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Climb On: The Importance of Communication

Climbing commands are beguilingly simple. The conversation two climbers have before top-roping sticks to a standard script – and it may seem repetitive and boring, but it is key to every good relationship.

Before top-roping, the standard conversation between climber and belayer is as follows:

“On belay,” – climber to belayer. Meaning: Am I on belay?

“Belay On” – belayer to climber. Meaning: Yes, I have you safely on belay.

“Climbing,” – climber to belayer. Meaning: I’m about to start climbing.

“Climb on,” – belayer to climber. Meaning: I’m ready. Start climbing.

But the importance of this interaction, however, cannot be underestimated. Clear communication is key. Especially for seasoned climbers, it’s important not to skip this basic exchange.

Doctors have a checklist for a reason – they’ve done surgery a million times, but can forget 101 basics like washing hands or sterilizing. This dialogue between belayer and climber is a verbal checklist that ensures basic procedures that can avert potential disasters.

Like in any good relationship, good communication is crucial. This has been your friendly reminder, newbies and old-time climbers.


Other important verbal cues:

Off belay, belay off I’m ready to clip out, I’m ready for you to be unattached you from the belay device.
Slack – Give some slack or loose rope; don’t hold the rope so tight.
Take – Pull the rope tightly & hold me.
Falling – I’m falling, please hold me with the belay.
Ready to lower, loweringI’m ready to come down, I’m lowering you down.
Watch me – A difficult move is coming, I might fall!

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