Lead Climbing: How To Lead Belay

This article about lead belaying is part of the e-book - Rock Climbing Basics: The Beginner's Guide.

VDiff learn to climb free e-book ebook

Step 1
When lead belaying, you need to attach your belay device so there is just a few meters of rope between it and the climber's knot.

How to lead climb

Step 2
When the climber is moving up the wall, you'll need to feed rope out to them instead of taking it in.

Place one hand on the rope above the belay device and the other on the brake rope below. Use both hands to shuffle rope upwards through the belay device.

Then slide your hands one at a time back down the rope so you are ready to give more slack. Make sure not to let go of the brake rope!

Lead belaying and Climbing

Step 3
Once they've clipped the quickdraw but are still below it, they're effectively on a mini top rope, so you'll need to take in a small amount of rope until they're level with the quickdraw. At this point, you'll continue giving slack rope out again so they can go above it.

Lead belaying

Step 4
You'll catch a fall in exactly the same way as for a top rope fall, by locking the rope off downwards.

If the leader takes a big fall from above a bolt, the force will be much greater than a simple top rope fall, so it will be much harder to hold – keep a tight grip on the brake rope and pay attention!

How to lead climb and belay a climber

Lead Belaying: Belay Position

Before the First Bolt
Before the leader reaches the first bolt, you'll need to 'spot' them, just the same as if they were bouldering.

Make sure to have just enough slack in the rope so they can reach the bolt.

How to spot a climber when bouldering

After the First Bolt
Stand close to the wall, and in-line with the leader. Maintain a good stance in a position where you can see them.

How to lead belay correctly

Lead Belaying: Common Mistakes

Leaving too much slack in the rope.

How not to lead belay correctly

Standing too far back from the wall.

How not to lead belay correctly

Lead Belaying: Top Tips

For your first few times lead belaying (for either top rope or lead), it can be useful to ask a qualified member of staff to hold the brake rope a metre or so below where you're belaying. This acts as a back up so that even if you let go of the rope your climber won't fall to the ground.

How to lead climb and belay on top rope

It's also possible to have a top rope setup when learning to lead climb. This way, you can practise the techniques of leading, with the increased safety of a top rope. Ask a qualified member of staff for help with this.

How to lead climb belay

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