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Posted by Butora Staff on May 03, 2017
The time spent as belayer and climber requires a high level of trust. An essential part of any trusting relationship is communication. If you are not a well-seasoned climber or leader, establish communication vocabulary and methods before a climb. It is your responsibility to keep everyone within your party safe, and any other climbing parties within earshot. There will be unique understandings of communication within each climber/belayer relationship, but there are some certain key elements that apply to any climbing communication.
Before beginning any climb, talking with your partner to establish guidelines for the route is key. For a first time leader, it is important to select a route that is relatively low-key, ideally one that both parties have comfortably climbed in the past. This way, the leader will feel more comfortable making the moves and can focus on clipping (or gear placement) and rope management. As a belayer, you must be patient and mindful of your partner's abilities, so choose a route that you are both comfortable with.
There are certain terms while climbing that are standard practice and can simplify and streamline you and your partner's communications.
Here are some basic commands for the belayer:
The climber has their own set of vocabulary to use throughout a climb:
All of these vocabulary words are followed by exclamation points because as a partner in climbing, you must make sure your volume is high with each and every command.
There will be times when other noises or distance impair communication during a climb between the belayer and the climber. It could be that you are near traffic, or that the wind has picked up. In those instances, it is important to establish non-vocal, or other specific ways of communication. Simple rope tugs can come in handy when it is hard to hear your partner. If you are quite sure there will be impediments to your vocal communication during a climb, bringing along 2-way radios can be a real saver for your climb (although you don't see this very often).
There may also be times when you find yourself around other climbing pairs who are within earshot. You and your partner should get into the habit of using your names along with your commands. That will keep any confusion with other climbing pairs out of the way. The other climbers around you will thank you for it (or not, but at least you don't look like a gumby).
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