Monday, May 10, 2010

Climbing Commands

One of the most inconsistent things in the entire world of climbing are climbing commands. Climbers commonly hook up for a day of climbing with little knowledge of how to communicate with one another at the crag. It is always important to review your climbing commands with a new partner so that no mistakes are made.

The most common mistakes in a command series tend to come around the word "take." Climbers often use the word in two different ways. Some will say "take" in lieu of the command, "up rope." Whereas others will say "take" to mean "take my weight." A much larger problem arises out of the nature of a word that only has one syllable. "Take" could also be mistaken for the words, "safe" or "slack." Either of these mistakes could have tragic consequences. The result is that we try to teach people not to use the word.

The following sets of commands reflect what AAI guides are teaching in the field.

Toprope Commands:

Climber: On-belay?
Belayer: (After checking that everyone's double-backed, that knots are correct and that the belay device is threaded appropriately.) Belay-on.
Climber: Climbing.
Belayer: Climb-on.

Once the climber reaches the top, the following discourse should take place:

Climber: Tension.
Belayer: (After pulling the stretch out of the rope and locking it off.) Tension-on.
Climber: Ready to lower.
Belayer: Lowering.

It's important to close out the commands at the end. People often get lazy about the next set. Once the climber is back on the ground the following commands should take place.

Climber: Belay-off.
Belayer: Thank-you. (Then after removing the device from the rope:) Off belay.

The "thank-you" exists in this series to get individuals ready for multi-pitch climbing where the words are used a great deal.

Multi-Pitch Commands:

You'll notice that the words "thank-you" are used heavily throughout this command series. We use the words to acknowledge that an individual heard the last command. For those who don't normally use the words "thank-you" as part of your personal series, I would recommend trying it. A lot of stress melts away on multi-pitch climbs when you know that your partner heard you.

Following are the commands that we teach in a multi-pitch setting:

Climber: On-belay?
Belayer: (After checking that everyone's double-backed, that knots are correct and that the belay device is threaded appropriately.) Belay-on.
Climber: Climbing.
Belayer: Climb on.

Once the climber has reached the top, built an anchor and tied-in, the following commands should take place:

Climber: Off belay!
Belayer: Thank-you! (The belayer will then take the rope out of his device.) Belay-off!
Climber: Thank-you! (The climber will then pull up all the slack.)
Belayer: That's me!
Climber: Thank-you! (The climber will then put the belayer on belay.) Belay-on!
Belayer: Thank-you! (The belayer will break down the anchor and then yell just before he is about to climb.) Climbing!
Climber: Climb-on!

Ancillary Commands:

These are commands that are not necessarily said on every single climb. These are only said if there is a need. The commands are as follows:

Rock -- This should be yelled whenever anything falls. If you hear this, press your body against the wall and do not look up. Your helmet will provide some protection. Unfortunately, sometimes people yell "stick" or "camera." Such unusual commands often result in inappropriate reactions. In other words a person may not immediately attempt to get out of the way.

Watch me -- Climber will say this to a belayer if he is nervous and thinks he might fall.

Falling -- The appropriate command if you actually fall.

Up-rope -- When a climber says this, he is asking that slack be eliminated from the system.

Slack -- The climber needs slack.

Tension -- Anytime a climber wants to sit back on the rope and rest they should use this command.

Clipping -- Periodically a leader will need more rope to clip a piece of protection. When a leader says this he's actually asking for a few feet of slack.

--Jason D. Martin

3 comments:

Matt said...

is anybody else familiar with the commands from the Teton Cadence system that used to be taught by NOLS? Its syllabic, and is great when its difficult to hear.

Matt H said...

Why would a climber say both "off belay" and "belay off" if you read the examples? That doesn't make sense to me.

Laurel the Squirrel said...

I like good old "aaa!" when falling.