* Prices may differ from that shown
Most serious climbers and the more extreme mountaineers should always need a belay device (or belay plate), which feeds the belay rope through and allows the person holding that rope to control the descent, ascent pace and risk factor to the person they are belaying.
Obviously being an essential piece of kit, most mountaineering / climbing gear manufacturers offer their version(s) and there is a massive range of belay devices out there. So it can be hard to pick the right one for you taking into account weight, size, specification and cost. The design of these devices has changed little over the years, but the metals used in their design have become stronger, smoother (for the thoroughfare of the rope) and much lighter, this is helpful for climbers these days who dont need sherpas and half the population of the local village to take our gear up ourselves.
Black Diamond are arguably and in my humble opinion one of the best mountaineering / climbing gear companies out there. And like any top quality gear in any sport or past-time, they are on the expensive side, because they use such fine quality materials. I have found that as I have progressed to ever harder and higher mountains that I has switched from buying the cheaper gear to Black Diamond as I have been so impressed with rental or the odd bit of kit that I have managed to get from them.
I bought this double belay device for exactly that reason. It can hold two ropes at the same time, of standard climbing thickness (7.7mm to 11mm) and is very versatile in covering the full range of ropest that a mountaineer ot climber may need. but this is to be expected of any belay device to be honest. But I find that as the breach is so wide to accomodate this impressive function, smaller, thinner ropes tend to run from side to side with movement in the bigger sized breach, which in itself is still perfectly safe, but gives you a slightly uneasy feeling that you may not get with a smaller, tighter fit. This 'disadvantage' also acts as an advantage as it has allot of metal to spread any rope heat across and so not risk fracturing the rope.
The device is heavy for a bilay at 30 grams, which is allot heavier then many of its competitors, but this only reflects its multi rope functions.
The belay device has gripping teeth, another standard fnction, but these teeth are big and sharp, without fraying the rope and so the stoppung power of this piece is very effective, meaning shorter falls and less risk. Some other belay devices have less effective teeth and you struggle to hold the rope into the device after a trip up. This may not be too much of a feature or an issue for rock face climbers, who climb with hardly any weight on themselves or gear wise, but on the opposite side of the spectrum, expedition mountaineers like myself carry huge weights, sometimes upward of 75 pounds and have arctic weathergear on which adds weight too, so we need an effective stopping device.
You should be able to pick this up for around £13 from any good climbing stockist online.
A belay plate comes in many different guises and fancy names but essentially they are used for climbing and are there to add friction to a system so that the belayer can quickly switch from being connected to the rope or independant as and when required.
The original devices known as stich plates were nothing more than a metal plate with holes drilled in it and the term 'if it aint broke don't fix it' has meant that the change in design has been minimal over the last half a century.
Black Diamond are a trusted company amongst climbers and are regarded amongst the best manufacturers for handware. There is very little to differenciate belay devices amongst manufacturers with Petzl, DMM, Mammutt and Wild Country all offering something of a very similar design.
This device is designed to manage one or 2 ropes between 7.7mm and 11mm so covers the vast majority of ropes a climber or abseiler would comes across, a bigger range than DMM's V twin (8 - 10.5mm) and comparable to the Petzl and Wild Country equivalents.
Due to the teeth the friction on this unit is high which means big falls are less likely to shock the belayers braking arm which can lead to rope slipping and in the most severe cases the difference between a fall and an injury. The high friction means that for those who belay heavier partners or ones which are prone to big falls can be more confident to hold the fall.
For general climbing prefer to use a toothless device as i find feeding out rope is a bit more difficult as the rope becomes caught in the teeth taking a second longer to react which when climbing can be very fristrating. When lowering off a light partner it also means you need to feed the rope through which takes away from a smooth decent.
The high surface area of the ATC means that on long abseils or lower offs the heat generated is spread over a larger area. On a more simple design the heat has been known to cause rope melting and minor skin burns to unsuspecting users.
This device weighs nearly 30g (50%) more than Black Diamonds standard ATC and 20g more than the Wild Country variable controller Pro 2 so for those highly concerned about their rack weight then thay may look to something else.
All companies similar devices come in around the same price £12.50 - £15
--Black Diamond ATC-XP--
There isn't much you can say about things like belay devices, but I do know that when you are just getting into climbing and there is an entire wall covered in strange climbing related objects, or a gargantuan piece of granite in front of you, then it would be nice to have someone point you in the right direction...
--What is a belay and what is it for?--
Unless you are doing some free soloing (no ropes) or bouldering (low level techinical climbing) then you are going to be climbing with a partner. Your partner is there to catch you when you fall and to do so so he or she needs some sort of device that gives full control of the speed of the rope. The rope is folded over and threaded through the hole in the belay plate, then the loop that has been threaded through is attached to your harness via a screw gate carabiner. The loose end of the rope should be hanging down towards the floor and the end attached to the climber points up.
To stop the rope from moving the loose end is pulled down and the friction produced between the rope and plate causes the rope to stop moving. By increasing the angle of the loose end upwards the speed of the rope through the plate increases as the friction induced decreases. This allows the climber to descend. Conversely, this can be reversed for a climber who is leading and the rope is paid out.
--The ATC XP--
This, for me, is the best belay plate on the market for beginners and experienced climbers alike. It has been designed with teeth so that if the belayer is much lighter than the climber there shouldn't be any problems holding the rope down and creating enough friction. My sister weighs about 8.5 stone whereas I'm 14 and she doesn't have any problems holding my weight. The teeth also allow for much thinner ropes for when you are climbing with a pair of ropes and weight is an issue. This belay plate works perfectly well with thin, 7.7mm, and thick, 11mm, ropes. The teeth also increase the level of control, making it very simple to adjust the speed of a climbers descent. The plate is designed with two eyelets - standard on most belay devices - which allow for belaying two ropes simultaneously. Incidentally the two rope thicknesses mentioned are specific to the design (recommended max and min).
If you happen to be climbing with someone particularily dozy - something I really do not recommend - then the teeth are a little confidence booster as even if the belayer drops the rope the teeth help bunch up the rope which will slow, but not stop, your fall.
The teeth have their disadvantages also... If you are climbing with thicker or stiffer rope it can be very difficult to pull the rope through. This is particularily unhelpful when the climber is lead climbing and the belayer needs to produce lengths of rope relatively quickly. When belaying with twin ropes feeding and dragging the ropes up to belay ledges can become a little tiresome.
This problem can often be rectified by using the plate back-to-front as the opposite side is smooth.
The ATC-XP is also perfectly suitable for abseiling after you have topped out on a climb. It doesn't take much effort to hold your own weight due to the toothed design.
I have known other climbers aren't so keen on using toothed belay devices as they can be detrimental to the rope. But as long as you look after all your equipment properly I don't see this being a problem.
The plate is made from cast aluminum to minimise weight. It has an extended webbing that provides better rope orientation and helps prevent kinking.
The device, as with most climbing gear, is incredibly light and over-designed. It weighs 89 grams and will never, ever break. It costs a couple of pounds more than your average belay plate but it's worth it! Incidentally, if you are completely new to this game then you also have to purchase a screw gate carabiner (and a harness of course). The best type of carabiner for belaying is a D shaped one. They typically cost between £8-£10.
Costs £50, is excellent for unsupervised beginner belaying, fall proof and lightweight. Unfortunately not as easy to rig and can be quite slow when paying out and gathering rope.
-Standard toothless belay-
Costs £12, does the same job only will be ever so slightly lighter, cheaper and more variety. Toothless so doesn't give the same control and light people migt struggle with heavier folks.
If you are just getting into climbing then this is the belay device for you. It's very well designed, lightweight, simple to use and also comes in lots of pretty colours! Blue, silver, gold and black to name but a few! I think it's probably one of the best (definitely my favourite) belay devices on the market at the moment.
If anyone has any climbing related questions and want them answered in lingo familiar to a relatively new climber then feel free to ask. People talking about cruxes, pinches, slaps, crags and Egyptians can get a little confusing!
--Cost and Availability--
Available from all good climbing/outdoor shops and centres but is also available online.
Rockrun.com are selling them for £14.50
Thanks for reading!
A true variable-friction device, the ATC-XP maintains the silky-smooth feeding of the ATC but ups the braking power. For belaying and rappelling with 7.7-11 millimeter ropes, its designed with a smooth low friction side and a high friction side with v-shaped grooves for three times more friction. An extended central web keeps biners and ropes properly oriented and reduces rope kinking.