So you've got the gear; now you have to learn how to properly belay. In fact, climbers have to be belay-certified before hitting the wall on their own, so taking a class is essential. “Belaying is really about getting into the groove and learning the muscle memory,” says Sarah Laine, an instruction assistant at Brooklyn Boulders. Translation: Reading up on belaying isn’t going to be a huge help. But here are the basics you'll learn in an intro class:
- Tie a figure-eight and fisherman's knot to secure the lead rope to the belayer's harness.
- Keep your right hand (or left hand, if you're a lefty) in break position (sometimes called home base) below the belay device—and don't let go!
- As the climber ascends the wall, they create slack, so the belayer has to pull it through to catch them. Pull slack from the climber’s side by pulling down with your left hand at the same time you pull slack up with your right hand, then come back to break position. (Think: Up, down, pinch, slide.)
- Never let go of the rope with your right hand. Your left hand is just an assist—you really want to pull more with the right.
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