Climbing equipment- belaying devices
If you can imagine your rope as the central component of your safety system while climbing, then it is obviously critical that you both employ, and know how to use, the optimum rope control tool. This is your belay device.
Stitch plate (unsprung)
Cheap, simple and basic. Locks off very easily but requires patience and practice to pay the rope out smoothly. A good beginner's plate if you want to learn how to belay with a high safety margin.
Sprung stitch plate
The added spring makes paying out easier, but can often become tangled up in the rack. Only recommended for the 'old school'.
Figure of eight
Used to be commonly used for sport climbing as the rope can be paid in and out quickly but modern belay plates have really made it redundant. Not recommended for trad climbing as the actual holding power is limited, plus it's heavy and bulky.
Twin belay tube design (eg variable controller (VC), air traffic controller (ATC), bug or tuber)
The modern rope control tool. With this, belaying is slick and easy, plus it makes a good abseil device, it's lightweight and small. Anyone using one of these devices for the first time should familiarise themselves with it first, as it won't lock off as easily as a traditional sticht plate. Once mastered these make great all-round belay devices.
If very thin ropes are to be used (7.5mm to 8mm) then either a dedicated skinny rope device (Salewa Tubus, HB Mini Sheriff) should be used, or the rope should pass around two HMS karabiners instead of one, otherwise there can be a feeling of lack of control if abseiling or holding a long fall.
Auto-locking (eg GriGri)
An auto-locking device that takes single ropes, designed for sport and indoor climbing. Often mistakenly viewed as being foolproof, these devices do in fact require a high level of experience and are not recommended for novices. Although expensive and heavy, they are excellent for long belaying sessions (working routes, big walls, etc).
Magic Plates (eg Reverso)
Designed to act as an auto-locking device when bringing up either one or two seconds. Generally only used by instructors and guides, they are very useful as a second belay device for long trad climbs.
Andy Kirkpatrick is recognised as a world authority on equipment and technique, a knowledge built up on some of the hardest big walls and faces in the world. Andy's expertise is big wall climbing and winter expeditions. He has scaled Yosemite's El Captan, one of the hardest walls in America, over 24 times. As well as being a successful climber, writer and speaker, Andy also works in film and TV as a stunt safety advisor.
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