Which Commands are Correct?
Slack? Tension? Give? Stop? Zagglesplat? Do you and your partner have the same understanding of the commands you use?
I was recently belayed by a, how should I put this … seasoned climber. While I was lowering and cleaning a long sport route, my belayer kept lowering me past the bolts, and I had to keep climbing back up to get the draws. This, despite me saying, “Take, take!” when I wanted to stop at a bolt.
My belayer finally barked, “The word is, ‘Stop.’ I’m already taking the entire time.”
I’ve always understood the words “give” and “take” to be universal commands in regards to tension/slack and lowering. Did I miss something, or does this OG climber just not like my face?
—Stephen M. Lucas
Both of your hypotheses are correct. “Take” means for your belayer to hold you on the rope, and he was doing that. When you want to stop at a bolt or gear and clean it, you say, “Stop.” But, you should only share the bond of the rope with a trusted companion, one who always understands what you need and freely gives it even when you misstate it or don’t say anything at all. My favorite command is “Zagglesplat,” and my wife knows exactly what that means.
Even so, I’ve never heard “Give” used as a command in the sport of climbing. Are you working for a charity and asking for money? When you want slack, just ask for it: “Slaaaack, for fuck’s sake, slaaaack!”
The bigger problem, of course, is with your douchebag partner.
This douchebag knew exactly what you meant and got pumped up lowering you past the bolts and watching you thrash back up again and again. Either he really doesn’t like your face (did you shortrope him?), or he suffers from Histrionic Personality Disorder. Next time you climb with him be sure to use his quickdraws, and if he gets snooty again and lowers you past his precious, leave ’em. I guarantee that he will very quickly decipher your command. Next!
This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 246 (November 2017).
Also read Gear Guy: Can You Climb on a Wet Rope?
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