Climbing calls: Be clear and unambiguous

Sandra and I were climbing in the Llanberis Pass recently and observed a climber getting into difficulty. The ‘call’ the second climber was making to the lead climber was unclear. As a result the ‘call’ was misinterpreted by the leader.

The climber required a ‘tight rope’ as he negotiated a difficult section on the climb. However, his instruction to the lead climber was “take in slack.”

The leader interpreted this as ‘slack.’ That is what the lead climber heard with the direction of the wind and the distance between the two climbers. The lead climber duly let out more rope. This happened twice and by now the second climber had a loop of rope below him. He started to look uncomfortable on his stance.

Sandra (who could see the climber below her) called up to me, to shout instructions to the lead climber to ‘take in’ the rope, which he did and their climb continued without incident. Of course, it could have been a different story.

Remember, climbing calls should be clear and unambiguous.

Take In’ This is the call from the climber when they require rope taking in.

‘Slack’ This is the call a climber makes when they require more rope.

DO NOT put the two ‘calls’ together in the same sentence.

Other climbing calls are:

  • ‘Climb when ready’ The belayer is letting their partner know that they have them on belay, they are ready to protect them and they can start climbing.
  • ‘Climbing’ The climber is letting the belayer know that they are ready to start climbing.
  • ‘OK’ The belayer acknowledges the climbers call.
  • ‘Safe’The leader is informing the second that they are secured to a belay and that they can be taken off the belay device.
  • ‘Off Belay’ The second is telling the lead climber that they have been taken off the belay device.
  • ‘Taking In’ The leader is letting the second know that they are taking in (pulling in) all of the slack rope between them.
  • ‘That’s Me’ The second is informing the leader that the rope is now tight and the lead climber has now pulled all of the rope in between them.
  • ‘Below’ This is a warning call from a climber above telling you that something has been dislodged (ie a rock) or dropped (some gear) and it is heading down the route, potentially towards you
  • ‘Rope Below’ A climber will give this warning call when they are about to throw a rope down the rock face.

Enjoy your climbing