Climbing is a unique sport, presenting mental and physical stress that you learn to overcome by operating close to your limits. Sometimes your limits are higher than you realize. "Of course, you recognize your limits in climbing by falling off the rock," says Alan Czenkusch [leader of Whistepig Climbing School of Del Norte, Colorado]. "However, you're safe because you're on belay." The belay anchor system is the crux of climbing. It allows falls with impunity - almost. The person running the rope does so to protect the climber. There is a great responsibility and obligation to this concept and Czenkusch explains it solemnly. The belayer protects himself by the use of pitons and other devices which give him fail-safe redundant protection. When the belayer calls out to the climber below "On Belay" it means he is set up correctly and has assumed a serious duty and would even give up his own life to protect the climber. Such dedication should allow the person below to ascent with no fear of falling. The mutual trust which allows belaying is part of the camaraderie, the intimacy, the mystique of mountaineering. Belaying has brought Czenkusch his best and worst moments in climbing. Czenkusch once fell from a high precipice, yanking out three mechanical supports and pulling his belayer off a ledge. He was stopped upside down 10 feet from the ground when his spread-eagled belayer arrested the fall with the strength of his outstretched arms. "Don saved my life," says Czenkusch. "How do you respond to a guy like that? Give him a used climbing rope for a Christmas present? No, you remember him. You always remember him."
Source: “The Vertical Wilderness," Private Practice, Nov. 1979, p. 21.
Contributed by: Zaady