “up rope” communication is given. In this circumstance the climber should also stop climbing until the slack is removed from the system observe the falling object call “rock”

When Double Checking

When the belayer and climber communicate, it is important to understand that the initial communication, “On Belay, [Name of Climber]?” is intentionally rendered in the form of a question. The Climber is asking if the belay system is ready. Before the belayer can accurately and affirmatively reply, double checks are vital. The belayer must check the climber, and the setup of the belay system. The most vital items to double check are:

Buckles: Before leaving the ground, both the climber and belayer should demonstrate to each other that the buckles on their harnesses and helmets are secure (double backed if appropriate) and tight.

Abdomen Fit (Harness Fit): A climber could fall out of a loose harness. Both the climber and belayer should inspect each other’s harnesses for proper fit. It is important that the harness is situated above the pelvis and that it is adequately tightened.

Rope: It is important to ensure that the rope is ready to use before the climber leaves the ground. Unwanted twists should be untwisted. When lots of ropes are set near each other, it is important to confirm that the climber and belayer are set up on the same rope.

Belay Device: All belay devices have specific orientations that must be set up correctly. ABD’s should be loaded correctly, and plate/aperture/tube devices should be oriented so that the braking motion does not twist the belay loop.

Carabiner: The locking mechanism of a belay carabiner contributes to proper function and strength of the carabiner. If a belayer fails to lock the carabiner, it could create a dangerous situation when the climber loads the belay system. At the beginning of a climb, the belayer should demonstrate to the climber that the carabiner is locked by attempting to press the gate in.

Knot: The Figure 8 Follow Through is used to directly connect the rope to a harness.

If tied incorrectly, the result could be devastating. It is the climber and belayer’s responsibility to ensure that the climber has a properly tied knot which passes through both tie in points of the harness.

Belaying and Lowering

Once the belay system has been setup, once the system has been double checked, and once the climber and the belayer have communicated their roles clearly and unambiguously, the actual belaying, climbing, and eventually the lowering is the next phase of the Belay System.

A climber that is secured by a toprope from above will create slack, and the belay system should constantly remove slack. Additionally, when a climber wants to rest on the rope, when a fall is anticipated, or prior to lowering, belayers also need to remove any latent elasticity from the rope system.

A lead climber will need a steady supply of rope to clip the rope into incremental protection. While the fundamental principles of belay remain unchanged for this context, it is fundamentally different than toprope belaying in two ways. First, belaying a lead climber involves giving slack, not taking in slack. But, the belayer must be precise in the amount of slack given. The lead climber should have just enough slack to move and clip the rope, unencumbered. There should be no more or less slack given than the amount needed to accomplish this task. Second, a lead belayer sustains a higher impact force when a lead climber falls; they are often displaced by the dynamic forces of the lead climber’s fall. Such displacement cannot compromise the integrity of the belay. The fundamental principles must be adhered to, even when acting as a dynamic counter-weight.

In most contexts, a climber will need to be eventually lowered from a climb. When lowering, the climber completely surrenders his/her body weight to the belay system, and the belayer is entirely responsible for delivering the climber safely to the ground. If the climber does not lean back entirely, the belayer cannot provide an effective lower.


Once the climber and the belayer are either safely anchored or safely situated on the ground, the final phase of the belay system is termination. It is important that the belayer remain vigilant, attentive, and serious until the belay system is terminated. When the climber is either safely anchored or firmly footed, the “Off Belay, [Name of Belayer]” command assures the belayer that the climber no longer requires the safety of the rope.

The belayer can respond, “Belay Off, [Name of Climber].” The only time a belay system should be terminated is when it is no longer needed. If a climber terminates a belay system, they should no longer require belaying, they should be safely situated on the ground, or they should be anchored.

V. Belaying a Toprope

When the belayer is positioned at the bottom of a climb, an appropriate belay technique must adhere to the fundamental principles of belay. While there are a few acceptable techniques for doing so, the most fundamentally sound technique is popularly known as Pull-Brake- Under-Slide, or P.B.U.S.


Pull-Brake- Under-Slide is the natural application of the fundamental principles of belay to a plate/aperture/tube device. In fact, when that tool was first innovated, it was the first time that belayers were forced to make a hand transition behind their belay tool. It was the first time that their hand positions changed from palm up to palm down.

PBUS has the added benefit of being easy to instruct, easy to belay latent elasticity, easy to accommodate an effective backup belay, easily transferable to other tools like an Assisted

Braking Device.

As the Acronym Suggests, there are four steps. The belayer simultaneously pulls slack toward the belay device with the guide hand and through the device with the brake hand. If this movement is not coordinated, the rope will be difficult to move, or the plate/aperture/tube will pinch or grab, making the movement of the rope cumbersome.

Then, the belayer quickly moves the brake hand and brake strand to the brake position; the brake hand never relinquishes its grip from the rope. Next, the guide hand can pinch the rope under/behind the brake hand. The pinch provides enough resistance so that the brake had can slide forward again, never having relinquished its grip. These steps are constantly repeated as slack or elasticity are created by the climber’s progress. All four steps should constitute a terminal progression. In other words, a belayer should never pause in the middle of the sequence. If the climber is standing still, the belayer’s brake hand should be on the rope, in the braking plane, ready to initiate all four steps.

When lowering, both the guide hand and the brake hand should clasp the brake strand, so that lowering offers the climber the security of both hands. The fundamental principles of belay apply when lower too. So, a belayer’s transitioning hands should be in the braking plane while lowering.

Using an ABD

While PBUS is a perfectly applicable belay technique when using an ABD, it is important to remember that the braking mechanics of an ABD are fundamentally different. The braking cam in an ABD will grip the rope tightly, with a deceptive amount of reliability, when all the latent elasticity is removed from the belay system. Belayers can easily be confused by the notion of brake position or braking plane, because the Grigri will appear be doing all the braking, irrespective of the position of the brake strand or even the brake hand. But, this kind of confusion is a deception and misapprehension of the ABD. The fundamental principles of belay also apply to an ABD. Accordingly, the PBUS technique is still a good one. The advantage of an ABD is that when it is used correctly, it is easier to pull all the latent elasticity out of the belay system. The ABD’s braking cam will make it more difficult for increments of slack to slip back toward the climber, so a tight and reassuring belay can always be offered.

When lowering, however, the braking cam must be deactivated. Usually, the guide hand opens the braking cam while the brake hand makes all of its transitions with a firm grip, in the position of maximum friction.

VI. Belaying a Lead Climber

Belaying a lead climber requires a different belay technique than belaying a toprope. Both the plate/aperture/tube style device and the ABD are serviceable options, but they both require special attention when belaying a leader. In both cases, the fundamental principles of belay are applicable.

Using a Plate/Aperture/Tube

When belaying a leader, PBUS will not be a helpful belay technique, because of the need to steadily give slack to a lead climber. For lead belaying, the belayer should slide the brake hand back, sequestering a quantity of slack to be given to the leader. Then, the brake hand pushes slack toward the device while the guide hand feeds that slack to the climber. As a result, the lead belay is effected in arm length (or shorter) increments. If the leader is climbing at a rate that exceeds this arm-length increment, the belayer will not be able to provide an adequate supply of slack AND adhere to the fundamental principles of belay.

When a leader falls, even the strongest belayer, with the strongest grip, will allow some rope to slip through the belay device. This slippage is unavoidable when using a plate/aperture/tube device. As a result, lead belayers learn to grab to the brake strand with both hands when the leader falls. Doing so immediately arrests any further slippage of the belay system.

Using an ABD

When belaying a leader with an ABD, the braking cam, which was such an asset in the toprope belay, now poses a unique challenge to a belayer who often needs to supply slack readily, quickly, and in large amounts. When a lead climber is moving slowly and smoothly, without long clips or the need for large amounts of slack, the exact same technique deployed for a Plate/Aperture/Tube device will work, especially if the rope is smaller and smoother. But, it is common that lead climbers move quickly in certain sections; they make dynamic and leaping moves; they clip overhead from good holds. So, a lead belayer must learn to apply the fundamental principles of belay with a multi-tasking brake hand.

Learning to provide an attentive and vigilant brake hand, while asking single fingers to also stabilize the ABD and deactivate the braking cam, is a complex motor skill. It takes practice and care. But, when done properly large amounts of slack can be offered quickly and nimbly, while the brake hand faithfully grips the brake strand.

The multi-tasking brake must be able to grip the rope firmly, which is easy for most. Firm grips are used to catch falls and most users know how to grip tightly. But, the brake hand must also be able to grip the rope lightly. When gripping lightly, the brake hand is loose enough to slide rope, but never so loose as to release its vital connection. With a loosely gripped brake hand, the forefinger cups under the ABD, holding the ABD in a rigid position, while the thumb squeezes the cam, restricting the cam’s range of motion. The guide hand then flings slack to the climber at an appropriate rate.

The multi-tasking brake hand should take every opportunity to return to default to a dedicated position on the brake strand when the climber is not moving. Or, if the climber resumes moving more smoothly, a traditional lead belay technique can be reinstated.

VII. Ground Anchors

Ground anchors provide ballast when there is a large weight discrepancy between a climber and a belayer. They are also valuable tools for stabilizing a novice belayer. In both cases, the rapid or violent displacement of the belayer can jeopardize the belay system. At the very least, an unexpected displacement makes it difficult for the belayer to focus on the fundamental principles of belay. So, ground anchors are something that any belayer may need, on occasion.

There a three parts to ground anchoring: the anchor, the connections, and the connector. For all three parts, there are a number of variations, but the essential role of each part is the same. The anchor provides enough mass to ballast the belayer; so a clump of backpacks, another person, a free weight, a living tree, or an arrangement of bolted floor anchors might suffice. Connections are the materials that connect the belayer to the anchor. Sometimes slings are used, sometimes PAS or daisy chains, sometimes chain link, sometimes the climbing rope itself. Lastly the connector is the tool or knot that connects the belayer or the anchor to the connection. Carabiners, quicklinks, or a series of knots or hitches are all common connectors.

Three common ground anchor arrangements are:

Using another person wearing a climbing harness as an anchor, using the climbing rope as a connection, using a Figure 8 Follow Through to connect the rope to the belayer and a clove hitch with locking caraber to the connect the rope to the anchor.

Using floor bolt as an anchor, a PAS as a connection, and locking carabiners to connect the PAS to the belayer and the anchor.

Using a sandbag as a ground anchor, a 48” sling as a connection, and locking carabiners as connectors.

In all three cases the connection should be rigged such that line between the belayer and the top anchor is straight, in-line, and tight. Otherwise the displacement can still occur.

Also, the position of the ground anchor is least disruptive when it is positioned on the belayer’s brake hand side.

Appendix 1: Third Party Reviewers, Testers, Endorsements, and Certifications

Different organizations ensure consistency in the safety standards and manufacturing processes of all the equipment related to belaying. Any climber and belay team should make look for the following endorsements and certifications to guarantee that equipment used in a belay system is appropriate for climbing applications.

CEN: The CEN is the European Committee for Standardization. A product must receive approval by this committee before it can be sold in the European Union (EU). Climbing equipment will have a CE stamp, which indicates that the product meets the minimum requirement of the EU Personal Protective Equipment Directive. The CEN works directly with the UIAA to determine the strength and manufacturing requirements for PPE.

UIAA: The UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) existed before the CEN was created. Climbers and mountaineers themselves develop the UIAA standards. The UIAA collaborates with CEN to create a consistency of standards. In some cases the UIAA calls for more testing than the CEN, which can makes their standards slightly more strict.  Equipment that has been approved by the UIAA has been appropriately embossed.

3-Sigma: 3-Sigma is a statistical testing standard that is used by climbing equipment manufactures to ensure consistent quality. In order to arrive at a 3-sigma rating, the standard deviation is taken from strength testing results, multiplied by 3 and then subtracted from the average. This process ensures that 99.87 percent of the products put on the market will be above the actual product rating. You will not find a 3-sigma stamp on PPE although many PPE manufactures use this process to ensure safety and quality of their products.

ISO: ISO is a non-governmental, international organization that works with manufacturers to develop approaches to consistency in product manufacturing. The ISO 9000 series in part applies to climbing related activities. Rather than actually rating the product, ISO instead works to ensure a consistent manufacturing process. If a company is compliant with ISO it means that every single “x” style carabiner will be identical when they reach the market. You won’t find an ISO stamp on PPE although many climbing equipment manufactures comply with ISO to ensure consistency of their products.

Appendix 2: Additional Equipment and Ropework


A high number of climbing related accidents and deaths are due to falling debris. It is extremely important to use climbing helmets to minimize this risk. Climbing helmets are specifically designed to protect the skull by absorbing the force of falling debris (such as rocks, ice, or dropped equipment). They were originally designed much like the hard hats that you see construction workers use. The climbing helmet has since evolved to become lighter, stronger, and more efficient. In indoor climbing, most of the risk of falling debris has been mitigated, even though objects are routinely dropped, holds break and fall, and climbers can easily impact each other is some circumstances. Nevertheless, the choice to not wear a helmet inside seems common and accident rates due to falling debris are low.

Outdoors, however, falling debris is more unpredictable and difficult to manage. The size of things that fall can also be catastrophically large. Accordingly, helmet use outside is strongly advised and recommended in this curriculum.

Extra Grabbing Plate/Aperture/Tube Devices

There are a number of plate/aperture/tube devices available that give very reliable lead belays even with an inconsistent application of the fundamental principles of belay.

Devices like the Mammut Alpine SMART or the Edelrid Mega-Jewell can be wise additions to a lead belayer’s repertoire. However, a quick perusal of the manufacturers suggested use confirms that even these extra grabbing and reliable tools are still held to the same fundamental principles of belay that apply to all other belay methods. While devices of this kind may one day reform the fundamental principles of belay, Mammut and Edelrid currently make it quite clear they have not yet done so. See the manufacturer’s suggested use for specific instructions.

Clove Hitch

The clove hitch is an excellent hitch for attaching a climbing rope to a ground anchor.

Girth Hitch

The girth hitch is a common way to attach a sling or PAS to a belayer’s harness. While the girth hitch has severe penalties due to it effect on material strength, slings and PAS are strong enough to sustain the destructive effects of the girth hitch. Usually, however, the use of a locking carabiner can be substituted for a girth hitch, making the carabiner a less consequential option.