The Belayer’s Dilemma

It was a lead climb just like any other with my climbing partner AJ.  He was leading a 5.10a on a ~40′ wall in the new climbing gym.  The route ends on an overhang toward the top.  This route was far below AJ’s limit as far as climbing ability goes and he didn’t indicate any issues or problems that he might be having beforehand.  We partner-checked each other’s setup and he began climbing.  I was attentive, as I always am, and everything was going just fine and I expected him to clip another draw soon, when suddenly, on the overhanging top section, AJ’s feet cut loose and he let go with his left arm, leaving him dangling by only his right arm.  I was prepared to give him a soft catch at any moment.  Then he reached for the rope as if to pull up slack to clip in with.  What is he doing?! (PARAPHRASED)  Thus, the Belayer’s Dilemma was born: Do I pay out slack to allow him to clip the next draw, or do I keep him tight and remain prepared to catch him?  I payed out slack with the prayer in the back of my head that, whatever was going on, he was okay up there.  He clipped the draw one-handed and then, with ease, placed his feet back on the wall and finished the route.  Once he was clipped into the anchors, I lowered him and he was laughing all the way down.  “Did you like my one-handed clip?”  I told him he almost gave me a heart attack and coined “The Belayer’s Dilemma” phrase as I told him about it, gestures and all.  He laughed even harder.  He had obviously not told me about this planned shenanigan ahead of time!  He proceeded to do it twice on the next route!!!  I had to laugh, too, because I truly wouldn’t have anyone else in the world for a climbing partner, haha!  Thank God for AJ and his sense of humor!

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