SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – March 2010

Scramble Safely With the Hip Belay

Add security on steep terrain with the simple hip belay.

by: Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, Illustrations by Supercorn


While ascending a class 3 summit, you and your partner encounter a stretch of particularly sketchy terrain: exposed, steep, and rocky. The route is stable—your partner’s nerves, not so much. Turn back? Not if you packed a rope and know how to perform a hip belay. Requiring only a coil of rope, this old-school technique provides added security on nontechnical peaks, gentle snow slopes, moderate canyoneering trips, or any terrain where technical climbing methods are unnecessary. “When moving in the mountains, speed and efficiency are key, and the hip belay allows a team to do just that—it’s lightning-fast and stable,” says Jackson, Wyoming-based Exum Mountain guide Cara Liberatore. Here’s how to do it:



Tie in

Using one end of a single climbing rope, tie the 
easy-to-adjust bowline knot snugly around your waist; have the climber do the same. For added security, tie backup overhand knots right next to the bowlines at both ends. Use a 30-meter length of rope for alpine scrambling; a 12-meter rope is usually sufficient for shorter downclimbs while canyoneering. 


Brace position

To belay your partner, you’ve got to be comfortable ascending without protection. Scramble up ahead and find a solid terrain feature, such as a large, live tree or a boulder that’s too big to fit your arms around. Test the feature for stability before committing. Sit down and brace at least one straightened leg (both, if possible) against the feature; this is your brace leg. 


Hand position

Position the rope so that your brake hand is opposite your brace leg (for example, if your brace is your right leg, use your left hand to brake). If both legs are equally braced, either hand can brake. Your other hand is your guide hand. Pull up any slack between you and your partner, then flip the rope over your head so that it rests below your backpack. 


Belay method

Use the traditional slip-slap-slide method to belay: As your partner climbs, remove the slack by pulling the rope back around your body with both hands. Slip your guide hand back up and use it to pinch (“slap”) the two strands of rope together in front of you. Then slide your brake hand back toward your body without ever taking it off of the rope. Drop the brake strand from the guide hand and repeat.


Stop a fall

While using the hip belay, always keep a tight leash on your partner—you should feel his weight on the rope at all times. If he falls, immediately bring your brake hand down and across your body, wrapping the rope farther around your core. The friction of the rope against your body stops the fall. 


Practice

Perform the hip belay on low-angle terrain with an experienced partner or guide until you become comfortable with the technique. And be aware of the hip belay’s limitations: If the belayer weighs significantly less than the climber, the terrain increases to 5th class, or no natural brace features exist, you’ll need more advanced belaying skills to proceed.




Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Mike
May 11, 2010

If you're giving a good, tight belay on 3rd class terrain, your partner would have to be pretty fat to pull you off your perch. I don't see tying in as a problem.

KMO
Apr 20, 2010

Missing one component, and that is the anchor. The belayer should first tie themselves into the knot,then grab a short bite of the rope (about 2 feet) immediately from their tie-in and tie into an anchor, typically constructed separately.

Gene
Mar 16, 2010

Since the belayer is not securely anchored, he shouldn't be tied in. If he can't stop a fall with the hip belay, he is probably going to be pulled off his perch when all the slack is gone. Then you have 2 injured climbers instead of one.

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Women
Menopause Sux
Posted On: Apr 20, 2014
Submitted By: Echo
Trailhead Register
Man Kayaks Across Atlantic
Posted On: Apr 20, 2014
Submitted By: Ecocentric

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

>
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions