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By Tom Grummon
From Golden, CO
Jul 26, 2010
Top of Montezuma's Tower
Out of curiosity how reliable is the auto-block on an ATC Guide?

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By ian watson
From Albuquerque, NM
Jul 26, 2010
keep in mind i have never used it on a pitch yet, but just playing with it on my home setup i took a practice fall of a few feet on a 8mm cord and it held me easy im about 150lbs if it will block a 8mm like that should have no problem with my 10.2

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Jul 26, 2010
ropes dont slip through the device if thats what you're asking, but the device is NOT hands free and should never be treated as such.

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By Dave Alie
From Golden, CO
Jul 26, 2010
Photo Credit: The talented Pete Garceau
please be patient with this one, but... quick question-
when you say it isn't hands free, what does that mean? I've used both ATC guides and reversos in autoblock mode to belay from above without any rope-slip for years, but have always heard that they're not hands-free devices. if the autoblock is effective, what is the distinction that makes them not hands free?

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By Nathan Stokes
Jul 26, 2010
It is still theoretically possible to load the auto block in a fashion that would allow it to slip. If you can still feed rope through the device the system can slip. That is why it is called auto block, not auto hold. The only way to make something truly hands free is to tie off with a mule hitch if you need both hands to do something else.

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By Evan1984
Jul 26, 2010
In terms of locking off, the guide is very reliable when used properly.

In terms of lowering, it is a little bit finicky. You must always remember to redirect the break strand high and lowering efficiently takes some practice.

None of the locking devices-guide, reverso, cinch, gri- are deemed "hands free" by the manufacturer. All of these devices require that a hand be on the brake strand and ready to lock off should the need arise. Alternatively, if you are going to be resting for a bit, you can tie an overhand in the brake strand and clip it into the anchor.

Yes, you can go years using any of these devices hands free without incident. But, like all things, they are not 100% reliable. They can become fouled in the system in such a way that they don't orient to lock off correctly, you could be using too small a rope, etc, etc.

I had a puckering incident while on self belay at work on a gri where a strand pushed the cam on the device open and I slid. I had a knot in the brake end and it was fine.

The point is that all belay devices are very predictable until they are not.

Evan

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By Buff Johnson
Jul 26, 2010
smiley face
It's the best autoblocking device of that kind on the market, right now.

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By Sam Feuerborn
From Durango, CO
Jul 26, 2010
Castle Wood Canyon, May '09
I have the singing rock version and it's awesome haven't had any problems that haven't already been mentioned and i've only used it on ropes down to 9.8 but it's been fine for that.

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By gr3vans
From Seattle, WA
Jul 26, 2010
rainy day at index
Evan1984 wrote:
I had a puckering incident while on self belay at work on a gri where a strand pushed the cam on the device open and I slid. I had a knot in the brake end and it was fine. The point is that all belay devices are very predictable until they are not. Evan


This is really all that matters here. The important thing to notice is that safe practice ALWAYS means you back yourself up somehow to protect from death. Weird things can and will always happen, but when they are not happening gear does work. No manufacturer in there right mind will ever tell you it is ok to let go of your brake hand... that would be insane.

In reality when i'm belaying a second on a guide and they are moving up I will often snap a quick photo and grab slack in chunks that my climber is comfortable with. If you have no slack there is relatively low impact on your belay if they fall, but if you think about the fact that your device is designed to hold a much greater force (something like a semi-truck) I feel pretty safe with a low impact. Also it is important that you want to belay off a point separate from your main anchor and back that up to something in a way that the force is balanced when shock loaded (say like a boulder falls on your second creating a huge impact to your belay anchor, you don't want to fall with that because you're main anchor gets too much shock and blows up) this also makes rope management a lot easier keeping your belay off to the side giving you room to stack your rope nice and neat so your partner can just climb right by you and you belay of that nice neat stack once you change your belay device from auto lock back to your harness.

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By Buff Johnson
Jul 26, 2010
smiley face
Dave Alie wrote:
please be patient with this one, but... quick question- when you say it isn't hands free, what does that mean? I've used both ATC guides and reversos in autoblock mode to belay from above without any rope-slip for years, but have always heard that they're not hands-free devices. if the autoblock is effective, what is the distinction that makes them not hands free?


If you hit the device from the side, get to be impeded in some unexpected manner, and get the brake-side, or off-strand, and load-side/strand going in opposite directions from each other, you can open up the autoblock by twisting on itself. That's why it's not hands free.

Another way to fail it is passing diameters with a high load; but climbers probably won't see that unless the diameter is already too small to begin with; the older Reverso model had the problem with 2 seconding climbers and using smaller than 8.5; -- the newer BD Guide, it's not an issue.

Ultimate strength is another way, but the system is either static or the climber has already been killed from the force anyway.

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Jul 26, 2010
Good comments from everyone- imho, no belay device is hands free because by not having your hand on the rope, you do not have control of an open system- a system that both you and your partner(s) depend on to stay alive.

If you're going to let go of the brake strand, you need to close the system first by tying it off.

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By cjdrover
From Somerville, MA
Jul 26, 2010
Taken at MWV Icefest 2014.
I use my ATC Guide with 8.1 mm twin ropes without any problems. I have also used it as a self-belay for top-rope soloing with a 9.2 mm rope, again, with no slipping or any problems.

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By sunder
From Alsip, Il
Jul 26, 2010
ICE PIT 2011
I like the guide alot. I haven't had any issues...

Remember never to let go of the rope with your break hand.

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By Evan1984
Jul 26, 2010
Chris Drover wrote:
I use my ATC Guide with 8.1 mm twin ropes without any problems. I have also used it as a self-belay for top-rope soloing with a 9.2 mm rope, again, with no slipping or any problems.


I beleive the problem came about from using two ropes of disparate sizes. I'm not sure, though.

Evan

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By Woodchuck ATC
Jul 26, 2010
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008
Dave Alie wrote:
please be patient with this one, but... quick question- when you say it isn't hands free, what does that mean? I've used both ATC guides and reversos in autoblock mode to belay from above without any rope-slip for years, but have always heard that they're not hands-free devices. if the autoblock is effective, what is the distinction that makes them not hands free?


It means you should not let go and just forget it as if it is foolproof. Can't light up a smoke, grab a beverage without attending to the belay. Tie it off at least with a loose loop of rope to a backup anchor just to play safe.

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By Dave Alie
From Golden, CO
Jul 26, 2010
Photo Credit: The talented Pete Garceau
thanks for the comments guys-
I've heard this before but never really explained so this was helpful. Obviously I'm never belaying a second while paying no attention to the anchor or the device. I'll use the breaks from taking in slack (when the second is cleaning gear) to either drink water or start re-organizing the rack for a few seconds at a time while using a backup knot, but I was more interested in the scenarios mentioned above in which the device failed in autoblock mode. I was having trouble envisioning such a scenario having never seen even small amounts of rope slippage.

Cheers-

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By Tom Grummon
From Golden, CO
Jul 26, 2010
Top of Montezuma's Tower
gr3vans wrote:
Also it is important that you want to belay off a point separate from your main anchor and back that up to something in a way that the force is balanced when shock loaded (say like a boulder falls on your second creating a huge impact to your belay anchor, you don't want to fall with that because you're main anchor gets too much shock and blows up)


This brings up another point I've been wondering about: on most/ all of the multi pitch routs I'm doing (Clear Creek Canyon) only have 2 bolt belay stances. How bad is it to have the guide and my self attached to the same 2 bolts?

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By Caleb Padgett
From Rockville, utah
Jul 26, 2010
"This brings up another point I've been wondering about: on most/ all of the multi pitch routs I'm doing (Clear Creek Canyon) only have 2 bolt belay stances. How bad is it to have the guide and my self attached to the same 2 bolts"


If you have to ask for the answers for questions you may want to reevaluate how "BAD" it is to be out multipitch climbing and not know how to use an anchor, especially bolts. I dont want to sound like a jerk, this response comes from concern about your safety and whomever you are belaying off of those bolts. There are many good resources to learn the basics and gain experience. You NEED to know this shit before you go out on your own.

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By Greg D
From Here
Jul 26, 2010
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W.
Important to keep in mind that the device needs to line up with the direction of pull which is toward your nearest piece down the rope (unless it gets ripped when loaded). This is critical for the device to lock.

Here are two ways outblocks can fail (there are others).

1) You climb off to one side or the other after placing your last lead piece. Now you build your anchor off to the side of your last lead piece. Your anchor and autoblock dangles down, your second falls, the autoblock is yanked to the side but something interferes with it preventing it from locking. I witnessed someone fall 30 feet to the ground from this scenario. The device must be free to move toward the direction of pull. If you are keeping a close belay it will already be lined up.

2) You have two followers. When you lead you put rope "one" through gear like the above scenario and belay off to the side. Rope "two" is not through your last lead piece and goes straight to the climber. Climber on rope "two" falls and locks the device. Now the device cannot line up with the direction of pull for rope "one" and if climber "one" falls at this point his rope with not lock.

What is very helpful to do is pull the the rope tight to your second through your autoblock before they start climbing. You will see the direction of pull as well as will anything interfere. This is critical if you believe this is a hands free device. This is still very important if you don't believe this is a hands free device.

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By Evan1984
Jul 26, 2010
Tom,

Belaying off the same two bolts is fine.

I'm going to have to disagree with Gr3vans on needing to belay off a seperate point than your anchor.

The whole idea of a belay anchor is that it is redundant and strong enough to handle any impact you are forseeably going to put on it.

If you are not belaying off your main anchor, you don't have your partner on a belay anchor unless you've clipped them in short to the main anchor. If you are worried about the integrity of your anchor, incorporate more pieces into a single anchor rather than two marginal anchors.

3 good trad pieces or 2 good bolts is a good rule of thumb.

If can be nice to offset yourself from the belay point by extending yourself down or using a directional to move yourself to the side. This just minimizes the cluster at the belay. Usually, I clip myself in to the top-shelf on trad anchors and the belay into the masterpoint. On sport anchors, I use a sliding X for the belay and my rope and a sling for myself.

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By Tom Grummon
From Golden, CO
Jul 26, 2010
Top of Montezuma's Tower
Evan1984 wrote:
On sport anchors, I use a sliding X for the belay and my rope and a sling for myself.


Thats exactly what I've been doing.

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By JPVallone
Jul 26, 2010
For starters I have to agree with EVAN1984 about disagreeing with Gr3vans suggestion to belay off of a separate anchor. Sounds like a long day on a multipitch route building two anchors for every belay. And Gr3van, what are you suggesting about anchors "blowing Up". So in case one anchor blows up , you have a second anchor for back up? You can have redundancy with in one anchor. Anchors should be bombproof from the get go, If I can't belay off of it unquestionably, Then I don't want to be attached to it either.

So I am actually doing a bunch of research for a publication coming out soon, and I have to say there is a new device to add to the game, much like the Guide, and the Reverso that I believe is hands down the best on the market, or at least its my personal favorite for now until further testing and wear proves my liking wrong.

I was using a magic and a Gigi years ago. I wound up staying with the gigi for years, long before we saw the reverso, and the reverso was a nice multi use twist to the previous plaquette devices. After a year with Reverso I went back to my Gigi, because ropes were still fat and we were not pushing the single rope diameter boundaries like we do today. Plus first generation reverso's were wearing down fast to a sharp edge that could easily damage a rope. They addressed this in the 2nd generation reverso. I know a guide who had a pretty scary situation with this as well. (if you are still using a first generation reverso I suggest inspecting it and possibly retiring it) Anyway the GiGi was much nicer on your elbows and the potential tendinitis. We joked about it then when our arms were soar at the end of a day pulling two ropes up a 6 -10 pitch climb through a gigi, we called it "gigi-itis"

Anwyay ropes were getting thinner, so then there was the reversino, which was awesome in ski mountaineering, and alpine environments for skinny ropes. Now everyone is makeing some kind of knock off of this, Ultimately all coming from the ideas of the magic.

So having used many of these devices in all there settings and with many rope variables.

I have come to love my Mammut Alpine Vader.

Pros-
-Much lighter than a reverso or an atc guide. "not that it matters its a belay device, but grams do count in the mountains" and it is noticeably lighter.

-Can accomadate 7.5-10.5 mm ropes. "pretty nice margin"

-in my findings the slots are much wider and smoother with the ropes that I use, the same ropes I fight through a reverso or a guide.

-Incredibly smooth rappel, and pinch slots for more friction on smaller ropes.

-it has a rigid keeper loop and not an oval shape that has a small angeled offset, I found that the belay biner tends to stay more oriented because of the shape.

FINALLY THE BEST PART, I just bought mine at retail and have been very satisfied, it's 15.00 cheaper than a reverso.

Reverso retail 34.95
ATC guide 29.95

Mammut Vader at Neptune was 19.95

This is just my two cents and if any of you out there know what I'm talking about and belay, or have belayed two climbers together up multipitch routes, May I suggest giving this device a whirl if your sick of soar elbows from pulling rope through these things.

Last but not least, I think I can say I almost always use a plaquette device while belaying the second these days, and having used these types of devices for around 15 years or so now, I have never had any of them slip. Then again I have always stayed within the manufactures recommendations of rope diameter. I think if some one is having a device in this mode slip, it's most likely pilot error or not reading into a scenario that would allow the device to load in the direction of pull.

And finally for the OP, if you are using any of these types of devices in locking mode, Practice first in a controlled setting on how to release and lower with the device. When these devices are open they are as live as it gets, Make sure you back it up for a lower or if you open the device for slack.

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By P LaDouche
From CO
Jul 27, 2010
JFC, if one is supposed to always keep a brakehand on these devices WTF is the purpose of them? Do you people also always drive the posted speed limit in your cars as well? Inspect your brakepads every 5000 miles? Eat enough fiber and vegtables too? Whether its a reverso, gri gri or guide its all the same, its a locking device and if used properly will always lock.

I can see some of you probably go to sleep at night reading and re-reading the instructions that come with your new shiny gear and I guess that is probably a good thing.

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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Jul 27, 2010
As it happens there was a thread on another forum about using guide plates for roped soloing and I went off and pull tested a few to see what happened under load:-

First Fail Mode:
The trapped rope escapes sideways from under the tensioned rope and gets trapped between the tensioned rope and the side of the slot.This is very difficult to free off and you have to dismantle everything and twist the locking krab brutally to release the rope. Take your Prusiks.

Second fail mode:
Apply yet more load and the trapped rope where it crosses the tensioned rope goes down through the slot with a bang. At this point the holding power drops off considerably but not catastrophically, though pretty near!
Easy to release, just unclip the krab when unweighted. Still need to take your Prusiks!

ATC Guide. 10.2 Mammut, used, non-treated. First fail mode 4.8kN. No second fail mode, rope sheath cut at ca 9kN.
ATC Guide. 9mm Edelrid, used, non treated. First fail mode 2.96kN. Max fail load 5.58kN. Residual load 1.6kN
ATC Guide. 8.2mm Edelrid, new,treated. First fail mode 2.05kN. Max fail load 4.06kN. Residual load 1.2kN

Reverso≥. 10.2 Mammut, used, non treated. First fail mode 3.68kN. No second fail mode. Rope sheath cut ca 9kN
Reverso≥. 9mm Edelrid, used, non treated. First fail mode 2.25kN. Max fail load 3.60kN. Residual load 0.9kN
Reverso≥. 8.2mm Edelrid, new,treated. First fail mode 1.6kN. Max fail load 2.38kN. Residual load 0.7kN
All with Petzl Attache 12mm round profile karabiner.

Not my idea of a reliable roped-solo device!

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By Tom Grummon
From Golden, CO
Jul 27, 2010
Top of Montezuma's Tower
Jim,

Cool test, but I'm having a hard time picturing the second failure mode, any chance you have pictures?

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By Doug Foust
From Henderson, Nevada
Jul 27, 2010
new toy
Good thread and good comments. Being aware that the anchor needs to be set up with the proper directional pull as Greg D mentioned, has anyone actually witnessed rope slippage while using the ATC in autoblock mode?

I admit that I have used the ATC Guide hands free, but always paying very close attention on how the ropes are running through it so there is no twisting and that is will load properly in case of a fall.

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