ON BELAY Voice Command

A Basic Command Before Rock Climbing

Dr. Bill Springer belays at the Ice Cream Parlor near Moab, Utah.
The command "On belay" means that the belayer is ready for a climber to begin climbing. Photograph copyright Stewart M. Green

“On belay” is the first climbing command used by a climbing team at the base of a route as well as at both the beginning and end of a pitch higher up the cliff.

”On Belay” Means the Belayer is Ready

Your belayer, who is probably standing next to you at the base of your route’s first pitch, lets you know that he is on belay and that it is safe for you to climb by saying, “On belay.” This means that the belayer has uncoiled the rope at the cliff base; tied himself to an anchor like a tree or cams; and has the climbing rope, which is tied to you with a figure-8 follow-through knot, threaded through his belay device.

Don’t Pester the Belayer

Remember that it is up to the belayer to tell you, the leader, when he is ready for you to climb and on belay. I often see impatient leaders asking their belayer, “Are you on belay?” or “On belay?” Don’t be an impatient pest—let your belayer get ready and tell you when he is on belay and that it is safe for you to climb.

When to Use “On Belay”

Below is the usual group of commands used by a climbing team either when they are starting from the base of the cliff, from a belay ledge partway up a route, or by a leader who is has put a seconding climber on belay from above. You will use this series of commands whether you’re big wall climbing, sport climbing, or toprope climbing. Just remember that when you tell the other climber that he is on belay that you are now on duty and must be an attentive belayer. Remember that belaying is always a serious matter. Do not be distracted.

Pay attention to the climber.

The Sequence of Voice Commands

Here are the voice commands before you start climbing:

Belayer: “On Belay.”
Climber: “Ready to Climb.”
Belayer: “Climb” or “Climb on.”
Climber: “Climbing.”