Climbing Communication: Climbing Commands You Need to Know

Climbing Communication: The Top Climbing Commands You Need to Know

No climbing team can go very far without proper communication. Where newbies waste precious time trying to communicate, experienced climbers often don’t even have to talk to understand each other.

Learn all about the most important climbing commands that you need to know to take your climbing to the next level

On Belay / Off Belay

Belay on and belay off signal that the belayer has anchored themselves. Belay on is essential to communicate that the rope is fixed through the belaying anchor. You use “belay off” when you unfix the rope through the belaying anchor.

You have to use these commands to let the climber ahead of you know when they are ready to belay. You can communicate both these commands with a series of tugs since they are the most common.


You call out “slack” when you are the climber and need more rope. You might need extra slack to move, undo, or tie your belay anchor.

You may opt to communicate “slack” with a series of tugs or a single tug, but you have to make sure the belayer doesn’t mistake this for another command. This takes some practice.

Up Rope

You say “up rope” when you don’t need any more slack in your rope. This is the opposite command of “slack”. You can opt to communicate it with a single, sharp tug during windy conditions.


Climbers shout “climbing” to signal they are starting to climb. This obvious command is essential. You should not confuse it with “climb on”.

Climb on

The belayer must communicate “climb on” to signal they are ready for the climber. You should not confuse this command with the climber’s “climbing”.

Tension / Watch Me

These are commands you have to shout when you are going to move in a way that you might fall. You need to communicate this to your partner so they are ready to catch you.


Belayers shout “halfway” to let climbers know they have used half the rope’s length. It is preferable to shout “halfway” early than late.

On Rappel / Off Rappel

These commands are essential to coordinate rappelling with your belayers. You will need these only during your descent unless you backtrack to find a more preferable route during your climb.


Shout “rock” as many times as you need to tell everyone to get out of the way. When you hear “rock”, move to the sides.


Shout “falling” if you are about to fall to let your belayer brace for the shock. If you hear this as a belayer, you have a second or two to react at most, so make it count!

Mastering Climbing Commands is the First Step to Your Most Challenging Climb Yet!

Here at Butora USA, we are committed to delivering the best possible climbing shoe for every climber, from pro climbers to everyone else. We are dedicated to giving back to the climbing community through excellent service and ethical business practices, and by freely sharing our expertise.

Now that you’ve mastered climbing commands, it is time to up your climbing game. If you want to test your climbing skills, check out some of the strongest climbing shoes at our online shop!

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