My wife and I are very new to climbing (indoor) and we want to belay ourselves.
If you know the basics of the method but don't have much experience could you really mess things up, or if you have a decent belay device and harness ... the friction of the device would prevent the climber to fall hard even if the person who belays makes mistakes?

  • I'm only just started myself, and mostly boulder, but from the intro course when I signed up, I remember them saying another important factor in the rope handling is whether it is single or double looped over the top bar. Double loop from what I understand gives the belayer much better control over the rate of descent if you fall, or on your way down.
    – eidylon
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 18:31

3 Answers 3


Depending on the gym you're climbing at, even inexperienced climbers can enjoy a relatively high amount of safety.

The most important hardware question to ask of the climbing gym is if they use ATC's or Grigri's for belaying. ATC's require more attention from the belayer. Grigri's are an assisted braking device. While a Grigri does help the belayer to catch the climbing in the event of a fall, using a GriGri does not replace good belaying technique.

Independent from the hardware used at the gym, any gym worth going to will offer a short (30 minute) introduction course which highlights proper safety practices and good technique.

Climbing is a great sport, and I highly encourage you and your wife to try it out!

  • Thanks, yes, from the tiny amount of experience that we have, we found it very very fulfilling, fun and intense at the same time, we have both been introduced to indoor climbing and belaying be a friend who is a pro, and we'd be using ATC's (the non automatic ones). I am a bit afraid that because we are not experienced we might make a mistak that puts the other one in danger.
    – Ali
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 21:03
  • 3
    Great, while it's important to always be cautious, there is no need to fear climbing. The biggest key's to using an ATC are 1) always keep a hand on the rope (after the ATC) 2) stay attentive 3) have good footing.
    – Reustonium
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 21:52
  • I agree with everything this post says, but I have a quibble - Grigri's (while probably safer than ATCs) still require some amount of training to use safely. Any beginner reading this should understand that the autolocking feature of a gri-gri is a convenience, and not a substitute for properly learning how to belay. Not to scare people, but I've seen people lose control of both style of devices, dropping or nearly dropping the climber. :)
    – DavidR
    Commented May 3, 2013 at 20:48

I'd agree with @Reustonium that Grigris will be safer initially, but it will be worthwhile learning with ATC's as when you progress to leading you will be thankful for the extra practice with them.

If your gym is anything like the indoor climbing centre I got my wife to learn at, the regulars will also be able to keep an eye out for obvious problems, such as tangling the rope tail, hands too close to the belay device etc. while I was up the top of a climb. They were also good at reassuring her while letting me down, as my weight was entirely in her hands at that point.

During the initial learning phase, you could also ask whether your belayer can route the rope through a ground level loop before it goes up to the top of the climb. Especially if one of you is much heavier than the other this can give you a bit more security against being pulled up into the air.

  • OH! So the loops on the ground is for this! I noticed the loops on the ground but didn't know what are they for, excellent.
    – Ali
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:51
  • 1
    When our kids had lessons, they would have 8 children attached to the line which then went through that loop before going up to the top. The way they belayed the climber was by walking backwards. Very effective
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 14:21
  • We tie the kids down with sandbags at the place that I climb. :)
    – Ste
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 14:16
  • 1
    @Ste - that would sound just wrong out of context :-) I like it though.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 19:56

I wouldn't trust a belay partner who hasn't received basic instructions and has some practice. Using a device like a Grigri makes belaying very simple, but still has room for error. Belaying errors, regardless of the device used, can lead to a freefall.

For your first climb you should be sure to get instructions from a certified instructor. Once you're familiar with the basics of belaying you can also consider having a backup belay--it's a simple job that your instructor can train you on very quickly.

Provided both climber and belayer are correctly tied-in and using the belay device correctly then the single most important thing for a belayer to remember is to always have a firm grip on the brake end of the rope. They need to be sure to keep a grip on the brake end at all times that they have a climber on belay--and to remember to keep it there in the event of the unexpected. In gyms it's not uncommon for climbers on other ropes to swing very close to belayers, or when outdoors for dropped items or loose rocks to fall towards the belayer.

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