UKC

Assisted-braking belay device, recommendations

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 DizzyVizion 01 Oct 2021

After an almost 2 year absence, I finally returned to the indoor climbing wall this week with my daughter. And she loved it BIG time: hauling herself up 20+ metre climbs, and springing back while being lowered without a care in the world... literally (I told her to stop or we'd get thrown out... I really didn't mind though, she was so happy and in her element. She's 11)

I used a petzl reverso, which was just about okay. But ideally I'd like an assisted-braking device for extra safety and for lowering more smoothly. Preferably I'd like one that can pay out slack without jamming in case she wants to lead climb at some point. 

I've done some research and the Beal Birdie looks good to me. But the simplicity of the Black Diamond ATC Pilot looks good also. There's the expensive Wild Country Revo to consider - is it worth the extra money? And the grigri is popular but known for not being the best at paying out slack.

It's a big investment so any help would be great.

I know this topic has been discussed before so apologies if it seems like I'm covering old ground. Its just that I believe there may have been few more models introduced to the market since then. 

Kind regards

Richard

 Mike Nolan 01 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

I love assisted braking devices and a Grigri is my go to. Paying out slack quickly is fine once you know how and have some experience, there’s a reason they’re so popular for sport climbing. 

That being said, for smooth lowering of an 11 year old, I think you’ll struggle to beat a manual device like a Reverso, or even better, an ATC. 

However, a BD Pilot is a good compromise, fairly simple, intuitive and cheap. Also heard good things about the Edelrid Giga Jul, but not had a chance to use it yet. I’d stay away from the Revo. Expensive and I'm not sure I’ve met anyone who actually likes them! 

Post edited at 22:52
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In reply to DizzyVizion:

Get the BD pilot as it’s pretty much the same as a reverso so no learning curve like the gri gri, just make sure you watch a video on how to use it initially

In reply to DizzyVizion:

I would steer away from the bd pilot. Its performance is unpredictable. Particularly if your daughter will be belaying you in the future. 

Performance is very sensitive to rope age, furryness, diameter and carabiner choice.

Belaying a heavier partner last week there was barely any auto assist noticeable. I moved back to using a gri gri.

With the correct combination, it can be tuned to become a hands free auto belay, lowering the climber gently to the ground. I would not recommend trying this. 

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In reply to Mike Nolan: I’d stay away from the Revo. Expensive and I'm not sure I’ve met anyone who actually likes them! 

I have a Revo and I think it is a great bit of kit. Very easy to use and very safe. You just use it like a manual belay device but with the added security that it auto-locks in an emergency. It works really well. Downsides are it is heavy and expensive.

i agree with you that for lowering an 11 year old at a wall a manual device would be perfect, I’m a fan of the BD reverso.

Post edited at 07:19
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 NaCl 02 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

I had a go with a mates Clickup last time I was out with him. Very intuitive and easy to pick up I found. Only had a go belaying for one dogged route but was very taken with it to the point where I'll be buying one myself as soon as I have two farthings to rub together. 

 helix 02 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

I bought a Revo primarily for my kids (they were 13 at first) to belay me.  It works great, is obvious to set up and easy to use, and has enabled us to do a load more trad than we would have done otherwise. 

It is quite bulky, and also lacks a bit of bite compared to a ‘normal’ device - until you really need it.

 damowilk 02 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

I’m another that likes the Revo!

I think it’s pretty much in a class of 1 though: it’s not the same as the rest of the assisted belay devices, and you have to want it for it’s intended function. It essentially works in normal function exactly like a (slick) tube device, with the same techniques so great as a training device for going on to use a manual device. The fallback lock off mode will only kick in if something goes wrong, so serves as a good audit of what that was!

It’s very slick for feeding out quickly (you can lock it with over-exuberant feeding), but a bit slick to lower if there is a decent weight difference. It’s not good for hard climbing/red pointing as there is no designed/safe method to manually lock off.

It’s the only device I’d be happy a near novice or new unproven partner using to belay me, once I’d set it up, and for this role it excels. 

1
In reply to NaCl:

> I had a go with a mates Clickup last time I was out with him. Very intuitive and easy to pick up I found. Only had a go belaying for one dogged route but was very taken with it to the point where I'll be buying one myself as soon as I have two farthings to rub together. 

Another vote for the Click Up even though I use a GriGri. My partner (who is a lot lighter than me) uses a Click Up and swears by it. Easy to take rope in/out and lowering is smooth as can be. I'd get one if I didn't already own a GriGri 

In reply to DizzyVizion:

I switched to a GigaJul recently, after never really being happy with a GriGri. I just found lead belaying awkward, and lowering with the lever unintuitive and grabby. The GigaJul by comparison is smoother, simpler,  more similar to a regular tube device.  It's just all round better in my mind, with the added bonus of doing everything, single, twin ropes, can be assisted or used in manual mode, so no switching devices and techniques. Gets my recommendation.

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 mattck 02 Oct 2021
In reply to midgen:

Another vote for the Giga Jul, as someone who really dislikes the GriGri. Only downside I've found in the two years of using it, is that at walls with very thick and/or frayed ropes, it can be pretty hard to give slack or take in without it locking up. Using it in standard mode there's no issue though, and it's only something I've noticed a couple of times.

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 Stairclimber 02 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

I like the Birdie for my own personal use but I wouldn't recommend it for you and your daughter as the lowering position is so unlike safely using any other device as it requires close contact with the bottom of the Birdie and is uncomfortable unless wearing gloves. Presumably the weight difference between you and your daughter is considerable so consider  also investing in an OHM for clipping to the first bolt when you are leading. This is a device that has really impressed me when I climb with my lighter wife.

In reply to NaCl:

> I had a go with a mates Clickup last time I was out with him. Very intuitive and easy to pick up I found. Only had a go belaying for one dogged route but was very taken with it to the point where I'll be buying one myself as soon as I have two farthings to rub together. 

My experience of the Clickup is that most people are readily converted once they try it. Most of my regular indoor partners now have one.

 Al Randall 02 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

I prefer the simplicity of the Click-Up but there is nothing wrong with the GriGri.  I seem to recall that, certainly in it's early days, the GriGri did not always bite with lower weights e.g. children.

Al

1
 Powley 02 Oct 2021
In reply to Mike Nolan:

Don't bother with the birdie - it locks as much as a grigri if you're not used to grigri's.

WC Revo feels the most like an ATC

 climber david 02 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

I think the message to take away from this thread is that there are a number of devices on the market, each with their fans and detractors. 

If you can, try a few of them out. Once you have chosen one, lowering smoothly will take practice but is likely possible with whatever device you have, once you are used to it. The same applies to giving slack. Practice with it and you will get used to giving slack quickly with it

Personally I use a Grigri and get on very well with it. But I have used it a fair amount and I'm pretty used to it. I'm sure if I used a click-up, Revo or Mega Jul I would get used to them and be smooth at lowering and giving slack after practice

 gman2012 02 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

I've used a Grigri belaying a 10 year old, just top roping at the moment but probably lead climbing soon - no problems with it. There are loads of tips on YouTube for paying out slack.

In reply to DizzyVizion:

If it was me I'd use an ATC style device for top roping in walls and a GriGri for leading.

These are pretty much standard devices which a lot of people have so being familiar with them is a big plus if you are in a group and end up using somebody else's device or lending yours. 

Wall top ropes tend to be a bit thicker than your own lead rope and the ATC works well, especially for a kid.  The GriGri is a good match for a 9.8mm lead rope.

In reply to DizzyVizion:

While you can learn a lot reading the above... the only way you will know is try it and see.

I have an ATC pilot I never use, got it due to assistance so my son could belay me, but he just never got on with it. I used it once to abseil and decided I didn't like it. It is just sitting at the bottom of a bag of kit never being used.

Happy to post/sell it to you if you agree to donate £5 to Saint Francis Hospice (https://www.sfh.org.uk/).

Oh... You need a large belay krab as you need enough space for it to operate as the end comes down when it locks, you'll see. As long as it's a large HMS/pear it's not fussy otherwise. Message me if interested

Post edited at 08:37
 nikoid 03 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

What about the Eddy? Big heavy cumbersome  looking thing, but seems dare I say it, almost foolproof. The big advantage of this device is if you freeze and keep the handle pulled back it locks up again. 

 Sean Kelly 03 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

Use a reverso, and have the option to use an extra karabiner to control the speed of descent. 

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 DizzyVizion 03 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

Thank you so much everyone. Lots and lots of useful info here. I'm always impressed with the community these forums exhibit, everyone truly cares about helping eachother improve their climbing and their safety.

I should have mentioned that it's purely for me to belay my daughter and not for her to belay me - she'd get fired through the ceiling slingshot-style if she tried belaying me (she has a very slight build).

I've just purchased the BD Pilot and will be using it tomorrow. The simplicity of it won over the Beal Birdie. I tried the grigri once a couple of years ago and remember it being a faff to operate - obviously this would become less so as time went by. But it's just me and my daughter climbing together at the moment - if my older brother was climbing I'd use him as a guinea pig with something more fancy like a grgri or click-up or Beal Birdie. So the BD Pilot feels the sensible option at the moment.

Thanks again everyone. I really appreciate all the great advice 🙂👍

 jezb1 03 Oct 2021
In reply to DizzyVizion:

Enjoy the Pilot, I think it’s a good device. Have a play with a few different crabs in it if you get the chance, some work better than others in terms of the assistance it gives.

 DizzyVizion 03 Oct 2021
In reply to jezb1:

Thanks jezb1. I've been using the BD belay specific crab for years- the one that keeps it correctly aligned. I'm sure it'll workout, but I'll take a few others to try as well- I've got DMM, Petzl, Grivel, another BD- loads of them. If there's a sweet spot, I'll hopefully find it.


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