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Inside Beta

The Choss Pile: Q&A with Belayer Mag

The lowdown on the hottest (safest?) new climbing publication on the scene, Belayer Magazine.

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While trolling through Instagram recently, in between campus board training videos and Tik Tok dances, I came across a new Instagram account: Belayer Magazine (@belayermagazine).

The account’s bio reads: “Built by Belayers. It’s not a joke. Bringing you the latest belaying news.” They also mention there status as “Creator of the Golden GriGri Awards.”

[Also Watch VIDEO: The World’s Best Belayer And “The Art Of The Belay”]

As a lifelong belayer, I was intrigued. Someone turning the activity we all love to hate into a publication? I wanted to find out more, so we contacted the mysterious figures behind Belayer for an email interview.

Q&A with Belayer Magazine

So, who is Belayer Magazine?

We are lifelong belayers, obviously. We climb too, but climbing is just a means to an end. We live for the belays. Some might say we are even famous belayers, having been featured in multiple climbing publications for belaying really hard routes. Belayer Magazine is managed by one person but was founded by two friends. We hope to grow our community. I find it entertaining to be somewhat anonymous, even though all my friends know who is behind it. So, without giving too much away to maintain the aura of mystery, I am from the Northeast, where sarcasm is a way of life. But I live in Colorado.

Where did the idea for Belayer Magazine come from?

I can’t claim the idea. I first heard it ~15 years ago from a guy that was annoyed with me and my partner while we were climbing really slowly on a classic route at Cathedral Ledge, NH. He and his partner were joking at the belay about a fictitious “Belayer Magazine.”

Why create it now?

With everything posted on social media, like Instaspray, we just want to make a point that climbing is no more important than belaying. We are just seeing more people take themselves way too seriously when climbing. Climbers (or any outdoor user group) tend to hold a tremendous about of self-worth based on their climbing achievements. Sometimes it’s due to narcissism, other times it’s just what you have to do get clicks and satisfy sponsors, etc… But this creates an elitist attitude and it leads to non-inclusivity, and quite frankly, douchiness at the crag. For example, how many people have experienced when you show up to a new crag and the locals give you an attitude because you’re not part of their cool-kid group? Then when they find out you send all their hard routes, all of a sudden, they’re friendly to you. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate our climbing achievements; I’m saying we shouldn’t let our climbing achievements influence our perception of self-worth and dictate how we treat other people. Just have fun, be kind, and don’t be a douche. Belay on!

Will Belayer Magazine ever be print? Digital? Only an Instagram account? What’s the setup? It says “Not a Joke” on your Insta bio, so how far are you taking this?

Yeah, it’s not a F$%#ing joke! Belaying is serious. Right now, we are on Instaspray but we are building our community and evaluating our business model. There might be room for digital and print. Pretty soon we’ll be interviewing you!

Why should belayers get more recognition?

I mean, climbers only send because of their belayers, let’s be real. How is a climber supposed to focus on the climb if they’re worried they’re going to get a bad catch? Belayers are the real athletes.

What percentage does the belayer contribute to a send?

100%, especially if it’s a top-rope send. You can always go climbing by yourself, but can you go belaying by yourself? And no, rope-soloing does not count.

Who is the greatest, most legendary belayer of all time?

Excellent question. I mean, I’m biased, but I’m pretty legendary. Hence why I made Belayer Magazine. But there are just so many. I’ll give recognition to a few: Beth Rodden is pretty legendary. She belayed TC on all those hard El Cap routes. Daila Ojeda for all those Sharma sends. Cedar Wright for belaying Honnold on all those messed up Queen Maud Land pitches (and his wife on Freerider). But I would say the most epic belayer that I can think of is the Sierra Legend Dave Nettle. Peter Croft wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for Mr. Nettle. But the list goes on… and major props to all those belayers from across the pond, especially in the Peak District, UK. Y’all know what we’re talkin’ about.

What makes a good belayer? Are there a few factors that determine how good someone is as a belayer?

A good belayer requires focus under pressure. And it doesn’t even have to be free climbing. Imagine belaying someone on an A5 pitch way up on El Cap… our palms are sweating just thinking about it. Rope management is a big deal, timing for giving a soft catch, managing your harness rash… I personally love the climbing salve Katy’s Hand Jam for keeping the chafe down. Also, you can usually pick a good belayer out of the crowd when they wear belay glasses. It usually means they’ve been belaying for a long enough time that they have some serious overuse injuries. A good belayer doesn’t fit any mold. Anyone can be a pro belayer. Belaying tran-“sends” all body types, gender, and race. No one should ever feel excluded in belaying.

Any story from your own personal experience, or an example you’ve heard of, of a belayer having an extremely important impact on a climb? An All-Star belay?

Recently we’ve been nominating folks for the Golden GriGri Award (better than the Golden Piton Award). These people have shown tremendous belaying ability. We heard a story where a climber “dropped” a Valley Giant mid-climb. It hit the belayer and yet that belayer still persevered. I mean, its pretty badass.

Conversely, what is the worst belay you’ve ever experienced, seen, or heard of?

We don’t discriminate here. But we will let you know if we do or do not endorse a particular belay. However, we try to take belays that we do not endorse as teachable moments… kind of like the AAC’s Accidents Reports.

Grigri or ATC? or something else?

First, if you can give a proper belay on an ATC, that’s badass. It’s like climbing cracks in The Creek using hexes. But honestly, here at the mag, we are all about the GriGri. Traditionally we are known for being anti-GriGri+ (canonically pronounced GriGri “ploose”). But like in science, if there is enough compelling evidence to sway the consensus, then we have to oblige. This happened recently where we used a GriGri “ploose” and we loved it. So, our new motto is “get off the caboose and get a ploose!”

Are bouldering spotters included in Belayer Mag? Why or why not?

Currently, we are focusing on belaying but we would like to expand our Mag to include spotting too.

Which belay style is best? PBUS?

We adhere to whatever belay-style gets the climber to the top and safely back down to the ground. No static catches please.

Do you support the use of belay glasses?

Oh hell yeah.

Is there anything climbers should change about the traditional belay technique/setup?

Using an ascender for top rope belaying is a game-changer. Period. Otherwise, belay on!

Would you rather eat a dead squirrel, raw, OR have Donald Trump put his bare arse up to your open mouth and fart directly into it for 5 minutes straight?

If having Donald Trump fart in my mouth for 5 minutes gets him out of office, then I am happy to oblige. #votetheassholesout

Owen’s Note: After several days of meditation, fasting for a fortnight, bivvying atop Mt. Harvard wearing only a Speedo, and this interview, I have decided to renounce my disdain for belay glasses (see The Choss Pile: The Evolution of Climbing. If the brilliant mind behind Belayer thinks they are the sign of a good belayer, then clearly I’m doing something wrong.

The Choss Pile is published every Thursday.

Owen Clarke, 23, is a climber and writer currently based in a hotel in Colorado. He also writes for The Outdoor Journal. He enjoys Southern sandstone and fish tacos, and is afraid of heights. 

Follow him on Instagram at @opops13.