I recently got a car, a slightly fancier car. It has cruise control. I like cruise control, it makes the monotony of driving long motorway miles that little bit more comfortable by taking away the one mildly irritating job of controlling the throttle. How is this related to belaying you might be asking? Well much like cruise control, YY Vertical Belay Glasses make the tiresome activity of belaying your beloved climbing partner that little bit more bearable. They use two prisms mounted on a frame to refract light from above 90 degrees into your eyeballs thus giving you a ‘worms eye’ view upwards with-out leaning back or bending your neck. Any belayer or ceiling plasterer* knows that the pain is real.


The Good


Not having to crane your neck is wonderful: Firstly, the obvious, it’s not nice to stare upwards for an hour and secondly, not having an uncomfortable neck means you can stare at the arse of your partner for an age with a straight happy neck. Not only is this far more pleasant but like cruise control, concentrating on the important job at hand is so much easier. I find I can pay more attention to the climber without distraction, especially in the climbing wall. 


Another benefit is the so called ‘f**k off face,’ with the glasses on and concentration on the climber enabled, people tend to leave you alone. This is only a good thing if you’re trying to give a nervous or ‘needy’ climber your unbridled attention. I know a few people that don’t feel as confident when their belayer is chatting away. That said, if your partner isn’t of the nervous breed then being able to watch your climber, pay out slack when needed and chat to mates is undeniably pretty handy. 


The Bad


Getting used to them takes a while, I found a few routes was enough for me but a few friends took a little while longer or found they just didn’t like it. The main reason they’ve given is the change in perspective and loss of the correct plain of view. You tend to lose about a third of your normal eyesight to the upwards view. And you’re better off moving your eyeballs independently from your head to look down etc. Again, this takes getting used to. Taking a big fall and providing a nice soft catch takes the most getting used to, as you end up jumping into the wall, putting your feet out to soften the impact. The glasses don’t move but they do steal some of your view, so you have to know which bits are up and which bits are in front. 


My Method


I tend to keep them on the tip of my nose for the first 2 to 3 clips. Once they’re above that I’ll shove them up and adopt the zombie belay goggle stare - you’ll no doubt see down the wall these days and until you spot the glasses on people's heads you could mistake them for belayers not giving a toss. The field of view tends to be just about perfect, you can see everything your climber is up to but also see your immediate surroundings, enough to walk in and out for taking and giving slack. As you only lose a third-ish there is plenty of peripheral vision to see the floor and any obstacles nearby. I haven’t struggled with moving around wearing them at all. 




Like cruise control the glasses just make life easier, but unlike cruise control they can save you from straining your neck and lower back, on steeper routes - something climbers often complain about. One of the first people I know to adopt these handy gadgets had spent a fair wedge on sports massage for stiff belayers neck and lower back. With the addition of upside down OAP bed reading glasses (yes! I believe that is where belay glasses were conceived), he had fixed the issue at a fraction of the cost! By the way, you can totally use them to read in bed without craning your neck, the other way up though. 


*I guess that’s just a normal plasterer?