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I often find myself fifty feet above the ground clinging to the side of a wall. It is invigorating to feel the air beneath my feet. Perhaps my favorite aspect of climbing is the ability to reach spaces like this – spaces where I wouldn’t otherwise find myself. As adventurous as I am, I won’t be scrambling up the sides of buildings or trees to get these same thrills anytime soon.

How is this done, you might ask? Whether it’s in the gym or on real rock, the actual climbing is only one half of this unique experience. I am not alone on the wall. My belayer is on the other end of the rope ensuring that what goes up will smoothly come back down.

There are two important reasons why learning to belay can better your climbing experience. It can simultaneously help you connect with more people in the gym and improve your climbing.

On Belay?

Where do we begin? First, you must pass a test in order to belay in the gym. This requires that you demonstrate the ability to do three things.

1. Set up the equipment.

On Belaying

2. Perform a safety check.

On Belaying

3. Belay and lower your climber.

On Belaying

It is imperative that you seek qualified instruction when learning to belay. These skills are fundamental, nuanced, and best acquired from a trained instructor.

Think about it like driving school for climbers. You would never simply get behind the wheel and wing it. First, you take the class. Then, you pass a test. Finally, you have a license or – in our case – the skills to belay.

Once you have learned to belay many doors are opened to you and your new skills.

Belay On!

The physical action of attaching yourself to another person requires trust. These physical connections through the rope often transfer into new friendships. I have met many key people in my life simply from the ability to tie in and belay.

Your new skills as a belayer also afford you the opportunity to introduce new climbers to the same great experiences you are already having! Or, maybe you’re searching for a partner. Each Wednesday, a Climb So iLL team member helps connect climbers who don’t have partners during our Plug In nights.

Connecting with new partners is only one positive aspect of belaying. It is also key to improving your climbing abilities.


In the early years, your climbing progression will happen rapidly. Every trip to the gym or crag can mean getting stronger and improving your technique.

Rope climbing is particularly good for improving technical climbing abilities. The number of moves performed on a route is many times the amount of your average boulder problem. More moves translate to more practice climbing specific movements and improving efficiency on the wall.

Varying the terrain you climb on is a vital part of this skill development. Belaying opens up more routes on the wall and gives you access to many different holds and angles. In our gym, there are eighteen individual top rope lines. Compare this to just seven auto belay stations, and it’s easy to see that learning to top rope translates into wider access of the facility.

Climb On!

How can you take this vital next step and learn belaying for yourself? Climb So iLL offers the Rope Skills 1 class with myself or one of four other instructors – including our newest session on Monday evenings with Delaney. Our team would love the opportunity to teach you these skills!

Climb So iLL’s greatest asset is our community. Without the support of one another, we are nothing but a collection of individuals inhabiting the same space. At our gym, you can be sure that our community has your back. Whatever type of climbing you are doing, no matter how high up you are, there is always someone looking out for you from below.

Nate Vice

Author Nate Vice

Nate Vice has been climbing at the gym since 2012. He works as both an instructor and a member of the Welcome Desk staff. In addition to these duties, Nate studies communications at UMSL and writes for our blog.

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