Staying in communication with a partner is crucial, and can be hampered by terrain, noise, confusion of other parties, and lack of daylight. There are many options that teams have used, ranging from heavy and fragile walktie-talkies, to simply “winging it” and assuming when one is on or off belay. To minimize risk and the chance of forgetting a complex system, we recommend everyone KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).
Communicate with the 3+ rope pull system.
In a standard belayed multipitch climbing scenario on rock, snow, ice, or mixed terrain, there simply isn’t actually very much that needs to be communicated between members of a climbing team. And the lead climber communicates both points.
- The leader needs to communicate to the follower/belayer that he or she can be taken off belay.
- Then the leader needs to communicate to the follower that the follower has been put on belay.
Everything else is unnecessary or else is communicated before the leader leaves the belay.
- When the leader has stopped moving up the pitch for a significant amount of time, he/she is likely building a belay anchor and clipping in to it. Both climbers should anticipate this. The belayer will likely have noticed that little rope has moved out from the belay. After securing themselves to the anchor, the leader then suddenly yanks up 3-6ish (counting is not important and only leads to confusion) sharp tugs of rope. When you are the leader, do this violently and quickly, but without actually bringing in any rope from below. The goal is to send an unmistakable signal to the belayer, so don’t gently lift up the rope (as in clipping gear) and don’t actually keep pulling in slack (as in a fall or when climbing very fast.) Then wait 10-15 seconds for the belayer to remove the rope from the belay device, before finally beginning to smoothly and steadily pull up any remaining slack.
- Again, as the leader, after you’ve pulled up all the remaining slack (or think you even might have done so), go ahead and put the follower on belay. After being 100% sure you’ve rigged your device correctly, again give 3-6 violent short tugs on the rope, which will be obvious for the following climber to notice. Don’t initially keep this toprope held very tight, because the follower will likely need to loosen and take off their own clove hitch connection to the anchor. At this point the follower is on belay and he/she can disconnect themselves from the lower anchor, disassemble that anchor, and begin climbing.