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How to Use an Auto-Belay Device for Indoor Climbing

Learn how to use an auto-belay device from indoor rock climbing expert Cliff Simanski in this Howcast video.


All right, everyone, right now I'm going to show you how to use what's called an auto belay. This is a great system that a lot of climbing gyms offer. It allows you to climb without having a partner. It's nice. You can run repetitive laps on some of these routes and just move at your own pace.

So the way these devices work is at one end of it there's a big locking carabiner. These carabiners often have a two-part locking mechanism that requires you to both push on the gate and twist it simultaneously. Once the gate's open you're going to clip it into your harness. On my harness I'm going to clip it into what's called the belay loop. On a rental harness that might be a different point.

So I'm clipped into my belay loop. It's important to remember when doing that process to be really careful not to let go of the auto belay. Because, if you do, it's going to coil itself all the way back up to the top. So make sure you don't let go while you're clipping in.

And as silly as it sounds clipping in is the most important part of using the auto belay as it's very easy to forget to clip in, to be negligent with that step of the process. So really make sure you're always clipped in properly, and that that carabiner is locked. Most gyms will have a sign, perhaps some sort of covering on the wall. The auto belay might be attached away from the wall. All of those elements are in place to make sure that you actually clip in and don't start climbing until that clip is secured and you've double checked it.

So once I'm clipped I know I'm safe and ready to go. I can just start climbing. It's important that when you're using the auto belay that you don't climb too far to one side or the other, making sure that you're basically in line with the device as you're moving up the wall. Now, without having a belayer, any time you fall the auto belay is going to lower you all the way back to the floor. So just keep that in mind as you're climbing.

When you near the top of the wall, and you're ready to come down, there's nothing else you need to do except let go. Now it feels really creepy, and it's a little committing, especially because you don't have a belayer that you're communicating with, but at this stage the only thing left to do is just let go.

Now that I'm back down you'll notice that the auto belay lowered me safely. It lowered me slowly. It didn't drop me all the way down. It might take a second or so for that device to engage at the top, but within an inch or two you'll start to feel that resistance.

Now that I'm back to the ground I want to make sure that when I'm unclipping my carabiner I'm just as careful as I was when I clipped it in. So that I'm not going to let go and drop this piece of webbing and send it all the way up to the top. So I'm going to keep that gate open. I'm going to clip it into the anchor. Let it go. That carabiner will automatically lock itself in place.

And there you go. That's how to use an auto belay.

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