This is one of the most common skills missing in roped climbing partnerships!
One of the most common things people get wrong with belaying, and one of the easiest ways to make climbing safer, is belaying dynamically. This means that the belayer moves or adjusts the ‘stretch’ in a system to make a catch ‘softer’. Effectively, this dampens the force in a fall, so that it feels more like falling on a bungee cord than falling on a steel cable. ‘Hard’ catches are common causes of injuries in lead falls.
This video helps explain this, but it is not a comprehensive instructional video! It’s important that people are a competent belayer before using these techniques and seek instruction (you can always get in touch with me) to understand this properly. It’s also recommended that you use an assisted-braking belay device, such as a Click-Up or Gri Gri.
Belaying is really contextual and there are loads of variables that need to be accounted for, and as with any skill it really needs to be practised. It’s important that this is practised on incrementally bigger falls, starting from top-rope falls. Lighter belayers, or those belaying on slabs, will often not need to step back at all as the force of a fall drags them towards the first bolt/piece of gear anyway.
I hope that this video will help make sense of dynamic belaying and give you a sense of how important it is. Remember to seek instruction if anything doesn’t make sense.
This video is a clip from a lesson on the Strong Mind Course I’ve been working on with Hazel Findlay.