During a busy day at the climbing gym, I heard an argument. A climber halfway up the wall was yelling at his belayer. He was angry. Safety-wise, everything looked kosher: The climber had his weight on the rope, his knot looked good, and his belayer had both hands on the brake. Their issue was communication. The climber was insisting he be lowered. His belayer—trying to motivate him—was shouting that he needed to keep going before he’d be lowered. This went on for a few minutes. The belayer gave in when the climber began kicking the wall and yelling louder. They left shortly after.
—Spencer; Columbus, Ohio
LESSON: First and foremost, rock climbing is supposed to be fun. If you cause your partner to have a tantrum on the wall, you’re doing it wrong. New climbers need to be allowed to adjust on their own terms. Climbing is scary, don’t forget. If you push someone too far out of their comfort zone, it’s only going to make them more afraid. Second: It’s the climber’s call if he wants to be lowered. The belayer takes orders from the climber. Sure, one motivational “You can do it!” is OK. You can even follow it up with an “Are you sure?” But if the person you’re belaying asks you to lower them, then lower them. Ignoring their commands is a huge breach of trust.
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