What Are the Belay Commands?

Belayers must catch fallen climbers and maintain tension on the rope, lowering them from climbing when their time has expired.

Communication between you and your belayer is of utmost importance, particularly if you’re outside or in a gym where it may be hard to hear each other clearly.


Rope is an incredible material capable of supporting large loads and withstanding force without breaking. It can also be used to redirect the lifting or pulling force of machines such as pulleys and winches. Rope can also serve as an invaluable rescue tool by providing access to areas previously inaccessible and helping save lives during a natural disaster or manmade emergency situation. Many different knots exist to join sections together securely while machines such as capstans and winches use rope to distribute weight over multiple parts, increasing safety while decreasing wear-and-wear wear- and fatigue over time.

Macrame refers to rope as cord because this general term encompasses all of the different fiber formats you may use in your work.


At a climbing cliff or bouldering area with numerous climbers, it may be difficult to hear your belayer. That is why it is essential that you learn how to communicate with them prior to beginning climbing. Verbal commands and body language will work best; adding your partner’s name when calling commands helps them understand which command you’re calling out for. Finally, before climbing begins it’s advisable that both climber and belayer review the belay commands together so everyone is on the same page.

“Climbing” is the first command a climber should use to inform their belayer that they’re ready to begin their ascent. It is essential that climbers call this command prior to actually beginning climbing so their belayer can pay attention to your movements and ensure there is sufficient tension on the rope.

Call “Slack” to alert your belayer if more slack in the rope is necessary, which will prompt them to tighten it further. Additionally, it may come in handy during breaks during your climb or if you have reached the summit and would like a momentary rest before continuing with another step of your adventure.

“Take” is used when a climber wants their belayer to remove any remaining slack in the rope and take their weight on it, instead of “tension.” Some climbers prefer this command because it is more specific and avoids confusion with “slack.” When finished climbing and ready for descent, climbers simply say “Lower,” prompting their belayer to lower them back down to earth.

“Rappel off”

Climbing often occurs outdoors or in rock gyms where your belayer cannot be seen directly, so it’s imperative that you understand and use appropriate verbal commands with them to keep everyone safe. Utilizing verbal communication is especially useful during rappelling where their life may depend on how well their belayer performs their role.

Rappel off signals your readiness to descend the rope by using this command, especially during multi-pitch climbs where your belayer could be 100 feet away and out of sight. By communicating this signal to them, your belayer knows you are about to descend the line safely so they may prepare themselves to break any falls which occur along your descent.

Before rappelling, it is important to check the belay device is appropriately weighted and that there are no snags in the line. You can do this by ensuring the prusik knot you use to slow your descent has an eye loop no longer than three inches (anything longer can ride up on the rappel line and jam into your belay device), and by making sure the stopper knot on the ground end of your rope is securely tied.

Once everything is ready to go, the first step to rappelling is putting your dominant hand through either a clove hitch or overhand knot attached to your belay device. Your other hand should remain in the harness belay loop as a backup brake; your rappelling hand should pull on the rope until reaching your belay ledge and verifying both devices have reached full weighting capacity.


Call out “Lower!” when you want your belayer to lower you back down safely – whether that means taking a break in between climbs, finding climbing too difficult for you to continue or reaching a ledge where you want to stop and admire its view for awhile. They will do just that!

Lowering something means to reduce its height or size, such as when flags are lowered from poles or rivers pass beneath waterfalls. Lowering can also refer to degrading status; such as, when someone was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant; or it can even refer to altering one’s voice quality: she was lowering her voice.

Belaying involves holding the rope taut for climbers as they ascend. A belayer must maintain tension on the rope at all times in order to effectively belay someone. Belaying on multi-pitch routes is especially essential, since the belayer may not be able to see their climber or may be high above them on the rock face. “Climbing” alerts their belayer that the climber is beginning their ascent, requiring them to prepare to brake any falls. Calling “slack” allows climbers to ask the belayer to loosen the rope if it becomes too tight during their ascent; if out in nature and without use of guide style belay plates this can be hard for belayers to understand so try giving multiple small tugs or one strong one to communicate your request as not being confused with another command.