The one about the heavier climber…

Belaying an XL – Tips for Lightweight Climbers

Source: Belaying an XL – Tips for Lightweight Climbers 

One of the top questions new participants regularly ask me is this, “What if my bf/gf (Heaven forbid…) / partner / husband / wife (..again…) / friend / brother / sister (insert other names) is heavier than me? Can i belay him/her?”

My answer is usually Yes because there is no official guideline around the world now that states what is the “safe” weight difference. At most, they would usually give a “recommendation”. Hence there is nothing really stopping you from belaying your XXL sized climber. But come on, let’s face it, no one wants to fall and be lowered down half the wall because of a light belayer who himself/herself gets pulled halfway up the wall as well until the both of you can literally shake hands…. So this article is really quite useful to share what are some of the alternatives or tricks in the belayer’s bags that can be used at the right moment.

I usually teach about the the sandbags that you can get at most gyms as counterweights for the especially light belayers and i use the opportunity to teach them about the “assistant belayer” as well who helps back up the brake line and doubles up as an anchor man as well.

But there are other options as well. Something new on the market is the Elderid Ohm that is covered in the article. Cool piece of kit that can be purchased and it gives the belayer as well as the climber lots of confidence. But it costs a lot and it’s an additional piece of kit that the lead climber has to carry. Takes some training and familiarisation to get it right also. So those are the things i try to share with the participants.

Then there is the physics lesson that i will deliver. Basically the idea is simple. I ask the participants to share (for those who have been belaying a heavier climber so far) on their experiences. “When the heavy climber falls, where do you get pulled? Do you fly upwards vertically like a cartoon superman? Or do you get slammed into the wall horizontally?”

Most of the time the answer will be horizontally. I will then invoke their memories of those secondary school physics lessons and i say a silent thank you to my physics tutors for teaching me something i never thought i would ever have to use….angle

So basically, when a climber falls, he generates an Impact Force vertically downwards. He will also pull on the rope attached to the belayer which creates another force diagonally upwards towards the anchors. All these forces added together creates a resultant force which is the horizontal force that the belayer feels pulling him/her towards the wall every time a heavier climber falls on belay.

Now my Physics tutor also taught me one more thing, and that is the greater the angle is from the climber’s end of the rope to the belayer’s end of the rope, the larger the resultant force will be. Hence i will then follow up with a question, to keep things interactive with the class,

“So knowing that the angle at the top determines the force the belayer feels, when you are belaying a heavier climber, should you stand nearer or further away from the wall?”

The answer will usually be a unanimous “nearer”! I would then encourage my participants to try it out in their next practice where they should stand when they belay. In this way, they get to experience the effects of positioning rather than just listen to theory.

One thing to note, make sure they do not over do it like standing >5m away from the walls and if the floors are slippery have them remove their socks. It’s an interactive way to learn but we got to take care of safety as well.

So there you go, some ways to answer the inevitable question. Just try not to look at the bigger sized participants in the eyes every time you say “fat”…

The one about the belay loop…

Just a quick on from my hp.

A great article on why we use the belay loops to belay. As silly as it sounds, there are really climbers still out there who so not belay through their belay loops. Do you teach the use of a belay loops in yoir courses?

The one about the risking instructor…



Interesting article about how we prove or disprove something quick and dirty at the gym. Sometimes as an instructor, i find it hard to demonstrate “accidents”. We learn best when we do, but how exactly do we let our trainees experience failures or mistakes if the mistakes might lead to physical harm?

The anecdote shared reminded me of one particular incident when i was working at an Adventure Centre. I was walking pass the centre one day when i saw two of my younger colleagues lead climbing at the wall. One guy was lead belaying whilst the other was climbing up to each bolt, fix the rope and take a lead fall. He repeated the process a few times. I said a quick hi and asked what they were up to? (Most people have to work in the middle of the work day you know…) They cheerfully informed me that they found this old dynamic rope in the store and there were no visible tags on it so they could not ascertain its age. So they did the next best thing and decided they will test it to see whether it was still ok to be used at the centre.

I replied, “And what if you discover that the rope snaps?”

Suddenly it dawned on the lead climber that if his experiment was effective enough and the rope really turns out ot be defective, there was nothing really holding him up. He would be proud that his carefully designed test worked, but at the same time he would be a very sorry tester…. They sheepishly lowered off , glad to live and climb another day. This time perhaps with a back up rope…

How can instructors design effective “mistakes” for our trainees to experience? How can we ensure safety? Where do we draw the line?

In my SNCS L1 courses, i find that my participants often need to see the consequences of their actions before they can thoroughly understand why they need to do a certain procedure of steps. 
Ome problem i face is when new belayers give too much slack at the start of the climb which might cause the climbers to deck.  I often struggle with myself whether i should demonstrate the consequences of this mistake because it would put myself at risk. I seldom (if not never) get my assistants to demonstrate this part of the course because of the risk involved. Usually to show the effects of a slack belay at the start, it involves climbing up to the 3m mark, making sure that my belayer gives me a bit of slack before i “slip” and deliberately and dramatically deck onto the ground. I tend to exaggerate the fall and the crash so as to get my participants’ attention. And often the ground is padded so i do not really hurt from the “controlled crash”. But there may come a day when i mistime it and land awkwardly twisting an ankle or something, you never know…

Hence the dilemma an instructor might face. To demonstrate or not to demonstrate. I have tried nagging, explaining, getting them to visualise but the same mistakes will keep occurring especially when they do not see the impact of their mistakes. One way is to just do rote learning where you drill and drill but participants might go away without understanding the “why” behind it which might cause them to forget the whole point in the long run. It’s a problem i face and something i have no solution for at the moment. But it helps to have an experienced assistant to help me with this part and it helps to talk to him clearly before the demo what exactly you are going to do and what he is to expect. (One assistant didn’t expect me to exaggerate the decking that much that she really thought i broke my ankle…) These can help facilitate the demonstration but again, i question whether it is safe. Would you do it? In the name of learning? Should an instructor “sacrifice” that much to do his job? Are there any other ways we can achieve the objective in a safer manner? Somethings to think about.

Oh and yah…watch the video on how to use a grigri properly….

Mountain guide death leads to Exum fine


(Web Source : )

“The investigation underscores an emerging awareness among businesses in the recreation and outdoors industry that they are subject to rules seeking to ensure safety — even in unconventional workplaces like ski resorts and wilderness areas. “

Should we be prepared to attend courses like MOM’s Work at Height (WAH) course or have to attend an Occupational First Aid training in future? Should we be subjected to such industrial standards since we are dealing with clients at height? Will the knowledge in such courses be helpful?

Should we use our own personal equipment when conducting courses? Or do we only use whatever is provided by the company? What if the company’s gear isn’t safe enough for my comfort?

Some questions i have no answers for at the moment. But for your reflection. What say you?

The one about the accidental discharge…

I found this very interesting video from a friend’s FB post.

After an accidental discharge, or what we army boys would call a misfire, an instructor took the opportunity to turn an otherwise “reprimand-worthy-i’ll-tear-you-a-new-a**hole” moment, into a calm teachable moment. It’s not in everyone, but i believe a good instructor should be able to see the good in everyone and not just point out their weaknesses, but also help to build them back up after pulling them apart.

In this case, the instructor did away with the scolding, tried to brush it off. But when the firer insisted on apologising, rather than putting him on the spot, he thanked him for doing the right thing. The instructor was thankfully observant also and was quick to point out that the firer did no wrong in his procedure and it was purely an equipment malfunction. If you weren’t looking at the right thing at that instant, he would have missed that crucial observation that would exonerate the firer.

I guess as instructors, we can be quick to point out faults especially when it is to deal with safety issues like participants letting go of the brake lines or forgetting to lock their carabiner gates. We have a right to do so because safety is always paramount in our craft. But there are two responses that we can choose. We can choose to reprimand or we can choose to go soft. Perhaps it will be good to seize these moments as “teachable moments” so that the lessons are not lost.

You forget to lock a carabiner? Ok lock it now. Can you share with me why was that dangerous? Yeah i agree with you, i was kinda worried that your rope might slip out if the gate brushed onto a branch or something.  Now what would you do differently the next time when you are using the carabiner? Great, so let’s keep up the safety awareness and remind each other to double check our carabiner gates alright? 

Wouldn’t that make it a more palatable learning experience for all? At the end of the day, i believe that instructors should provide a safety net for trainees to fail. If they don’t make mistakes, if they don’t fail, they do not learn as well. The trick is to make a wide enough safety net to keep them safe, so that they can afford to fail and learn. If they can enjoy the experience, now wouldn’t that be a bonus for them? Something for us to think about.

*Afterthought : BTW, i have been guilty of misfire before. Thankfully it was a blank round. But my sergeants made sure i paid for it. And i have never wilfully pulled the trigger without aiming ever since. Some lessons stick for life because they are impactful enough. I guess it’s were to draw the line so that the learner comes out of it with a positive experience rather than remember it for negative reasons.

Peaceful Vibes

The one about the 1-and-2-and-3…

Conducted a SNCS Level 1 class with E just yesterday, possibly my last at CL. So many memories. But that’s another post for another day.

By this time i was so comfortable with my Level 1 course conduct that i could literally run on auto-run mode. Automaticity i believe it’s called. So when E told me he wanted to conduct Belay Sch, i wasn’t expecting anything new. I was just curious why he needed to go set up whilst i taught the knotting portion. He went off to plan his lesson.

When we headed down for the lesson, he pleasantly surprised me with the sequencing of his lesson and the activities he put in place to engage the participants and to help them understand how the belay device works for them. But when he came to the 5-step belay segment, it started to go South on me.

You see usually, and i use the word “usually” very loosely here because i am assuming all Instructors teach the same way i was taught how to. So “usually” we would teach the participants that Step 1 is where you raise your master hand and pull in the rope at the same time. Step 2 is when you would bring the master hand down and lock the belay device off and so forth and so on. E however was teaching something different. He told the participants to Step 1 bring your master hand up. Step 2, pull the rope upwards and then cut your master hand down immediately. That was step 2.

I was initially taken aback! My mind was screaming “WRONG WRONG WRONG” and i was very tempted to correct him. But i was struggling to find anything wrong with that. I was struggling to find the right words to correct him. And then i realise i couldn’t. There was really nothing wrong with doing that. As uncomfortable as i was about it, i started to realise that it was only my own “unfamiliarity” that was making me panic. In true fact, E was not wrong in teaching that way. It still worked. It was just something that was not my usual practice and i was shakened by its dissonance. Once i recognised that, i started to listen to him closely. And i realised he knew what he was doing.

I think we all come with our own set of experiences and expertise. Whenever we think we know too much or we know what’s best, we slip into “automaticity” and that’s where only we are right and everyone else is wrong or just simply not good enough. I hope instructors can learn to open their minds and to keep questioning. Just as when they were new instructors and they were eager to learn from everyone and everything around them. The moment we shut our minds off from the rest of the world, we become the proverbial frog in the well. I thought i was open, but i realised i was rocked by this dissonance also. Thankfully i was able to take a step back and let E carry on with his lesson. I guess there’s always something new you can teach an old dog. As long as the dog still wants to learn.

Peaceful Vibes!


Reboot: 5 Resources for Teacher Inspiration


We’re not teachers, but instructors need that inspirational talk or a source of motivation once in awhile. As we start off a new year, perhaps we can rethink our inspirations to teach?


Whether snacking on TED-Ed videos, reading with purpose, checking into a smile backchannel, or chuckling at hashtags and memes, you’re never far from relief and inspiration.

Source: Reboot: 5 Resources for Teacher Inspiration