Academy: How to Perform a Basic Top Rope Belay
Part of our "Toes to Knows" Climbing Academy series--covering climbing from footwork to mental preparation.
Tags: Coaching, Beginner
This is our first blog article covering belaying. Here, I address the basics of top rope belaying. I’ll have a few more posts and videos to cover advanced top rope and lead belaying.
The top rope belay is the first rock climbing belay that everyone learns, yet some people still struggle with doing it the right way. Read below for tips below on the basics of top rope belays. The video demonstrates all of these points.
Top Rope Belay Basics
The basic equipment you need is a climbing harness, locking carabiner and a belay device. Other things that are handy are some belay gloves and belay glasses.
It’s nice if the locking carabiner is self-orienting. This will keep the carabiner from rotating sideways and cross loading in your belay loop. Cross-loaded carabiners are much weaker than carabiners loaded along their long axis.
Clip the carabiner to the belay loop on your harness. Load the rope into the belay device (I demonstrate this in the video), then clip the belay device and rope into your locking carabiner.
The rope needs to not have any twists. The upward-facing side of the rope should go up toward your climber. The lower side of the rope is your brake side.
Rules #1, #2, #3
One of your hands will hold the brake side of the rope. The most important three rules of belaying is NEVER LET GO WITH YOUR BRAKE HAND!
As your climber moves up the wall, you will steadily pull the excess slack through the belay device. There are three basic steps to this process:
- Temporarily pull your brake hand forward to pull the slack through the device
- Place your brake hand below your belay device
- Use your fee hand to pull the slack through your hand
- Slide your brake hand to a comfortable position below the belay device
Repeat that process until your climber reaches the top of the climb.
Once your climber is ready to come down, pull all excess slack out of the rope then lean back slightly to take their weight while you move your brake hand down into the secure position. Finally, release pressure slowly on your brake hand and lower them smoothly to the ground.