A Thank-You Note to Great Belayers Everywhere

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Dear Great Belayers Everywhere,

You don't get enough recognition for what you do, or how important it is. Save free soloists and full time boulderers, there's little any of us would be be able to do without you. And for that, I'm grateful.

Thank you for knowing what to say and when to say it. Some climbers need words of encouragement shouted up to them while others don't want to hear a thing. It's a delicate balance, and you've got it down to a science. It might have taken some coaching, but you listened, and that's the mark of a Great Belayer. Better still, thank you for giving me a big hug on the ground when I've done something you know is a big deal to me, whether I'll admit it or not.

Aleya, a Great Belayer, @ Rumney.
Along the same line, thank you for giving me beta when I need it, and keeping quiet when I don't. It's difficult not to shout advice when the sequence is so obvious from the ground. The Great Belayers are those who take the time to understand their partner, which means knowing when to shout out advice and when to let us work it out ourselves. Some of us want beta while we're climbing, some want to know what we could do to better when we're back on the ground, and some don't want any help at all. Us climbers can be difficult; we're all different, and we all have our way of doing things. Thank you for knowing what I need.

I might roll my eyes when you check that I've properly tied my figure-8 knot, even though I've done it a million times. I might get a little defensive when you make me re-tie it if it doesn't look 100% clean and neat. But thank you for making sure I don't make a silly mistake that could get me seriously injured. Because of you, I'm able to rope up, start climbing, and know that part of the system is functioning as it should. I can forget about it and climb. Thank you for keeping the communication lines open while I'm climbing; we all know how important that is. As tedious as it might be to go through the sequence of commands, there's a reason they exists in the first place.

Thank you for being patient when it takes me 45 minutes to get through a route. Belaying for someone working on a project can be so frustrating, especially when I'm up there hanging on the rope trying to figure out what to do next. I try not to cross the line between working a sequence and hang-dogging. I know I flirt with that line. Thank you for refraining from giving me a hard time, unless I really deserve it.

Thank you, Great Belayers, for making it possible for people like Chris Sharma to work ground-breaking routes for months on end. Thank you for keeping my idols safe while they bring the sport of climbing to new levels, and give me things to reach for.

Without you, none of it would be possible. Thank you for being you, and perhaps someday, if I haven't already, I'll get to return the favor.

Lots of love,


eryn w. said...

Nice post! I should send my climbing partner over here so I don't have to type my sentiments out in an email...

Patrick Gensel said...

Great post katie, Love the format and thank you for being a great belayer!

Amy C said...

What a beautiful and well-articulated post, Katie. It's nice to hear that I'm not the only one who spends 45 mins getting through a route or working on a project. :-)

I would also add a thank you for taking the time to be safe while on the ground. To stay alert and engaged even when I *am* taking those 45 minutes. Knowing you're down there taking care of me and keeping me safe means the absolute world.

Awesome post!

Annehughes123 said...

I was just telling my climbing class on the first night that I was going to make sure they became world class belayers and "safety officers" in their own right... while in many areas of life, being too focused on safety brands you as a bit of a nerd, a worry wort, in climbing, a good belayer is hard to find. And a great belayer even harder. You become great at it and you will be respected, appreciated and desired by people like Katie, me... and Chris Sharma! I'd been climbing for years when a friend I adored and admired for her climbing skills, breadth and depth, began to teach me the art of belaying. I realized how much there was to good belaying and I strive to be like her, BETTER than her even, each time I hold a climber's life in my hand. Thanks for a good post

Larkin said...

YEAH! awesome Katie. You said it perfectly.

Katie said...

Amy - a good addition, definitely! You're right, great belayers always pay attention on the ground, and make me feel like we're in it together. It scares me to look down and see my belayer talking to someone else, or looking away. Eek!

Everyone - so glad this resonated! I felt as though I don't do a good job of thanking my belayers. Pass this on to anyone who's had an impact on you!

Larkin said...

YEAH! awesome Katie. You said it perfectly.

eryn w. said...

Nice post! I should send my climbing partner over here so I don't have to type my sentiments out in an email...