Belay Workshops: Catching a Live Fall
Friday, March 25, 2011 at 13:49
Sonny Lawrence in Cave & Technical Rescue Team, News, SB Mountain SAR, belay
From Photos

An important skill, a life saving one at that, is a rope belay. It is a skill emphasized and taught in SAR. However it is skill that thankfully is rarely used. Cognitively, it is a perishable skill. Teach a person to belay. A year later, he/she may or may not recall the details of how to do it. Have the person actually catch a fall, the learning goes much deeper.

I started rock climbing in the early 1970s. Somehow a bunch of us figured out at a relatively young age that it would be useful to learn to belay. We arranged to use a fire tower in Orange county. It was five stories tall. We positioned the belayer in the 4th story. Without warning, we threw a hundred pound weight off the 5th story. WOW!! We discovered physically what it felt like to catch a lead fall!! The experience made believers of all of us about the importance of being anchored, the stance, the belay device, etc. Those learnings stuck for life.

A few years ago members of the Cave and Technical Rescue Team decided to test various types and sizes of ropes as well as belay devices. We rigged a dynamometer and rope system in a tree. It immediately brought back those 1970s memories. It verified how well a Munter works with any rope.

Recently members of the Cave and Technical Rescue Team and the San Bernardino Mountain Team have put on belay workshops. We have held three at Rialto Aviation, my home and the Mountain Team’s rescue shack. Each has been a great learning experience. We certainly have entertaining war stories!

This is to announce that we will be scheduling upcoming belay workshops. They most likely will be held on a weekday evening in San Bernardino. Please email John Metzger or Sonny Lawrence at their email addresses if interested.

Article originally appeared on SBSAR.ORG (
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