/ That scary Beal Escaper thing...
It was supposed to be hitting the shops around now. Does anyone know if it is available in the UK yet?
I'm quite keen to take a look at one. If I can convince myself that it is safe to use then it would save me quite a bit of weight on a trip I have planned later in the year.
I won't be using one! Looks like it could be tricky if it goes wrong.
> Looks like it could be tricky if it goes wrong.
And the UKC award for "understatement of the year" goes to DWS Gibraltar.
A politer response than I was expecting to be honest
You could always ask Chris Tan Death Products for a tip how to make a home brew version!
I'd imagine the straws are being drawn in the UKC offices as we speak for who gets the honour of doing a full review.
> It was supposed to be hitting the shops around now. Does anyone know if it is available in the UK yet?
> I'm quite keen to take a look at one. If I can convince myself that it is safe to use then it would save me quite a bit of weight on a trip I have planned later in the year.
A particularly useful weight saving if you're not bothered if it's your final journey or not I'd say
I found this video https://www.ukclimbing.com/videos/play.php?i=3701
Where at 1.39 the bloke demonstrating this marvelous product ties a knot in it, presumably because he is worried about falling to his death but also making it no longer releasable.
My gut instinct says this may never be a great seller for Beal!
It looks like a brilliant idea to me, and no worse in concept than bending a rope around a bit of alloy and trusting someone to hold the end to stop you hitting the ground. If you're from the 'kick and fly' school of abbing it's probably not for you, and not sure if it would work in one of those distressed, lashing it down with rain type abseils, when the elastic might not be strong enough to counter the weight of the rope, which appears to be necessary for it to work. ideal for places like the Verdon gorge I'd have thought, but it would make the abs even more invigorating.
I took that to be a backup that would be removed by the last person down. If that is the case they did a terrible job of explaining it though.
> It looks like a brilliant idea to me, and no worse in concept than bending a rope around a bit of alloy and trusting someone to hold the end to stop you hitting the ground. If you're from the 'kick and fly' school of abbing it's probably not for you, and not sure if it would work in one of those distressed, lashing it down with rain type abseils, when the elastic might not be strong enough to counter the weight of the rope, which appears to be necessary for it to work. ideal for places like the Verdon gorge I'd have thought, but it would make the abs even more invigorating.
Yeah, looks brilliant for any ab that goes 100% smoothly. As soon as there's some issue, or someone less experienced abbing, or someone who did one-too-many turns with a prussik, long falls are on the table.
If you've got two 60m ropes, then this means you could ab 120m! Unless you bounce around too much while passing the knot, that is - in which case you only have to make a 60m ab, and a 60m plummet.
Also it looks a lot more likely to get stuck when pulling the rope than any normal setup.
> I found this video https://www.ukclimbing.com/videos/play.php?i=3701> Where at 1.39 the bloke demonstrating this marvelous product ties a knot in it, presumably because he is worried about falling to his death but also making it no longer releasable.
It's a great product, you just need a friendly cameraman to undo the knot for you
> Yeah, looks brilliant for any ab that goes 100% smoothly. As soon as there's some issue, or someone less experienced abbing, or someone who did one-too-many turns with a prussik, long falls are on the table.
> If you've got two 60m ropes, then this means you could ab 120m! Unless you bounce around too much while passing the knot, that is - in which case you only have to make a 60m ab, and a 60m plummet.
> Also it looks a lot more likely to get stuck when pulling the rope than any normal setup.
I don't think so - it's not for the inexperienced, clearly. Secondly, weighting the rope 14 times takes some doing if you're hanging from it - all a stuck prusik will do is engender some fidgeting. If you're that worried, feed more rope through it. If you only have a six inch tail, you would be asking for more trouble than is necessary.
However. the chance of it snagging on something when being pulled down is clearly higher than a plain rope end.
> However. the chance of it snagging on something when being pulled down is clearly higher than a plain rope end.
I think stuck ropes could actually be a bigger problem than the obvious plummeting issue. I trust Beal's judgement enough to think that it's probably less likely to undo itself during a bouncy ab than it appears. I'd still be nervous using it but I could probably get past that if the benefits were compelling enough.
However, a stuck rope could potentially be a massive problem using this system. At least when doubled over ropes get stuck, you know you've got enough rope down with you to climb back up to fix the problem.
Despite my Chris Tan suggestion above I actually like the device, but it certainly is a niche product.
For example, it looks ideal for escaping quickly if you are planning a solo climb, and suspect that you may have to abort and descend quickly. The risk of that thing failing does not add too much to the total risk.
Choosing between carrying a thin ab line / half rope plus 90g for the gadget, or double ropes, just as an emergency backup would be no question.
Using it in when you have anyway been pitching on the way up already?
Better use your doubles.
Is it really pronounced Bay-al? Other than that the product seems like it needs a LOT of tugging to loosen it. As with most things climbing it will need significant user knowledge to use safely, and the human will inevitably be the weakest link in the chain of safety not the product.
> it will need significant user knowledge to use safely
Not something you'll get experience with by trial & error!
> Not something you'll get experience with by trial & error! <
Actually that's exactly what I would do if trying it out for the first time......deliberately bouncy ab but on a toprope!
> I found this video https://www.ukclimbing.com/videos/play.php?i=3701 <
At the start of the video it states that the system is also to use when a half rope is damaged. This seems completely unnecessary as the damaged rope could be knotted over the break, or even left if not completely severed, and used in a pull cord retrieval setup.
At least it looks considerably safer than the bungee cord method.
It would be useful to know if it would be possible and safe to use with just a sling in trad (ie without sacrificing a krab, as the the video states there must be a ring or krab at the anchor anchor). Out of interest does anyone know how easy is it to use just a sling with an ordinary pull cord system?
> Other than that the product seems like it needs a LOT of tugging to loosen it.
Will that be easier or harder when the tug is transferred through 60m of dynamic rope?
I think the rappelling part is probably quite secure. The real problem is going to be retrieval. If rope friction intervenes in transmitting the pulls from the base to the gadget, it might be difficult or impossible to get it to disengage. And after trying and failing to get the rope to release, you certainly aren't going to prussik back up on a rope that might be hanging by a hair. so the risk is getting marooned in the midst of a series of rappels with no rope. That's a pretty bad outcome and one I wouldn't want to risk.
Yeah the rope stretch was on my mind too, especially if it isn't vertical rock. It's hard enough to pull rope through just a carabiner at the bottom of an easy trad climb. Early reviews will be very interesting!
And I'm sure Beal wasn't really aiming the Retriever for slabby and broken trad. Rather the main purpose might have been a pumpy 55m overhanging clip-up. So instead of needing rope stretch and 100m single rope, you can get up and down with a 60m rope.
I'm thinking more like a rappel over a bergscrhund at the end of the day. Just a single rappel, and if your rope does hang up you probably aren't totally stuck.
That as well. Albeit I seem to recall that it only works with single ropes. And generally people still operate twin or halfropes in the mountains.
True, but ab range is one of the justifications for that. Doing away with one of the ropes is the main reason I am interested.
This has been a good thread for potential problems. I'm tempted to pick one up and design tests around the objections to see which issues are real. My money is on retrieval and catching on things on the way down being the potential deal breakers.
I thought it would be good for long ice routes. At Gavarnie last year, the last 10 metres or so of 60m pitches was disproportionately hard work with two ropes hanging from one's waist. It would be nice to be able to get rid of one of the ropes and still have a 60m abseil - the million dollar questions for that application are how thin a rope will it accommodate, are frosty ropes a no-no (probably) and is your belay device grabby enough and good enough at dissipating heat?
The other application would be long ab in/ab off sport routes, like Verdon - although the omnivorous bushes in the Verdon might see it off
> It would be nice to be able to get rid of one of the ropes and still have a 60m abseil - the million dollar questions for that application are how thin a rope will it accommodate, are frosty ropes a no-no (probably) and is your belay device grabby enough and good enough at dissipating heat? <
I've never noticed heat damage due to my belay device when abbing on single half ropes. Surely belay device should be grabby enough as it would have been used on the climb for a potential leader fall. Re question about Escaper ......perhaps try using it first while climbing on double frosty ropes with first person down toproped?
The Escape device grabs its own tail, whatever rope you abseil on is tied into the eye at its end.
As for a frosted up half rope, any grabby device like an ATC guide should do the job, double up carabiners if necessary and back up with a French Prusik above the ATC (which would get rid of most of the ice) if it really becomes slippy.
> As for a frosted up half rope, any grabby device like an ATC guide should do the job,
That's what I thought until I abbed into Boulder Ruckle one day on a single 10.5 with a Lowe tuber. With both hands holding as tight as I could I could just hold a stationary position. I had to grip with my feet to control (just) any sort of downward movement. Traumatic, that. This was before prusik loops were the norm. Funnily enough, I'm rather keen on them now.
That bouncing up and down motion - it that no akin to the same action made when someone is bouncing about on an abb...? Esp with the ropes grabbing on the device. All fine and dandy in a 'free' abseil where the load on the rope is always the same, but then if you start having the device grab on the rope and you get that slight bouncing action... Still I think it would encourage people to develop perfect abseil techniques with no boucne at all on the rope. Or die trying.
It's almost like something weird and dangerous out of the 60's or 70's before climbing gear become more refined, like something a guy in a small workshop came up with.
This thread has given me plenty of food for thought. I have decided to get one and run it through a set of tests in controlled conditions. Ab with top rope backup and someone watching/videoing the device as I go.
So far I have the following cases to test:
1. Abseil under ideal conditions.
2. Abseil with ledges and faffing with rope on the way down.
3. Abseil with gratuitous bouncing.
4. Retrieval under ideal conditions.
5. Retrieval with heavy rope. 50m+ single or half ropes maybe?
6. Retrieval with slabby/complex rock/bushes to see how prone it is to getting stuck on the way down.
As far as I am concerned failure of any of the first 5 tests would be grounds for binning the thing. Number 6 is more of a matter of degree.
> This thread has given me plenty of food for thought. I have decided to get one and run it through a set of tests in controlled conditions. Ab with top rope backup and someone watching/videoing the device as I go. <
You could avoid the need for a toprope by using slings or a long tail from the attachment knot in the ab rope which would be set at a length to take over immediately the device came loose from the anchor. You'd then only need a film crew! It might even be safer....possibly a dynamic toprope could stretch considerably if the ab rope was released when you were near the ground.
Or better, a few cm before the thing releases. No prospect of shock loading at all then and if it gets to that point it has already failed the test.
7th test? Prusik back up with completely and partly released device situations. Possibly bounce around and unweight rope on ledges. You might prefer a toprope with this one! Have fun.
I also missed the "retrieval with rope drag" case. So that's 8. This might take a while.
Abseiling with a ridiculously tight prussik seems like a good recipe for bounce, in my experience.
You might also try with a very light, stretchy rope - perhaps it could be hard to get enough bounce to release the thing.
I laughed at the end of the video when the Beal demonstrators said "perfect"!
Have they not heard of Murphy's Law: "What can go wrong, will go wrong"?
Nice one... and your heritige shows ;).
I still think another use case would be the über long single pitch sport routes we start to get here in Europe. I beleive they are going past 60m now, meining quite a few rethreads to get down (even on a 100m rope). Provided the line isn't too overhanging (to make cleaning too difficult), I believe the Escaper would also work rather fine in such cases.
That video seems reasonable, and matches my current feelings.
Mine arrived yesterday, and I have had a bit of a play with an anchor hanging off a beam in the garage. Outdoor tests when I get time and good weather.
According to the instructions it should not slip provided you keep a load of over 10kg on the rope. The elastic is fairly strong but not upt to lifting 10kg so I think there is some margin for error there. The way it is attached would allow for easily changing the elastic and force required.
Another thing that is worth noting is that the thing releases immediately when the narrower end of the tail goes through the end of the webbing. I expected it to keep gripping until only a couple of loops were around the tail but this is not the case.
> Nice one... and your heritige shows ;).
Thanks! In case there is any confusion, it isn't my video, it is by Christian Fracchia, a Gunks local, smartphone guidebook writer extraordinaire, and high-school physics teacher.
nice anyway... albeit I really though it was you... physics, maths... same gibberish ;)
Same language but we physicists claim to be describing the real world. Mathematicians write more abstact gibberish but mostly leave people alone
> Same language but we physicists claim to be describing the real world. Mathematicians write more abstact gibberish but mostly leave people alone
Oh, mathematicians think they're describing the real world too, it is just that the real world isn't going to realize it for a hundred years or so...
And I'm happy to be mistaken for Christian, who is a good 20+ years younger!
So i did a couple of abseils on it earlier. So far it has passed.
First one I had it with a sling set to come tight if it slipped and someone at the top recording. I made sure I took some of the weight off my ropes at ledges and had an obnoxiously bouncy descent. No slippage.
Second ab was a straightforward descent. No mucking around really. Again no slippage, and it took more tugs to dislodge than it did in the garage at home. Sharp tugs to cause the rope to spring up and unweight the device seem to be necessary - reassuring in descent, annoying during retrieval when you have a f***ed shoulder.
No issues with it getting stuck but I was using it on fairly steep rock without too much to catch on. More challenging retrieval tests to follow when I get time.
Thanks for making the effort to experiment and post results. I'm probably not ever going to buy one but I do find it interesting.
Another thanks for your work. Incidentally were your abs full rope length, please?
I've bought one mainly as a late Christmas present for myself. Unfortunately I can't try it out properly at present.
My interest would be occasionally for trad so that I needn't carry two ropes (obviously potentially losing out re rope drag etc). Its very probable one would have to use metal rings or sacrifice krabs on cord/tape at an anchor: both for free running of the device and just in case there was a possibility of melting damage to the anchor if the device did move under bodyweight tension. The instructions specifically illustrate release problems if the rope runs over a bulge or the anchor is back from the edge, ie basically if one can't see the anchor from the release point.
Its probably already been said but the concerns many earlier posts had about safety would seem to be negated, unless soloing, since the first person down has tested for unwanted slippage and has made sure the device does start releasing when pulled (all in perfect safety due to the stopper knot and any backup anchors). The main problem might be an increased chance of the now bulkier rope end jamming on the way down.
The crag I was at yesterday is about 15-20m high. I haven't had a chance to do full length tests yet.
Obviously the case where it is interesting is the full length abseil, and I'm hoping to get around to that soon. Free time is a bit limited at the moment, as I used all my passes on a winter climbing trip last week and have to do extra toddler duty as penance.
On the plus side now I'm satisfied it won't drop me I don't need to arrange a climbing partner to keep an eye on me. I was thinking the area around the easy slab at the avon gorge might be a good spot for the full length tests as there are plenty of opportunities for it to get stuck and if it does get caught it's only a mod solo to sort it out.
I found the limits of retrieval.
Was at Fairy Cave today. There's a stake with cable and screwgate at the top of "Halfway to Kansas" that provides a convenient ab descent.
The rope runs along a couple of m of ground at the top, and has quite a bit of drag. Standing at the bottom of the route it is possible to get a normal doubled rope down by bell ringing. Standing maybe 5m back makes things a lot easier.
I couldn't get the escaper to release when standing directly underneath the route. Just didn't happen. Extending it and standing back on the second attempt did make it release. Wouldn't have helped much if there was no "back" to stand on.
In its defense I had ignored the bit of the instructions about the first person down pulling it to confirm it will go, and the instructions also say it should really be free hanging if possible.
Thanks for the detailed updates. I have no need at all for a device like this but the gear geek in me is curious anyway.
A couple of metres straight along the ground is a fairly severe test so I'm actually fairly impressed that you could still get it to work by standing back.
You found a limit to how much friction an ab setup could involve before the rope becomes impossible to pull?
The successful retrieval was an easier test - I had extended the anchor with a doubled 240cm sling.
I had 2 reasons for that:
Firstly I wanted to see if extending it bit helped (it did).
Secondly I was playing around with rigging a retrievable sling anchor with a bit of extra cord. That worked a treat, although I will be getting some weak string for the job before I do it in anger.
Cord running from tie in loop to one side of a doubled sling, so that when the escaper releases and comes down it pulls the sling around whatever it is wrapped around and I get it back. The requirement for weak string is so that I can break it free if it gets stuck.
Well yes, but I could have got a doubled rope down the same thing with difficulty, and it was slightly surprising as it looked as though it should work.
My descriptive powers are weak, but I'll try.
Sharp tug and release sends waves up the rope. It looked as though they may be allowing the thing to lift enough to operate, but after 20 or so tugs it hadn't obliged. Going up to look it seems to have shifted a couple of inches and then stopped.
Love Beal ropes, but they are serious chancers for getting this in the pipeline.
Good gear test write up by Gearjunkie here
> Good gear test write up by Gearjunkie here
The fact that they say it is only for emergency use seems to limit its usefulness.
If I owned one it would have sat in my pack for my entire climbing life without being used. I know its light but I'm not convinced it would be worth it for such a specific solution.
Thanks for all the info. It might be of some use if I add my very limited and completely non-methodical observations.
I bought one as an interesting toy with the hope that I could use it for easier trad where half length abs are insufficient. I try to avoid lugging two ropes around. The device is not really aimed at this type of situation. However I think one demo video shows abbing down a small snowy gully. As you say its for steep continuous walls where full bodyweight is always on the rope.
Previously only tried Escaper on very short abs off tree branch.
Yesterday used a half rope and abbed about 70 feet from krab on sling on stake set back from the steep grass slope to a ledge....although anchor could not be seen from below it released with just 15 pulls.
Then did ab of about 110 feet divided into approx thirds: very easy angled rocky ground, steep step then slabs, lastly wall. Used stopper knot on Escaper and after scrambling back found worrying slippage with only the knot preventing release. Reset and repeated easy ground as far as the step and again only the knot was stopping release ....I think the rope was mainly free above ground and I was jerking it sufficiently moving the plate along to cause slippage. (If again using it in this situation I might clip to fig 8 on bight with enough slack rope to reach lip, put plate on, and carefully move down as low as possible before putting any weight on the rope to avoid bounce.) Then I reset Escaper without knot, scrambled down and it released with 17 pulls even though belay stake was far back.
Obviously using a stopper knot for a first person while the second checks for slippage and retrievability as per instructions should make things pretty safe...one needs to be absolutely confident to use it solo.
Overall I think its impressive and releases easier than I expected and slightly different to your findings but i a different situation (second anchor was about 30+ feet back from the lip). If it became too widely used there would probably be accidents eg misthreading of device in the dark and use on inappropriate terrain.
I think that on balance it is a useful device, but as with all climbing gear you need a good understanding of its capabilities and limitations.
It's rarely possible to use gear in a way that completely complies with every letter of the instructions, particularly when the gear is designed to get you out of a crappy situation where improvisation is required.
Given that the world isn't perfect the interesting questions become things like:
- I know it gets hard to retrieve with rope drag. Exactly how bad does it have to be?
- How careful do I need to be abseiling over ledges? Not seen a problem with basic bouncing up and down and small ones where I can lean back but I haven't tried with bigger ones yet.
- What is it going to be like to rethread the thing in the dark when I have been going for 20 hours and my brain has turned to porridge.
- When I'm in that kind of state am I going to forget to take out the stopper when it's my turn to go down?
And perhaps most importantly:
- How long will it take to get a climbing partner up to speed so that they can spot that I have done something stupid?
It's going to take more than a couple of trips to Goblin Combe and Fairy Cave to get a feel for those. Current feeling is that I'm about 70% likely to take it on my next big trip but that could go up or down.
The slippage you mentioned does sound concerning but I haven't observed anything like that myself. Were you actively leaning back to weight the rope on the easy ground?
Have you told Beal that it slips?
> The slippage you mentioned does sound concerning but I haven't observed anything like that myself. Were you actively leaning back to weight the rope on the easy ground? <
I was weighting the rope as I was stepping back down over gently sloping, uneven ground with the plate on the rope which would have been partly hanging in midair between my harness and the stake. I presume this produced a jerking effect if there was intermittent release of tension: hence my suggestion of not putting the plate on until at the lip and abbing very carefully at first.
Using "slippage" is perhaps misleading on my part as I meant it for the stages of creep as the device progressively releases, as it is designed to do. Its just one doesn't want it to happen much during the ab....in this case it would almost certainly have resulted in an accident without the stopper knot. It is worth repeating that the Escaper is not really intended for the type of situation I was trying.
Incidentally the first ab was down the grass from the old pole above the descent to Cattle Troughs, and the second longer one down the easy ground just west of Pulpit, if that makes things clearer.
Lastly I omitted to mention that on the first ab I staggered back towards the edge of the cliff as the rope suddenly freed during the last releasing pull: simple to avoid but an easy mistake for an aging incompetent to make.
> Have you told Beal that it slips?
Using "slippage" is perhaps misleading on my part as I mean it for the stages of creep as the device progressively releases with repeated jerks, as it is designed to do. Its just one doesn't want it to happen repeatedly and lead to disastrous release during the ab: ie my "worrying slippage".
The device is really aimed at steep faces where there is always continuous tension on the rope and i was pushing this a bit.
It would be useful if Beal kept an eye on these threads and responded. Thanks for your suggestion. I suppose they have to be really careful in how they reply about a product which is particularly open to dangerous misuse.
The size of the gap between textbook and dangerous use is important. Some kit you can abuse quite a lot before it becomes dangerous, but I don't feel that this is that kind of gear.
Opportunities for textbook fre hanging anchor setups can be limited if the terrain won't play along.
Obviously you will never get a gear manufacturer telling you to do anything other than follow their instructions exactly so the only way to find out the limits is try things.
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