Intro to Climbing Communications

Quick reference for standard communications between Climber and Belayer.

C: “On Belay?”

B: “Belay On”

C: “Climbing”

D: “Climb On”

This exchange takes place after the climber has tied in to the climbing rope, the belayer has equipped a belay device, and both have completed appropriate safety checks. The climber is asking if the belay is on. The belay responds that the belay is on. The climber is confirming that it is safe to climb. The belayer confirms that it is, indeed, safe to climb.

Say what you will about the unwieldiness of this command sequence, being willing to learn it, and implement it, demonstrates a degree of commitment that we should all be looking for in a climbing partner.

That being said, it seems that many climbers do not regularly speak these commands. Formality, in this scenario, is often associated with lack of experience, and those in the know usually say something that means something similar, but with words that are more familiar.

C: “You good?”

B: “I’m good.”

C: “Got me?”

B: “I gotcha.”

The same concepts come across through these phrases, and are more memorable because they are more easily understood.

Guests on Idlewild outings are always informed on standard climbing communications, and our guides practice these commands with guests throughout the day. We also might make mention of the fact that many climbers do not use these commands, and that the most important takeaway is not that they say the right thing, but that they say something… that they make eye contact… that the commands take place after safety checks. We also might not, depending upon the audience.

There’s a lot of literature out there on climbing commands. If you would like to dig deeper into the topic, REI has a treasure trove of information on their site. If you prefer to study a book, a couple that are worth noting are Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, a comprehensive guide to climbing and associated disciplines, and How to Rock Climb by John Long, a more focused approach to rock climbing.

More to come.

Cred to REI for the shot. Support them at

Cred to REI for the shot. Support them at

Ryan Cavender