Monday, September 1, 2008

Autoblocking Devices

Modern climbing equipment and technique has evolved dramatically over the last two decades. Ice tools, rock protection and technical clothing are just a few of the many tools which have seen massive innovation. Perhaps the most commonly used tool which has seen the most evolution is the belay device.

Old devices were designed in such a way that they could only be used to belay a person off of a harness. There's nothing wrong with this when one belays a leader or topropes. The problem arises when dealing with a second. Some climbers elected to belay a second directly in line, while others redirected the load through the anchor. Neither of these techniques were that effective. They both provided the leader with additional technical problems.
The Kong GiGi was one of the first autoblocking devices
on the market in the U.S.

In the late 90s, climbers and guides began to use autoblocking devices to belay a second. These devices allow one to belay two ropes simultaneously directly off the anchor. If the second falls, the anchor feels the weight, not the belayer. The best part of these devices were that they automatically locked up, immediately arresting the second's fall.

Today most climbers use one of two of these autoblocking devices that have the market cornered. The Black Diamond ATC Guide or the Petzl Reverso 3 should be considered standard equipment on every climber's rack.
Black Diamond ATC Guide

The following is a video about the Reverso 3 was produced by Petzl. You should be aware that this was designed to sell you the product. I'm not trying to endorse the Reverso 3 over the ATC Guide. I believe that the use of one or the other comes down to personal preference. This video has been included here to demonstrate how one might use an autoblocking device in the field.

--Jason D. Martin

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