Belay on!

Belay on!  This is one of the commands that stays in my head after an evening of summertime rock climbing with my friends Tara and her fiancé, Jason.  I hadn’t ever climbed beyond a small climbing rock in a gym so this was a new challenge.

Jason works at REI and Tara worked there in her previous life.  By definition, working at REI means you probably have top of the line outdoor gear and enough of it for your friends.  Lucky me!  Jason has been climbing for twenty-five years.  I knew I was in safe hands. (It’s nice to have friends that work at REI).


Jason decked out with carabiners and ropes.

Our destination: The Cascade Mountain foothills, Exit 38 off of I-90 about 40 minutes outside of Seattle, near North Bend.  We parked and entered the trailhead that led up to one of the many climbing spots in the area.  On the way up we saw a girl with a slight build descending the trail with a long length of rope coiled around her neck.  She clearly was not a rookie.  I felt like an amateur tennis player entering Wimbledon with my wooden tennis racket.


It was so easy to transport all of our equipment.  Including the rope, it all fit into this backpack  20140711_175412

This is Tara, checking on the belay devise.

Jason, our fearless leader, first led us to a less challenging, beginner climb to go over some basic instructions.  He talked about the ‘belay’ and the ‘belayer’.  He showed us the figure of 8 loop knot attached to the climber and went over the belay device that is worn by the belayer on the ground.  He talked about the commands that the two participants use to proceed with the climb.  Nearby, I heard other climbers using the same language.

I found this command list from the University of Oregon – P.E & Recreation – Outdoor Pursuits Program online.  These are the commands that Jason taught me. He tested me throughout the evening on my command responses.  It was hard for me to remember “take” – meaning you’re ready to come down.

On belay? Climber Asked as a question to the belayer- in other words, are you ready to belay me?
Belay on Belayer I’m set to belay.
Climbing Climber I’m climbing.
Climb Belayer Go ahead and climb, I’ve confirmed that I’m ready and paying attention.
Up Rope Climber There’s too much slack in the rope. Take rope up. The belayer could acknowlede (e.g. “thank you”).
Slack Climber The rope is too tight. Give me some slack. The belayer could acknowlede (e.g. “thank you”).
Tension Climber I want a very tight rope; usually given because the climber feels insecure.
Take Climber Lock of the belay, I’m letting go. Usually given at the top of a route or when finished.
Off Belay Climber I’m in a safe position, it’s okay to stop belaying.
Belay Off Belayer I’m finished belaying and the rope is clear of the belay device.
On Rappel Climber I’m starting my rappel, alerting others including a belayer.
Rappel Off Climber Rappel is over and I’m completely detached from the rope.
Rock! Anybody Something is coming down – a rock, carabiner, sandwich, whatever. Alerts others below.
Rope Climber Used when a rope is dropped from above. Climber should wait to hear “clear” from below.
Clear Belayer or others Used to let climber who is above that it’s okay to drop the rope.
SITE SPECIFIC CLIMBING COMMANDS (used at our indoor climbing wall, for example)
Lower Climber I’m ready to come down and am in position to be lowered.
Lowering Belayer Let’s the climber know that lowering is beginning.

Belay device

Tara has the figure of 8 knot down.  I practiced it but I wouldn’t trust mine just yet.

Getting the directions

A little rope course.  Jason looks skeptical.

Def. of belay: fix (a running rope) around a cleat, pin, rock, or other object, to secure it.

20140711_175426 Every girl needs a cute pair of shoes even when rock climbing.  These made my size 9 shoe look petit.

Jason instructed me not to use my arm strength, use my legs  and to trust the traction on my shoes. This definitely was attractive to the daredevil in me.  We moved onto a more challenging rock once Jason felt I was okay to take it on.  At ‘Write Off Rock‘, he scurried up the rock wall in lightning speed to attach the climbing protection to the rocks via the bolts that are permanently fixed into the rock for the climbers’ ropes.  This area had been ‘cleaned’ of loose rocks.Scaling the RockSteep

Notice that there is no rope above Jason.  He is running the rope through the climbing protection that he is affixing to the rock as he goes up.  He’s a stud climber making it look easy.

Now the wall was ready for us to go up.  Tara takes the next turn.

Here she goes

Here is my darling friend, Tara.  She and I went to college together.Tara giving a glance

Tara is a super fit and flexible ‘yogi’ which makes rock climbing right up her alley.

When Tara returned she was ‘on belay’ for me as I went up.20140711_191349

We shared the rock wall with other climbers.  I’m on the right.


That’s me at the end of the rope at the top.20140711_183438

To the top!20140711_174635

20140711_183601Safely to the bottom.

I was so lucky to get the call from Jason and Tara inviting me on this exciting excursion.  Jason is such a great teacher.  It was short and sweet but it made me want to keep on climbing.



  1. Alan Ellison says:

    Nice Job.

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