In this article Mick Ryan looks at the latest offerings in climbing hardware:
Below are some of the new climbing hardware products that caught my eye at the Friedrichshafen OutDoor Show 2010. I've concentrated on brands that are available in the UK. These are not reviews but a first look at some of the gear available, mainly in 2011 - so don't run to the shops just yet asking for the Wild Country Helium Friend or the Petzl GriGri2.
We have some pricing information and specifications, for full details look out for announcements from the companies featured below at UKClimbing.com in the future.
There was nothing absolutely revolutionary at the show, although I'm sure some of the designers would disagree with that, but many of the products below are an evolution and improvement on existing products.
There's some interesting stuff about - and I'm just glad that the emphasis on carabiners is on full size and light.
Have a look below and don't miss Jim Titt's essay, An Insight In To Climbing Equipment Design
Wild Country Helium Friend
The cam angle of 13.75 degrees remains the same, the cam lobes have been redesigned and are now hot forged. WC says this creates 'up to 20% more range per unit and will optimize the overlaps between sizes.'
There's a new thumb loop, trigger and sling. As well as the cam angle, the new Helium also keeps the single stem, single axle and the floating trigger. Overall they are 6% lighter than the Technical Friends, but some individual Helium Friends will be lighter than the Techs and some heavier.
They will be replacing Technical Friends for the time being, although they are not expected to be available until March 2011.
Wild Country Ropeman Mk3
The Ropeman Mk 1 is a very useful tool that goes beyond being an effective prussic/ascender and climbers being an ingenious lot soon discovered a multitude of uses for it including self-rescue, crevasse rescue, simul-climbing, hauling and used for belaying in conjunction with a belay devices to protect more than one second! Alpine guides love the Ropeman.
The Ropeman Mk1's alloy cam was replaced by a stainless steel cam that allowed its use on ropes down to 8.5mm making it good for half-ropes as well as single ropes.
The Ropeman Mk3 has new shape of cam and new forged side plates make it easy to place on ropes between 7.7 and 11mm and can be used with both nylon slings and ropes. It's use on tape means that it's use on belays is more adaptable, allowing adjustment on belay slings quick and safe. This will be a big hit with guides and those involved in rescue.
Petzl have redesigned the GriGri, 20 years after it was introduced. The Grigri is the most popular auto-lock belay device beloved of climbers the world over, used for any single roped climbing from sport climbing to big wall climbing to indoor climbing. It was however quite heavy - 225 g - and was restricted to rope diameters of 10-11mm, although climbers did use thinner ropes with it.
First off the new GriGri2 is smaller and more compact, it fits comfortably in your hand, and it's lighter, at 185g. The cam has been redesigned to give a smoother paying out action especially when lowering due to a progressive descent control system.
Importantly, you can use it on ropes with a diameter as low as 8.9mm to 11m, which considering many of use skinny ropes these days is a big plus.
UKClimbing.com will have the GriGri2 test soon.
Due for Spring 2011 the Grigri 2 is available in grey, orange or blue. SRP £60.00
Petzl Universo Belay System
Also new from Petzl is the Universo Belay System. This is an Attache 3D carabiner with a Verso Belay device attached to it by a sliding plastic connector piece. No more dropping your belay plate on multi-pitch routes and the connector holds the Verso in the optimal position for belaying so reducing cross-loading. You can simply reverse the position of the Verso so it's good for right or left handed people. It's good on all rope diameters. SRP £35.0
The Petzl Ange: a new type of carabiner
Black Diamond Gridlock Carabiner
This is an ingenious solution to the problem of cross-loading belay carabiners. As you can see the gate extends beyond its axis to create an eye so that your belay loop is secured in the bottom of the carabiner. Then there's plenty of room to clip your belay device in and everything is orientated correctly. The Gridlock is hot forged in Salt Lake City, weighs 76g and has an SRP of £16.99
DMM Belay Master 3
Now in its third evolution. The Belay Master features a plastic closure, that will only close only when the gate thimble is locked making sure that your screwgate is secure, and correctly orientated so that there is no accidental cross-loading. This is especially important for beginner climbers and adds extra security and a visual check for more experienced climbers.
The problem with the old Belay master was that if you didn't close the plastic clip and let it hang free when racked on your harness it was prone to snagging on stuff. This has been solved by hinging the clip which enables it to fold back on itself so having a sleeker profile and less likely to snag. Other improvements are a rope radius increase which improves rope handling, either side of the clip recess on the spine is now blended again to reduce snagging, and the nose is DMM's patented Taper Lock system. Hot forged in Wales, I-beam construction. It weighs 125g, gate closed strength 25kN, gate open 8kN, minor axis 10kN.
DMM have a new belay device, the Chicane which works with ropes from 7.5mm to 11mm, and as the name suggests has curved chicane-like design. DMM say that that the internal profile of the device works in two dimensions, I asked Simon Marsh at DMM what they meant by that:
“Conventional teeth work by compressing the rope into a linear V-groove, this adds some holding power to the device. The Chicane takes this further by putting a bend into the V-groove. This allows the user to apply a lot more friction to the rope and makes holding falls easier.”
We will have one of test soon, but DMM say it locks well across a range of ropes and has a smooth paying out/taking in action.
Lightweight at only 54g. SRP £18.00
An Insight In To Climbing Equipment Design
I was so so intrigued when playing with the Chicane I got in touch with Jim Titt an engineer and designer who is working with Fred Hall and the design team at DMM on the Chicane, and asked him to explain further about the design of the Chicane. This isn't just for engineers, but gives a unique insight into the thought and work that goes into climbing equipment design.
Thank you Jim and DMM for allowing us to the run the candid explanation below.
Evolution of The Chicane by Jim Titt
The curves are based on fractal theory which is effectively what gives you the meanders in a river, they provide the slowest flow for the most water volume which is the same as the highest friction for a given ropeThe Chicane was going to be designed by going back to first principles, but none of the principles have been properly researched so first came about 500 hours of testing and analysis to find out how belay plates really work, in particular how the friction in them varies with rope velocity and load.
In a belay plate 60% of the braking force is provided by the force required to bend the rope and 40% by friction between the rope and the metal. Current development has just about run out of ideas of how to increase the braking force because everyone has gone looking for more friction and the obvious thing to do is look for more bends, this is what the cavers have done with their abseil racks. It's also desirable to reduce the dependency on pure friction as this tends to make the handling under load a bit erratic, in fact the perfect belay device would have no friction component whatsoever as then you can get a more constant braking force without the high peak loads one normally has.
A normal plate bends the rope in a single vertical plane and to add more bends in that plane is impractical so I had the idea to add the bends in the other (horizontal) plane. As the rope enters the plate it is forced through three smaller angle bends (more smaller bends is better than fewer big ones). So really it works in two planes, not dimensions but that might be too much for climbers!
The curves are based on fractal theory which is effectively what gives you the meanders in a river, they provide the slowest flow for the most water volume which is the same as the highest friction for a given rope, they aren't simple curves in fact but sections of ellipses which provide more rope contact area to reduce wear on the plate.
The original prototypes I made have 50% more braking power than the normal ATC/Reverso plates on all rope diameters so I then decided to optimise the way the plate works to reduce the amount of increase for thick ropes, increase the braking on thinner ropes and improve the thick rope handling at the same time. Realistically there is a limit to how much power one needs with thick gym ropes as it becomes impossible to lower lighter people whereas with thin ropes more power is highly desirable so I sacrificed some of the braking power to get better handling. This I achieved by varying the curve radii depending on the depth in the slot so thick ropes go effectively straight through and at the bottom of the grooves the rope has to bend considerably more.
The curves look cool as well, nicer than teeth!
Currently the device is designed to have 25% more braking on a 10,5mm and 50% more on an 8mm rope though the ones at the show are CNC'd prototypes and will have to be tested, I'll be doing the proper testing sometime next week but they are certainly extremely close to my originals. (My prototypes are nasty looking lumps welded together and Elliot does his styling magic at DMM, a talented guy for sure).
We're very happy with the design but might change the rope exit radius for the production ones but these are just typical detail differences between CNC'd prototypes and hot-forged production ones. I was using one of the show ones this weekend climbing and it is great, the handling is everything we wanted and abseiling a pleasure. Graham Desroy has been using one with icelines and is very impressed, especially as you can abseil on a single one!
For power the best impression is when you abseil on a single 9mm it feels like a single 10 and even better it won't heat up as much as it depends less on friction than a conventional teethed design so we can make it lighter than usual. I'm working with somebody on FEA (Finite Element Analysis) of the heating in belay plates when used for abseiling at the moment but got a few other things to do at the moment so it will have to wait a few weeks.
Next on the board is the guide version which if the concept Fred and I have works will be
exceptional, if all else fails it will get a few loops stuck on it like the ATC Guide but we know we
can do better!
Mammut Smart Alpine Belay Device
Mammut have developed their original Smart, which is a smooth acting single-rope, non-mechanical, semi-auto-locking belay device and have introduced the Smart Alpine. The new Smart Alpine is compatible with single, half and twin ropes and also works as a auto-block on multi pitch routes allowing the safe belay of one or two seconding climbers and as a abseiling device. It is available for ropes with a diameter of 7.5 to 9.5mm and also 8.9mm to 10.5mm.
Skylotec, a German engineering company that specialises in rescue and working at height equipment had a couple of innovative products.
First was an HMS carabiner, called passO-PL, that had a pinch lock gate. You pinched two spring plates on the gate to open, then when it closes it automatically locks.
The other was a carabiner, called the gripZ-ST that had a ribbed plastic on the spine of the carabiner to facilitate opening. Weighs 47g: gate opening 21mm.
PHOTO GALLERY: Quickdraws and carabiners
The choice of quickdraws and carabiners for climbers is staggering and very competitive. Lightness, gate/nose security and design seem to be important as does size, it seems that climbers want full size carabiners that are light, not small and light, and the manufacturers are responding.
Below are some of the offerings from some of the major brands. Most of these products are available in 2011.
The Black Diamond HoodWire brings keylock functionality to a wiregate carabiner. It has a stainless steel wire hood that won't snag when clipping or trap debris that could cause an open gate failure, and protects the nose from wear.
The Hoodwire will be available as a Quickdraw: Hoodwire at the gear/bolt end and the I Beamed Hotwire on the rope end for £15.99. The hood wire specs are: 37gr, 24kn gate closed, 8kn Gate Open, and 8kn Minor axis
BD also have a range of Nitron biners. Quickdraw: rrp £17.99, 45grams, 24kn, 8kn, 8kn. Screwgate: rrp £10.99, 50grams, 24kn, 8kn, 7kn
Wild Country Sport Draw is built for sport climbing, it has an easy clip Oxygen Keylock for the bolt end, a Wildwire for the clip end, and a wide 'easy-grab' tape. The quickdraws are available in three lengths of 10cm, 17cm, 25cm.
Grivel's range of quickdraws are available with the 3F which is a plastic dogbone cover which makes the quickdraws easy to grab and handle, protects the dyneema sling from wear, increases the rigidity of the quickdraw, and will help in clipping. Also new is the Easy Clip, a plastic grip which clips on to the back of your clipping carabiner to aid rope clipping.
All Grivel carabiners are now individually strength tested and have their own individual test number laser printed on it. Stevie Haston explains in the video below.
The C.A.M.P Photon range are full size lightweight carabiners . Available as wiregate (29g), with Bet Lock closing system (36g) and as a screwgate (49g). They are also available as a quickdraw, The Photon express.
DMM have a new range of carabiners, the Alpha range, for both sport and trad climbing, including the Alpha Sport, a good-looking sport draw. Keep your eye on the DMM website and UKClimbing.com Product News for full details.
Mammut have a range of hot-forged carabiners and quickdraws available in the UK. The Bionic Evo Quickdraw available in Straight/Bent 10cm quickdraw, Straight Gate/Wire Gate quickdraw and exclusively for the UK a Wire Gate/Wire Gate quickdraw.
The Bionic Evo Keylock biner with improved back - for ease of use, hot forged I beam technology biner also with hot forged heavily featured gate to improve ease of clipping. 40g
Mammut Styled, Bionic Evo I beam wire gate karabiner, ideal for Alpine, Trad, sport and ice, hot forged with 10cm dyneema sling and chunky intergrated tadpole at 33g
Superlight wiregate karabiner, designed for the Alpine environment, this quickdraw is also quite at home during UK trad climbing expeditions, and wherever weight, or lack of it matters. At only 27 grams - one of the lightest Karabiners around. Available on a lightweight 10cm Mammut dyneema sling, or an alpine friendly and rope drag-free 60cm extendable version (see below). Only 59 grams for the 10cm draw.