/ Climbing Technology Alpine Up

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
kermit_uk - on 21 Jul 2013

Looks quite interesting. Same weight as a grirgi 2 and you can use it in far more situations, not least with 2 ropes.

Anyone ever used one?
rgold - on 22 Jul 2013
In reply to kermit_uk:

I've been using it for a while and am convinced it is the best thing around at present for belaying with half ropes. It has the significant advantage that you use both hands in the usual fashion for belaying; all the other assisted locking devices require you devote one hand to keeping the device unlocked. Rope motions are very free in both directions and accidental locking is, at least in my experience, very rare and easy to undo immediately.

The Up also works well for rappelling if one uses an additional carabiner to unload rope weight, as described in the manual addendum. You get smooth rappelling action with no control effort and an automatic stop if you let go, so no need for a prussik backup if you believe in such things. You can lock it up at the start of a rappel and get in position hands-free, which can help with awkward starts that require you to climb into position. It does, however, twist the rap lines more than tube devices do.

It is much better, in my opinion, than the Mammut Alpine Smart for half-rope belaying. I tried the Smart for a while but sold it after the Alpine Up proved to be a better mouse trap.

It is clumsier to thread than tube-style devices and so perhaps more likely to be dropped. The hole meant for releasing it when used in guide mode allows one to use a quickdraw as a safety tether in stressful situations in which dropping might be more likely.

I've used it occasionally in guide mode for direct belays of the second off the anchor, mostly out of curiosity, since I'm not a fan of this style of belaying. It works well enough, but I don't have enough experience to make an informed comparison with other devices.

Like many assisted locking devices, performance declines as rope diameter increases. I know some people who use it with thin single ropes (9.8mm), but I've heard about annoying handling problems from others using the same diameter. My guess is the sweet spot is from 8mm to 9mm---I've been using it with 8.5mm Mammut Genesis half ropes.

A friend who rappels with his in its non-locking mode has found that the bearings used in that configuration wear and the device supplies less and less friction over time. I only use the non-locking mode for top-roping belays and those situations are rare enough that I haven't seen such wear.
perranman - on 23 Jul 2013
In reply to kermit_uk: A truly great piece of kit. I use the Alpine-Up version in Cornwall.
I have caught a couple of lead falls on it and the autolock worked on trad gear with no problem. Abseils dont need a prussick. You can bring up two seconds at once pretty well too. You do need to learn how to set it up though and I still often have two attempts for abseils and belaying a second on autolock. However even when you get it wrong it is still safe.
iksander on 26 Jul 2013
In reply to perranman: It warns against using the click up mode with trad gear - is this an overblown concern in practice? I seem to remember that Will Gadd suggested that using a gri gri on ice was a good idea - I'd guess it was because he reckoned the benefits of the climber still being protected if the belayer is knocked out outweigh the notional lower shock loading offered by a dynamic device?
rgold - on 26 Jul 2013
In reply to iksander:

I use it in click-up mode with trad gear all the time. In fact, I think one of the main reasons to use such things is to guard against the rope slipping through the device. This slippage is supposed to be a safety valve to keep forces lower on protection, but I think it just as likely that, even if the belayer doesn't totally lose control of the belay (and the probability of this goes up as the rope diameter goes down), the extra distance fallen makes it much more likely the leader will have a nasty collision with something.

For most climbing falls, the assisted lock-off doesn't raise anchor loads, because the friction in the system would have kept the rope from slipping through an ATC-style device and so the safety-valve feature would never have engaged.

This leaves a few extremely severe fall situations in which the slippage would happen with an ATC-style device but not with the assisted locker, with the theoretical potential for 20+ kN on the top anchor. Most people never have such a situation in their entire climbing careers, so the question is, how much risk (from the leader falling further, belayer losing control and getting rope burns) do you want to add to more likely climbing situations in order to reduce the loads in very rare situations? I don't think anyone can offer a decisive argument for the choice, it is a matter each climber has to decide for themselves.

I might add that of all the devices, the Alpine Up transitions from assisted locking to friction mode the fastest and easiest. All the other devices have to be unthreaded, reversed, and re-threaded, whereas with the Alpine Up the belay carabiner has to be shifted from a slot to an adjacent hole. The leader is off belay during this transition for sure, since the rope is out of the carabiner during the shift, but it can be done very quickly. This means that if the leader encounters a string of dicey protection points, it is not impractical with the Up---unless the leader is in a really tenuous position---for the belayer to change belaying modes.

Another very occasional advantage of the Up is that the belayer can intentionally lock it up and then let go of the rope to do something else, like tie some gear the leader needs onto a tag line or take a hero shot of the leader, to go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Of course, you can tie off an ATC-style device pretty quickly too, so I wouldn't want to make too much of this feature, but it is quicker to do and release than the standard device tie-off.
iksander on 29 Jul 2013
In reply to rgold:
> (In reply to iksander)

I agree to an extent. I guess it depends on the soundness of the protection, the hazards in the fall line, the amount of rope paid out and - in multipitch situations - the soundness of the anchor. But I think it's fairly easy to conceive of a high factor fall onto a multipitch belay that could take out both climbers eg a hanging ice screw belay.

While I don't much like the sound of your suggestion to change belaying mode mid-climb, looking at the alpine up I think you'd be able to give some slack and then clip a second HMS through your belay loop and the dynamic hole while the first HMS is still in the click up slot - and then remove that - all the while keeping the climber protected.
Nicola Ciancaglini on 29 Jul 2013

The Alpine Up strongest point is, hands down, its versatility.

Recently I've been spending a lot of my climbing time on mixed trad and bolted multi-pitch routes in Orco and Sea valleys. That is, you might have a totally trad pitch followed by a bolted slab and so on. Being able to switch from dynamic to assisted braking mode it's a great plus. Belaying a second may be confusing at first, especially if you're used to using a plate which is super fast and intuitive, but the principle is exactly the same and after few goes it will come as natural as anything else. Abseiling was the biggest "disappointment" for me because I thought the extra biner required to unload the Alpine Up was an "extrema ratio". To date I always had to use that technique. However, with that extra biner you can literally fly down the wall and if you let everything go the device will just lock (with a loud sound btw...) And it will become extremely hot too; that's something to remember. Last winter I was once in Pembroke with a friend who was adamant we used the Alpine Up in dynamic mode only on trad pitches. I tend to agree with him in principle. Of course, there may be instances where a dynamic belay is not as important. It's down to everyone's judgment to make the right call. I occasionally use the Alpine Up for single pitch sport climbing too, but really its place is on longer routes where it brings assisted braking to multi pitch world. Being able to manually lock the device, as someone observed, it's not to be underestimated. I found myself doing it when, for instance, I'm tidying up messed up ropes at the belay station. Always keeping one hand on the free hand of the rope (without tension, the device may unlock itself), but with greater peace of mind.

When not to get it? IMHO:
If you already have a plate and a tube or a Reverso, ATC guide, etc. and you don't miss/need an assisted braking device.
If you're single pitch sport climbing only.
If you have a Mammut Smart Alpine.
If its weight and size are a concern to you (when climbing with quickdraws, nuts, friends, biners, slings, approach shoes, water, etc. the Alpine Up is the last of my worries...)
If/when you're leading only (bring a plate with you and leave your partner with whatever device he/she likes; that's what I do with the wife who is an ATC fan ;-))

Cons? IMHO:
Check which HMS can work with the Alpine Up and put them aside. You will need two dedicated biners (one comes with the device).
If you have only the Alpine Up with you make sure you know how to abseil and belay using biners only; otherwise if you drop it, you're screwed.
It's bulky.
It's expensive (although, considering what you get, I would argue that...)



PS: the on-the-fly switching from Click Up to dynamic mode doesn't sound very safe to me either...
rgold - on 29 Jul 2013
In reply to It isn't "very safe," I thought I made that abundantly clear when I said the leader would be off belay while the changeover occurred. It is up to the party to decide whether such a move is appropriate, but if so it would hardly be the first time in history a leader was off belay for, say, ten seconds.

That said, it is indeed possible, though a bit awkward, to use two locking biners and perform the changeover from blocking to non-blocking belay mode without ever having the leader off belay. But you should test ahead of time whether your particular locking biner can even be clipped through the non-blocking hole, because a fair amount of gate clearance is required and not every locking biner has enough.

Even though I already said it, I'm going to reiterate that (1) for the majority of leader falls, there is no difference between blocking and non-blocking belays, because the rope doesn't slip in either case, and (2) having the rope slip and so lower anchor loads is not necessarily better if the leader hits something hard and/or if the belayer loses control.

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.