Climbing Safety – How to Back-up Belay

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 20,659
    Certified American Mountain Guide Jason Montecalvo demonstrates how to back-up belay.

    Jason Montecalvo

    Jason Montecalvo is an instructor of rock climbing for Sportrock Indoor Climbing Centers. Jason has been leading individual and group indoor and outdoor climbing programs for children and adults for over eight years for multiple organizations including Horizons Adventure Camp where he created, organized and lead team building programs for public, corporate, and at risk and disabled youth, in areas such as hang gliding, caving, scuba, white water kayaking, and high ropes course facilitation. In addition, Jason has been teaching for Northern Virginia Community College as an adjunct climbing professor for over five years. Jason has an Associate in Science as well as a B.S. from George Mason University with his expertise being health and fitness in parks and recreation management. Jason also holds several national certifications in his area of expertise including being a Top Rope Site Manager for the American Mountain Guiding Association as well as having a Wilderness First Responder certification from Wilderness Medical Associates. As an avid outdoor athlete, Jason most memorable climbing accomplishment was climbing multi-pitch routes out west in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and tough single pitch sport climbing routes in the east at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Jason has lived and in the Northern Virginia DC metropolitan area for 28 years but has a great passion for the west coast and New England regions of the country for all areas of outdoor recreation and sport; in particular, climbing, snowboarding and mountain biking.

    Hi! My name is Jason Montecalvo with Sportrock Climbing Centers and today were learning how to climb safely in an indoor climbing gym. Remember, climbing is inherently a dangerous activity and you want to seek professional help by certified instructors prior to engaging in this activity.

    Now, Id like to discuss using a back-up belayer. When we start to belay, its always a good idea as a beginner to have three people on the system: a climber, a belayer, and a back-up belayer, in order to ensure our safety when were first learning how to belay. The idea of a back-up belayer is to be the second brake in case, I make a mistake as the main belayer with my brake hand, if my brake hand comes off and my climber were to take a fall, my back-up belayer is going to do the braking for me. Now, to properly get a stance in back-up belaying what we need is to have this person be down or one or two knees with the brake end of the rope in both hands. At that point, Im going to belay the way that I have been taught and what my back-up belayer is going to do is feed the break out as I am feeding it as well maintaining a little bit of slack in my break line here. So, I can belay myself safe safely. If I were to make a mistake at any point and take a break hand off and my climber were to fall, the first thing that my back-up belayer wants to do is, take those two hands that are on the rope and bring them directly to the floor if they are not already there. That is going to create an extremely big bend, a brake bend on our belay device and catch our climber for us.

    Something our back-up belayer is going to want to do when we are lowering the climber is, feed the rope back in the opposite direction, again, maintaining a little bit of slack here in the break line so I can lower my climber on my own but again if I have a problem and I make a mistake my back-up belayer will again have those two hands that never leave the rope and go directly down to the floor again making once again a very big emergency break. That can ensure our safety as well the climber, a belayer, and back-up belayer, utilizing this system properly. Next, wed like to see this full system in action.