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Auto-locking belay devices

Edelrid Mega Jul. A master of trades, jack in none?. Source: . Credit: Just Cheaper .
Edelrid Mega Jul. A master of trades, jack in none?. Source: Just Cheaper. Credit: Just Cheaper .

Traditionally autolocking belay device has been almost a synonym with Petzl Grigri 2PetzlGrigri 2http://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_zoom/node_media/grigri-1_0.jpgThe GRIGRI 2 belay device with assisted braking capability is designed to facilitate belay maneuvers. The GRIGRI 2 works equally well for lead climbing and top-roping. It may be used on all single dynamic 8.9 to 11 mm ropes on the market (optimized for 9.4 mm to 10.3 mm ropes). Both compact and ultra-light, the GRIGRI 2 will accompany you on climbs around the world for many years. The GRIGRI 2 has a new design that allows excellent control during the descent.. Which is out of its element in alpine environment due to number of factors.

Perhaps the most important reasons why not to Grigri in alpine settings are:

  • Doesn't work with half ropes (or twins for that matter)
  • Doesn't really work in environment where freezing of the device itself or the ropes is a possibility (I am aware that Will Gadd seems to have a different opinion)
  • Heavy and bulky

Therefore I had written autolockers off as not suitable for my needs. However, the current crop of devices, most importantly Edelrid Micro JulEdelridMicro Julhttp://www.edelrid.de/images/produkte/sports_2013/Sicherungsgeraete/microjul%202013.jpgA compact, ultra-light belay and abseil device for half ropes and twin ropes. The only suitable device for use with the Flycatcher 6.9 mm. For belaying a leader or bringing up 2 seconds, also suitable for abseiling Robust solid stainless steel construction. Very lightweight construction. High braking performance assists the belayer with leader falls. Small eyelet for releasing unit with a carabiner when bringing up your partner. Rope can be paid out faster to a leader by holding device in the “open” position with the thumb. Suitable for 6.9 - 8.5 mm double and twin ropes. and Edelrid Mega JulEdelridMega Julhttp://www.edelrid.de/images/produkte/sports_2013/Sicherungsgeraete/megajul%202013.jpgOur most versatile belay and abseil device made of solid stainless steel for durability. For belaying a leader or bringing up 2 seconds, also suitable for abseiling. Very lightweight construction. High braking performance assists the belayer with leader falls. Small eyelet for releasing unit with a carabiner when bringing up your partner. Rope can be paid out faster to a leader by holding device in the “open” position with the thumb. Suitable for 7.8 - 10.5 mm ropes. as well as Mammut Alpine SmartMammutAlpine Smarthttp://static2.mammut.ch/medias/sys_master/8812533252126/Smart_Alpine_Silver_bild1.eps_Zoom2.jpgThe alpine version of the award-winning Smart can also be used with Double and Half Ropes as well with thin Single Ropes, making it the ideal companion for all alpine rock and ice pursuits. When it comes to belaying, the Smart Alpine offers the same excellent qualities as the Smart: dynamic braking of the climber in an accidental fall, and locks even at low levels of force exerted by the user. The Smart Alpine can also be used to independently belay one or two second climbers in an autolocking mode from the fixed point. The device is also ideal for abseiling. Silver-red version for use with rope diameters of 7.5 to 9.5 mm. might change that. Particularly Edelrid devices seem very interesting indeed being quite similar in size and weight as your regular tuber. On paper sounds like a winning combination, definitely too good not to investigate further. Micro Jul should also work properly with really skinny half ropes, something that cannot be said with otherwise excellent Petzl Reverso 4PetzlReverso 4http://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/d17_l_reverso_4-orange_1.jpgUltra-light (59 g) multi-purpose belay/rappel device that regulates the amount of braking friction on the rope according to its diameter and condition; Reverso mode. This multi-purpose belay/rappel device is ultra-light (59 g, 25 % lighter than the REVERSO 3) and intuitive to use. V-shaped friction channels with asymmetrical lateral grooves adapt the friction to the type of rope for better control (ARC technology: braking control for twin, half and single dynamic ropes). Reverso mode for belaying one or two seconds with assisted braking., which isn't promised to hold a fall in Reverso mode belaying two seconds simultaneously with very skinny ropes. And it doesn't in practice either. Which is a real concern is you climb in a three-person team using sub-8mm ropes.

Short googling session came back with few discussion threads about Jul devices. Other than some users having found the device to block when abseiling in autolocking mode and not using carabiner to release locking (carabiner release is the method recommended by Edelrid, btw), majority of reviews seem to be positive. Some also complained about carabiner wear due to use of steel which is considerably harder than aluminum used in carabiners. That I could easily live by if the device works anywhere close to as well as it promises. Gear wears out, tough luck. Much more seriously, there are picture or two of a device that has had the cable ripped of. I could not dig out more information whether that is a manufacturing defect of that single device or more wide-spread issue. The lack of recall might suggest the former though.

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