Rock climbing topos have various standardized symbols, such as xx for a bolt anchor, or a dashed line for face climbing. In keys of symbols, I've sometimes seen SB defined as a "sling belay." What does this mean? Does it mean that there is a natural feature that you can throw a cordelette around and use as an anchor?

  • Could you maybe add a picture of a topo that uses the term? I haven't encountered it personally. – DudeOnRock Nov 1 '15 at 19:39

The glossary section of Big Walls by John Long and John Middendorf defines a sling belay as:

A hanging belay with no stance; listed as SB on topos

From perusing forums, I suspect this term arose during the golden age of Yosemite climbing, but was soon subsumed by the term "hanging belay". A Google Ngrams comparison gives a good visual of this.

Google Ngrams chart showing "sling belay" being replaced by "hanging belay"

This seems to matter more for big wall climbs, as using a sling belay is considered to be "aid". To climb such a route "free" requires a longer rope or adjusting the pitches to end at hands-free stances from which to belay. (This is from a US perspective, those in Europe may take a more relaxed approach to what is allowed for a free ascent.)


A sling belay is typically used to connect 2 points at an anchor.

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An example belay sling from Edelrid.

  • 1
    I would just call that a sling. The question is about a symbol on climbing topos. – Ben Crowell Nov 2 '15 at 0:41

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