How free climbing compares to other styles of climbing is well explained in the question Bouldering vs aid climbing vs free climbing vs free solo climbing and more specifics are given in What does it mean to free a climbing route?. A recent answer to the question What is a “sling belay?” mentioned that such belays are considered "aid" in big-walling and makes an ascent non-free. First, I do not yet get the reasoning on how this is aid, for me it is just belaying which is fine. In general:

What specific rules like the one mentioned are there, that make an ascent non-free?
As this is often not uniform in area and time, any elaboration on where and when certain rules apply are appreciated.

This is not really relevant to a casual climber (as long as I do not put any force on the belay chain, for me I am free), but records and first ascent play an important role in professional climbing. Especially nowadays with more and more sponsorship involved, "regulation" and comparability are needed and I would like to understand the current "state of the art" of free climbing.

  • 1
    Ah, I was wondering if someone would notice that comment! It is a good topic for arguing over in long winter months, as I think it has both "technically correct" answers and "generally accepted" answers.
    – requiem
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 23:41
  • I like this question. But I think you're after hard rules and they just don't exist. So I've +1 and voted to close as opinion based.
    – user2766
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 8:48
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    @Liam even for security relevant topics there are no "hard rules". Doctrines change with time and the general recommendations may be different if you climb in other countries (e.g. Europe and South America). I therefore vote to let it open. There is no such perfect answer but this is not math business here.
    – Wills
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


It is not the sling that is the issue, its using the sling to form a hanging belay.

Using a hanging belay allows the climber to sit down and have a rest at any location on the wall (i.e. its no different to loading a piece of Pro to take a rest when on the climb), as opposed to having to position the belay where the belay is purely providing protection. At the extreme, this rest allows a climber to complete a climb they might otherwise be incapable of without it - and therefore considered aid by some people. Others argue that as you are not advancing, it is not assisting you in making the climb, it should not be considered aid.

As far as the debate as to is it Aid or Free and what the answer is- the SE format does not suit the kind of discussions needed to resolve it.

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    I am aware that this is potentially controversial. I still think there are rules out there, that I and many others are not aware of. So I do not want a discussion on which are correct, but on which rules are applied at least by some minority. More of a detailed overview than an assessment. Your explanation already made it clear, that this rule is not set in stone and why it may or may not be applied, so I consider it very valuable - thanks.
    – imsodin
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 7:10
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    There are no hard and fast "rules of free climbing". As in many things in climbing law, it's argued with compared and discussed until everyone has had too much beer and goes home without an agreement! I think that's one of the many things I love about it :)
    – user2766
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 8:47

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