Proper and clear communication is another key to safe climbing. Communication between the belayer and the climber can be difficult. Whether you are in a crowded gym or on a windy crag, sometimes it is impossible to hear exactly what the climber 50 feet above you said.
The following commands are standard for all types of climbing and should be used at all times. These standard commands provide not only the words but the syntax, that make communication possible in difficult situations:
- “On Belay” – given by the belayer; means the belay is in effect, a fall will be caught from that point on, the climber may begin climbing.
- “Belay On” – given by the climber; confirms that the belay is on.
- “Climbing” – given by the climber; tells the belayer that the climber is starting to climb.
- “Climb Away” – given by the belayer; tells the climber that the belayer knows the partner is climbing. Do not climb until you hear this; it is confirmation that the belayer is paying attention. Climbers have been hurt falling in the first few feet of a climb because the belayer was not aware the climber had started.
- “Slack” – given by the climber; requested when the rope is too tight. This command can be confusing. If the climber yells, “Take up the slack” because he or she wants the rope tighter, the belayer may only hear “Slack” and give the climber the opposite of what he or she wants. Then the climber will probably yell, “Take up the slack” even louder! Be sure to get this signal straight before starting.
- “Up Rope” – given by the climber; means that too much slack has developed and the climber wants the belayer to take it in. This is what you yell instead of” Take up the slack.”
- “Tension” – given by the climber; means the climber wants a very tight rope to feel secure.
- “Watch Me” – given by the climber; signals the belayer that the climber is at a tough move and thinks he or she may fall.
- “Falling” – given by the climber; means the climber is actually falling or, just as likely, thinks he or she is about to fall – when climbers are really Calling, they usually yell “Aaahh!”
- “Take” – given by the climber; means almost the same as “Falling” but is more controlled and actually means that the climber intends to fall. It is a sport-climbing term that means “I’m letting go, please lock off the belay.” The climber may shout “Take” when he or she has clipped into the top anchor or cannot make a move and plans to take a short (less than 5 feet) lead fall. “Take” is not often used on poorly protected traditional routes.
- “On Rappel” – given by the climber; tells others that the climber is about to rappel, and alerts those giving a fireman’s belay.
- “Oft’ Belay” – given by the climber; tells the belayer that the climber is anchored or on the ground and that the climber no longer needs the protection of the belay.
- “Belay Oft” – given by the belayer; tells the climber that the rope is out of the belay device.
- “Off Rappel” – given by the climber; means the rappeller is no longer attached to the rope and is anchored or on the ground.
- “Rope” – given by the climber; when yelled from above, tells others that rope is about to be dropped. If at a crowded area, the climber should wait to hear: “Clear” – before tossing the rope.
- “Clear” – given by the belayer or those on the ground; is an answer to “Rope” and means the area is clear, it is OK to drop the rope.
- “Rock” – given by anyone; means something is coming down, look out-should be yelled by anyone who sees something falling.