Do You Know How to Belay? Are you sure?


After climbing throughout the world for the past 23 years I have witnessed all sorts of belaying techniques: shenanigans, unbelievable systems, belaying from car bumpers, ultra-over-the-top redundant systems and everything in between.

The American Alpine Club has taken the bold step to initiate a system to universalize the belay standard with the aim of increasing crag safety, clear communication, and decreasing unnecessary injury and / or fatality. I am hopeful it has friction (no pun intended, and takes hold).

Below is the first go at the universal standard:

Have you ever noticed that lots of climbers don’t belay the same way as you do? Or that climbing instructors teach belaying one way, but then after class those same students belay differently? Where does all that variety come from? Is it safe?

The AAC’s Universal Belay Program is designed to help every belayer find a common language and recognizable belay standard to ensure you get a safe catch.

In the United States every club, climbing gym, school program, and climbing instructor teaches some form of belaying. They also test belaying to ensure that belayers meet a minimum standard. However, the standards to which they teach and test are not always consistent. With no national standard to discern fundamentally sound variations from dangerous variations, all variations tend to be tolerated—and that leads to accidents; some variations in belaying are unsafe. The American Alpine Club is working with institutions around the country to adopt a national standard and educate climbers on the fundamental principles that should govern all belaying in all contexts. Ultimately we hope that every American climber will have the knowledge and practice to belay in a fundamentally sound way.

COMING SOON: Take the AAC Universal Belay Standard course at your local gym, club, school, or course provider. You will receive a Universal Belay Certificate that will give you and your partners knowledge and confidence in your ability to belay safely.

AAC Universal Belay Standard:

AAC Universal Belay Fundamentals Applied To Lead Belaying:

AAC Universal Belay Standard: Details Matter:

Apply What You’ve Learned:

After watching the fundamentals video, you now have a tool to examine every belay. Pay more attention to belaying next time you climb—your own, your partners, everyone around you. How can your own belaying habits improve? What can you point out to your partner to ensure their belay is fundamentally sound?