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Rock Climbing

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Rock Climbing


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What is Rock Climbing?

  • Climbing can be described as the act of going up a mountain, hill, any steep terrain, or artificial wall.


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Styles of Climbing

  • Mountaineering or Mountain Climbing, Ice Climbing, Ice Climbing, Bouldering, Indoor Climbing, and Rock Climbing.

  • Though it is generally a risky sport which demands physical strength and endurance, it poses a different kind of challenge, excitement, and adrenaline rush. This is probably one of the many reasons why a lot of people are so enthusiastic about this activity.


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Why go Rock Climbing?

  • Rock Climbing is never boring. There are so many routes to climb, and if you got enough from the crags (or the weather) in your country, there are many more challenging and beautiful walls and crags elsewhere.


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  • It offers an ultimate physical challenge. Each day on the rock is an opportunity for you to go beyond the skills you already have. You should push yourself each time (yes, again and again, and again) on the rock. Explore new and more difficult routes. Depending on your physical ability and on your own level of risk acceptance, you will see that no grade is tough enough.


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  • It gives a different sense of adventure and freedom. Most climbers get going because of the great feeling they get when scaling rocks. Moreover, with this sport, you are able to go wherever and whenever you want.


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  • You will have a breath-taking view of the beautiful nature and sceneries. When looking for new routes, the climber will come across unexpected and beautiful sceneries. In addition, keep in mind that once you've reached the top, you have a breathtaking view of the surroundings that not many people can see.


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  • “Are you nuts? That is too dangerous!”


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Rock Climbing – Getting Started


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Equipment

  • Climbing Ropes

  • Climbing Harness

  • Belay Devices

  • Climbing Carabiners

  • Active Protection- Spring Loaded Camming Devices

  • Passive Proctection-Slings, Hexes, Nuts, Tricams

  • Rock Climbing Quickdraws

  • Climbing Helmet

  • Climbing Shoes

  • Rock Climbing Chalk and Chalk bag


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Types of Climbing Ropes

  • Single RopesSingle ropes are the most common type of ropes used and can be used for most conditions. The main advantage of using this type is the simple rope handling. However, it can only be used on routes up to a half rope length high, with subsequent Lowering or Rappelling.


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  • Twin RopesTwin ropes must only be used in pairs and are clipped together into each piece of protection, as with single rope technique. The two ropes offer redundancy and thus, increased safety in the case of shock loading over a sharp edge. They are especially suited for alpine climbing or in routes where retreat may be necessary. They offer the highest safety margin and allow full length rappels


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  • Half (double) RopesAs far as strength and weight are concerned, Half Ropes lie between Single and Twin Ropes. They only offer standard safety when they are used as a pair. In Half Ropes, you have the choice between twin rope technique, where both ropes run parallel through the protection, and half rope technique, where the "left" and "right" ropes run separately through different protection points.


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  • This technique allows friction to be reduced in the case where protection points are widely spread and reduces impact force. This is of benefit when climbing traditionally protected routes. A belay method which enables the independent control of each rope must be used.


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Climbing Ropes – Care and Maintenance

  • Here is a list of the many things that you can do in taking care of your Climbing Ropes:

  • Check your rope regularly. Just like the rest of your Rock Climbing Gear, ocular inspection is very important. Check your rope for signs of wear and tear such as damaged sheath, fraying, and abrasion before and after each climb.


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  • Use your rope only to where it is designed for. In other words, Climbing Ropes should be for climbing purposes only.

  • Make sure that your rope is always clean. Wash it with water and non-detergent soap. Avoid using bleach and other chemicals that can weaken the nylon rope. Air dry your rope away from direct sunlight.


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  • Do not step on the rope. Dirt particles can go deeper and damage rope fibers.

  • Keep your rope away from direct sunlight, acids, and oxidizing agents that can weaken your rope and shorten rope life.

  • Store your Climbing Rope in a Rope Bag if you are not using it.


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  • It does not necessarily mean that if your rope does not have any signs of wear and tear, you can still use it. Its use depends on the number of times you climb in a certain season, as well as the number of falls (or hard falls). For instance, replace your rope after a couple of years of weekend climbing. If you are into Sport Climbing, buy a new one every six months.


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How to Buy Climbing Ropes

  • DiameterRope diameters range from 7.5mm to 11mm. In general, a thicker diameter means a stronger and more durable rope, but it is also heavier.


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  • Generally speaking, you will be on the safe side with a rope diameter between 10mm and 11mm. These ropes are appropriate for rock, ice and glacier travel.

  • Ropes with a diameter lower than 9mm are used in pairs and clipped to separate protection pieces to reduce rope drag on circuitous routes. These ropes should not be used singly!


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  • Lightweight 9mm single ropes are used for simple glacier travel but are too thin for holding falls on vertical rock.


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  • LengthChoose a rope length depending on the types of routes you typically climb. Longer ropes allow longer pitches and rappels. Shorter ropes weigh less and take up less space. The standard rope length of 50 meters has been supplanted in many areas with 55 and 60 meter cords, and now, some climbers are stretching it out to 70 meters.


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  • A longer rope means more to coil, carry and manage, but the extra utility is often worth it. In some areas, a longer rope might allow you to lower or rappel with a single cord, so you can leave the second rope at home.


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  • StrengthThe strength of a rope is measured by the rating of static elongation and maximum impact force.

  • The elongation measures the amount a rope stretches when weighted with a standard load (80 kilograms/176 pounds). Ropes with low static elongation stretch less. Higher static elongation means ropes have more stretch (cushioning the impact of a fall).


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  • Maximum impact force refers to the amount of force transmitted to a climber during a fall. Low maximum impact force means the rope (not the climber or the protection) absorbs more of the energy generated in a fall. However, such ropes stretch more, increasing your chances of hitting the ground or a ledge.


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  • Dependent on these two variables, a rope can be called semi-static or dynamic. A semi-static rope is one with low static elongation and high impact force. This is designed for caving and canyoning and is also useful in aid climbing. A dynamic rope has a high static elongation and a low impact force and is useful in climbing and Mountaineering.


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  • Dry or Non-dryRope will get wet when ice climbing or mountaineering. Wet ropes are heavier and less able to absorb falls. In addition, the absorbed water can freeze and make a rope weak and unmanageable. Therefore, it is important to choose a rope that is dry-treated to keep it from absorbing water.


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  • This lasts longer than a non-dry rope and is easier to handle when wet. However, dry ropes are not completely waterproof, and treatments do wear off over time. Take care of your dry rope by using wash-in products that are available for re-waterproofing your rope. Non-dry ropes are less expensive and ideal for use in dry conditions.


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Climbing Harnesses – Parts and Features


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  • Belay LoopAn optional feature for Climbing Harnesses is a belay loop. This sewn loop connecting your waist and leg loops makes clipping into anchors a snap, whether you're anchoring into cold shuts at the top of a sport climb or trying to put your partner on belay while wearing thick mittens.


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  • The belay loop is not meant to be used as a tie-in point for your Climbing Rope (it creates a high center of gravity). Always tie in by threading the rope through both your leg and waist loops. Regardless of what outing you choose, a belay loop is a handy extra that is worth the additional money.


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  • Gear LoopsAlmost all Climbing Harnesses have gear loops in a variety of numbers, sizes, and positions. Ultra-light Sport Climbing Harnesses have only two gear loops, while a big-wall harness may have as many as eight. Choose a model with enough gear loops to comfortably accommodate your rack, but not so many that they become cumbersome. Big-wall harnesses, for example, sometimes have double-decker gear loops around the waist.


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  • While this is handy for carrying lots of gear on an aid climb, it can obstruct a quick grab for gear on a difficult free climb. The number of gear loops you choose depends largely on where you like to carry your gear. If you prefer to use a shoulder sling when lugging a large trad rack, you can get away with only two or three loops. But if you like to keep your gear on your waist, you'll want four.


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  • Leg LoopsIf you climb under the same conditions every time, go for loops without adjustment as you save money and weight. Otherwise, get a Climbing Harness with adjustable leg loops as you can use it on a sunny day and wear it over cushy clothing on the next climb.


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  • Choose padded leg loops for everything except in Mountaineering. Harnesses used in mountain climbing often have detachable leg loops, a nice feature for those inopportune calls of nature coming when you can't unbuckle the rope on the glacier, and for putting on your harness without removing skis or crampoons.


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  • The elastic portion that holds up the back of the leg loops can be detached if the harness has plastic buckles or velcro. This feature is mandatory for big-wall climbing or when you'll be in the saddle for long periods of time.


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  • PaddingThe amount and composition of padding vary widely between Climbing Harnesses. For summer Rock Climbing, when you're in skimpy attire, you'll want a padded harness. In winter, you can get away with seat-belt material because you'll probably be hanging less and your clothes will act as padding.


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  • Over the years, closed-cell foam padding has all but replaced fleece, creating a sleeker, lighter fit. Even some alpine harnesses now use waist-belt padding; the extra comfort and support costs only an ounce or two. Most Sport Climbing designs seek to save weight and obstruction by opting for scantily-padded legs and waist, and using narrower webbing.


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  • Most trad harnesses have full padding, which give comfort while hanging at belays and carrying heavy racks. In reality, the difference in weight and mobility between sport and trad harnesses is minimal. Most trad harnesses are now cut trim enough to be almost unnoticeable when climbing.


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  • Haul loopsMany harnesses come with a haul loop. It is a loop of webbing sewn at the back of the waist belt. It is useful for clipping on trail ropes, approach shoes, or chalk bags. Some are runner strength, some aren't, so be wary about how much trust you put on this point.


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  • TaperAll Climbing Harnesses have a slightly different cut, and if the leg loops do not taper correctly to your thighs, even the most expensive models will chafe and hinder your mobility. When you try on a harness, make sure the leg loops taper enough at the inside of your thighs so they don't bunch up or rub your crotch. Moreover, look for waist belts that taper at the front so the webbing does not push against your thighs while high stepping.


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  • One last comfort tip:Even with a well-padded harness, pants that have bulky inseams along the inside of the legs will slowly dig into your thighs. Similarly, side-zip pants or jackets with low-placed zippers can form divots in your skin and make hanging belays a nightmare. Avoid this unnecessary discomfort by wearing clothing with smooth or no seams at the harness' pressure points.


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  • Rock Climbing Harnesses vary from ropes-course models with plain webbing that fit like a trenchcoat to those with diaper-like cushion. Ice Climbing and alpine models generally have no padding in the legs, and may or may not have a padded waist.


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  • Sit HarnessesA Sit Harness has a waist belt and leg loops, and it is worn around the hips. This type of Climbing Harness provides security and at the same time, allows enough room for movement of climbers.


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  • Chest HarnessesStay upright during the climb. If you are climbing or descending with a heavy pack or crossing crevasse during a glacier climb, it is advisable to wear a Chest Harness together with a Sit Harness. This combination will prevent you from turning upside down.


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  • Moreover, the security that the Chest-and-Sit Harness can give is the same as what a Full-body Harness can provide. The difference is that a Chest-and-Sit Harness is flexible in such a way that it will give you the choice of wearing or removing the Chest Harness. Use it when necessary or if you want additional support.


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  • Full-body HarnessesIn general, a Full-body Harness is similar to the Chest-and-Sit Harness in terms of security and support. However, the chest and sit harnesses in a Full-body Harness can be connected to each other permanently or semi-permanently. This type is made for young climbers as well as adults with slim figure and those who need additional support in case they cannot stay upright.


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Climbing Harnesses – Care and Maintenance

  • Always have an ocular inspection of your Climbing Harness. Check out if there are any signs of wear and tear. This is to prevent further damages that may put the climber at risk. Do not use it if you saw abrasion and other signs of deterioration.


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  • Make sure to clean your harness after a climb. Wash it with water to remove any dirt. You can also use mild soap. Hang it to dry in an open area away from sunlight. You can inspect the Climbing Harness after it has dried. Any sign of deterioration such as fraying and loose stitching will be more visible if the harness is dry.


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  • Keep your harness away from direct sunlight and harsh chemicals such as bleach and acids.

  • Replace your Climbing Harness as soon as the signs of deterioration become visible. In general, you should buy a new one after a couple of years of regular usage. You should also replace it after it has held frequent falls.


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  • Store your clean and dry Climbing Harness away from direct sunlight and rain. Oxidizing materials can also contribute in damaging your harness so make sure to keep it away from strong chemicals.

  • Check your Climbing Harness before climbing. Do not use it if it shows signs of wear and tear.


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Belay Devices - Types

  • TubularOne of the common types used nowadays is the tubular Belay Device. Just like other designs, the tubular type has two holes for the Climbing Rope to pass through. It is also lightweight, easy to use, and works well with single or double ropes.


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  • Figure 8As the name suggests, this is an 8-shaped Belay Device, usually made of aluminum. Figure 8s are used in top-rope climbing and are effective when used in Belaying and Rappelling. It is also used as a descender. However, dealing with the rope may be a bit harder when using a Figure 8 since this type allows twisting of the rope as it passes through.


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  • Belay Plate / Stitch PlateThis type has a flat metal plate or disk, usually with two holes. Though not very popular nowadays because of the development of more designs, a stitch plate is very easy to use and works well with Double Ropes.


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  • Auto-LockingThis type is easy to use and works just like a car seat belt. It locks down the rope when rapid force is applied. Should the climber falls, the belayer does not need to exert too much effort to stop the fall. The auto-locking device will do the work for you.


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Climbing Carabiners - Types

  • Shape

  • D- CarabinersD-shaped Carabiners can either be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical Carabiners are used in lead and top rope climbing. They offer more room for the rope and can take more pressure than oval types. On the other hand, asymmetrical biners offer less room but it is easier top clip because of larger gate openings.


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  • D- Carabiner is mainly used for securing yourself when you are top roping and also for Belaying. This little device snap closed and the screw is tightened closed to secure them.


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  • Oval CarabinersThese are cheaper and weaker than other non-oval models. The shape helps to control load shifting and distributes the pressure on both sides. Though a bit harder to clip compared to other variations, oval Carabiners are versatile and ideal in aid climbing.


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  • Gate TypeLockingUnlike non-locking biners, a Carabiner with a locking mechanism prevents the gate from accidental opening. It is often used in Belaying, Rappelling, and securing gear and can be oval, symmetrical, or asymmetrical.


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  • WireOne distinct characteristic of this type is its thinness, therefore providing more room and larger gate opening.

  • StraightThis is the most common gate type. Carabiners with straight gates can be used for many situations.

  • BentA bent gate Carabiner has a concave curve. It provides more room and makes clipping easier.


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  • Single Rope System

  • One believes that the Single Rope System is the most commonly used rope system in the world, not because this is the best system, but because it is suited for straight climbing routes.


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  • The Single Rope System is adequate on single and multipitch routes whereby the protection is in one straight line. Therefore, this rope system is very often used on sport routes, where the bolts are placed in a straight line or any other routes whereby the protection can be placed in a straight line.


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  • If the protection is not in a straight line, but for example has more of a zigzag pattern, then there will be more "rope drag". Rope drag is the amount of friction the rope causes when running through the Quickdraws/runners/extenders. This friction can be so large, e.g. in a fall, that the protection is being pulled out, causing the system not to be secure anymore!


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  • Rope Drag on a Single Rope System can be minimized by using longer extenders as these will make the line "straighter". However, if you are climbing routes that are not straightforward like on traditional climbing routes where one has to place the protection where it occurs, a Double Rope System could be more practical.


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  • When using a Single Rope System, note that one can only achieve a maximum abseil of half a rope length. So if you are using a 60-metre rope with a single rope system, then you can only abseil 30 metres.


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Double Rope System

  • The Double Rope System is also often used, probably because it is a more flexible system than the Single Rope System.


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  • With the Double Rope System, one can reduce or entirely cut out any rope drag. This is a major advantage as it contributes to the safety of the system.

  • The Double Rope System is often used in Tradional Rock Climbing, Mountaineering, and Ice Climbing.


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  • The two Double Ropes are more practical to carry. The load of the two ropes can be divided equally between two people.

  • When the two double ropes are tied together, then one can abseil the full rope length as opposed to a half rope length in a Single Rope System.


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  • Compared to the Single Rope System, the Double Rope System is safer and more durable.

  • Double Ropes are normally between 8-9 mm.

  • The Double Rope System is more costly than a Single Rope System


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Twin Rope System

  • This system is not used very often, but for longer multi-pitch routes, it could come in handy.


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  • With the Twin Rope System, one uses two Twin Ropes in a Single Rope System. This means that the two twin ropes will both go through each point of protection.

  • With the Twin Rope System, one might have rope drag as in a Single Rope System.


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  • As in the Double Rope System, a full rope length abseil can be made possible by tying the two twin ropes together.

  • Twin Ropes are typically between 7-8 mm.


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  • Compared to the Single Rope System, the Double Rope System is safer and more durable.

  • Twin Rope System is more costly than a Single Rope System.


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Climbing Techniques - Tying In

  • One essential technique in the world of Rock Climbing is Tying In. It is the term used for attaching the rope to your Climbing Harness. There are several things to take into account when doing this technique in order to ensure your safety.


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Tie-in Knot - Figure Eight Follow Through

  • This is the most commonly used tie-in knot.

  • When completed, the tie-in loop should be about the same size as your abseil loop on your harness.


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  • Belay LoopBy tying in, you have created a belay loop. This should always be used to accommodate your Belay Device if necessary - never should the abseil loop on your harness be used for this purpose.


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Climbing Techniques - Belaying

  • Belaying is one of the Climbing Techniques in Rock Climbing. It is securing the climber during his climb. There are techniques and Belay Devices needed to do this. Choosing the correct belay device and method is important so that both the belayer and the climber would not encounter difficulties.


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Semi-Direct Belay

  • This is the most commonly used Belay Method. It contains four key parts:

    • Create a single or a multiple-point equalized anchor. This step is not always necessary as it depends on the weights of the climber and belayer, as well as the stance of the belayer.


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  • Then tie the rope-end into your Climbing Harness as described in our Climbing Techniques-Tying In. section. By doing this, you will create a belay loop.


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  • Attach yourself to the anchor, if there is one (refer to step 1). Note that as a belayer, you should be attached tight to the anchor and in line with any direction of the loading.

  • Then attach a belay device to your belay loop. The device is now ready to be used in a semi-direct belay method.


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  • This belay method is called semi-direct as the load of a fall is taken by the anchor and by the belayer via the belay device, belay loop and the rope to the anchor. The attachment of the belayer is attached to the anchor ensures that the belayer can easiliy lock off and pay out the rope when under tension.


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