Each year I try to get down to Ouray for a long weekend of ice climbing, and luckily my thumb is just healed enough to allow the trip this winter. I still can’t lead anything because I don’t possess the dexterity to place ice screws, but I did get to toprope a whole bunch of really steep stuff and got in a ton of pitches (except Sunday when I was really hungover from Saturday night’s margs). The climbing was great, but there’s something I always notice when I’m in Ouray and would like to address. It goes like this…

Belayer lowers Climber to the river 35 meters below.

Belayer: “On belay!”

Climber: “Am I on belay?

Belayer:”Dude, you’re one belay, climb!”

Climber: “Dude, can you hear me?”


Climber: “AM I ON BELAY OR WHAT???”

Guy On The Bridge: “Dude, your friend has you on belay”

and so on until the climber just assumes everything is probably OK and starts climbing.

Try this instead: Lower your partner to the river. When the rope goes slack you know he’s standing on the ground. Take in the slack and give the rope three long, hard pulls. This is the signal to the climber that he’s on and can start moving. No yelling needed. Then again, listening to a half dozen climber standing next to running water in the bottom of a canyon yell back and fourth with a half dozen belayers standing ten feet back from the rim of the canyon was pretty entertaining. Thanks for keeping my smiling when I’m so hung over that I can barely function. Keep up the good work.


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