The Art of Polite Hangdogging

By Liz Haas ,

A climber takes a moment to lounge on the rope. Photo: James Lucas

Once frowned upon, hangdogging has become a common way to suss out beta on sport climbing projects. While it is perfectly acceptable to climb bolt-to-bolt—pausing to rest, read moves, or falling multiple times—there are still a few thing you should do to maintain good climber-belayer relations. Chronic hangdoggers take note:

1. Ask before you flail

It’s only fair to warn your partner before you embark on an epic hang-fest. Ask your partner if he “wouldn’t mind giving you a patient belay” while you work out the moves on your project. Tell him in advanced if you plan to climb bolt-to-bolt, so he can be prepared to give you the best belay possible.

Projecting tip

Tell your belayer which sections of a climb are most difficult for you, which clips you struggle with, and any other information that might help him give you a safer, smoother belay.

2. Go in direct

If you’re going to rest on the rope for more than 15 seconds, go in direct to the nearest bolt with a quickdraw clipped to your belay loop. This puts your weight on the bolt, instead of your partners device, giving him a break. Do not have your belayer take you off belay. He should give you just enough slack that he isn't actively holding you. This provides redundancy in the event of unforeseen equipment failure.

Projecting Tip

On your second time up a new project—after the onsite attempt, of course—climb bolt-to-bolt, going in direct at each draw to rest. Use this time to work out the sequence to the next clipping hold. This will help you determine the most efficient beta for a redpoint attempt.

3. Communicate

Don't be that silent partner who pulls up on the nearest draw when she wants to take, expecting her belayer to know and not go for a slack-adding soft catch. Communicate. Tell your belayer when you plan to take, how long you'll be resting, if you're in direct, and when you're ready to climb again. Your partner may belay you for well over 30 minutes; make their life easier by communicating your needs to let him know when he can relax and stretch his neck.

4. Know when to call it quits

If you’ve been struggling on the same move for the past 15 minutes, it’s time to lower down, pull on the draw, or stick-clip your way through the section. Your partner shouldn’t have to belay you for 90 minutes while you flail your way up an eight-bolt overhang or slip around on a friction slab like you're on a treadmill. Acceptable hangdogging times vary by route length and the patience of your partner.

Projecting Tip

Don’t give up when you can’t stick a hard move or figure out a sequence the first time or two. Do call it quits when you begin to make negative progress and/or your form suffers due to fatigue. You’re better off taking a break than teaching your body bad mechanics.

5. Give Back

Now it's time to give your partner a patient catch on his project. Or maybe next time you can clean while he redpoints his multi-pitch trad project. Show your partners how much you appreciate his patient belays by thanking him and returning the favor.

Projecting tip

Help relieve sending jitters by cheering your partner on during his burn. This can give him a motivation boost, and also provides the confidence of knowing he has an attentive belay. The best part: Your partner will likely return the favor. 

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