How to Use a Figure 8 Belay

Written by sancho m. panza
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How to Use a Figure 8 Belay
Rock climer belaying from a cliff (on belay image by Mike & Valerie Miller from

A figure 8 belay is a simple device that you can use to belay when rock climbing. It is a flat piece of metal with two holes---one large and one small---that looks like a figure 8. It is easy to use and works well for top-roping, though it does not provide enough friction for sport or trad climbing.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • figure 8 device
  • climbing rope
  • climbing harness
  • locking carabiner

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  1. 1

    Put on your harness and clip the locking carabiner to the belay loop.

  2. 2

    With your climbing rope set up on the route you plan to climb, select one end of it to belay from. Hold the figure 8 device flat in your hand with the large hole facing out ad the small hole toward your belly. Take a bight of the rope and push it up through the large hole of the figure 8.

  3. 3

    Loop the bight over the small end of the figure 8 and tighten it until the rope rests on the neck between the large and small holes.

  4. 4

    Clip the locking carabiner to the small hole of the figure 8 and lock it.

  5. 5

    One end of the rope coming out of the belay device should be running up the cliff while the other end hangs down toward the ground. Hold the hanging end in your dominant hand, pulling it tightly straight down parallel to your body. Use your other hand to guide the rope into the belay device.

  6. 6

    Take in any slack in the rope by pulling with your dominant hand while feeding rope into the figure 8 with your other hand. Once the rope is taught, double check everything before your climber starts climbing.

  7. 7

    As your climber climbs, take in slack as you did at the start. Never let go of the rope with your dominant hand. If you need to brake, simply pull down with your dominant hand.

  8. 8

    To lower your climber, angle the rope away from your body with your dominant hand and loosen your grip slightly so the rope slides through your fingers at a comfortable pace.

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