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Gear Review: CU at the Wall Belay Glasses
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By Josh Janes
Jun 16, 2012

Power'n Play CU (at the Wall) Belay Glasses

The Glasses, in their case.
The Glasses, in their case.


When I first saw someone at my local crag donning CU Belay Glasses I silently thought - with a good deal of sarcasm - “uh, really?” Then when I heard how much they cost I not-so-silently laughed in disbelief...

...then I tried them.

When one of my regular partners unveiled his own pair during a winter sport climbing session, I decided to give them a shot, and yes, after just one day of trying them out, I was hooked. Every time we’d meet up to climb thereafter I found myself adding to my usual ritual of questions (“you want to drive or shall I?” “I’ve got draws, can you bring a rope?”) “Hey, did you pack the glasses?”

Indeed, the CU Belay Glasses have gained a strong following here in Las Vegas and for good reason: Several lifetimes of amazing limestone climbs goes hand in hand with epic belay sessions. And with epic belay sessions there will either be inevitable strain on your neck and back, or, perhaps worse, the tendency to not watch your climber in an effort to find more comfort.

The partner I mentioned above bought them to alleviate chronic neck pain. I’ve never had those problems, but I have experienced that fatigue that comes from scrunching your shoulders in order to support your head as you're belaying; using the CU Belay Glasses makes this a non-issue.

The glasses are a simple but superbly executed idea. Using precision optics – prisms – one can look straight forward into the glasses and have a crystal clear view of everything directly overhead. The prisms are mounted on lightweight stainless steel frames that are unobtrusive and comfortable. Rubber ear and nose pieces, a keeper cord, and a foam lined plastic case, cleaning cloth, and instruction sheet round out the package.

In use, they do take some adjustment – typically a day at the crag. As recommended in the instructions, and based on my experience, I put the glasses on and rest them at the tip of my nose when I begin belaying. As my partner leaves the ground, I look over the tops of the glasses directly at him until he’s about 15 or 20 feet up (ie overhead). At that point I push the glasses fully up the bridge of my nose and can instantly transition to following his every move though the prisms. Also, as a climber gets further away, you'll find that very slight movements of your head is all it takes to change your field of view dramatically. For this reason, you discover the need to keep your head fairly still as the distance between you and your partner increases.

When you’re climbing, it’s a strange feeling to glance down and see the top of your belayer’s head – it’s as if he’s not paying attention. But if you look closely, you can actually see eyes perfectly reflected in those prisms.

Behold: A climber stemming her way up Mt. Charleston limestone.
Behold: A climber stemming her way up Mt. Charleston limestone.


Obviously, prisms (not mirrors) are used to preserve the proper orientation of what you’re seeing, and the glasses even have a very slight magnification which is almost imperceptible, but nonetheless contributes to a great image. The optics are so clear and bright that it is almost impossible to tell you’re looking through glasses at all. This is hard to believe, but you’ll understand when you try them.

So, there are cheaper alternatives – various homemade Franken-glasses are out there – and while I haven’t tried these options, I've seen them around. I believe there are two main factors that set the CU Belay Glasses apart: The first is the quality of construction. I can’t imagine better optics or frame materials than these German engineered beauties. The second is that they are very low-profile. This is an important design point to consider: Looking over the top of these glasses or around the sides or even underneath them is very easy - so the constant little visual checks you unconsciously perform while you’re belaying (gauging your footing, checking that the rope is feeding tangle-free, etc) are easy and natural. Most home brew glasses that I’ve seen are downright clunky and obtrusive by comparison.

This is a significant investment though and you’ll want to keep these in their case to protect them, but while at the crag I find the springy nature of the frames keep them securely on my neck. That same frame design allows for them to be worn directly over prescription/sunglasses as well.

Issues? Sure, there are a few minor things. I find that that in certain uncommon lighting conditions – such as when the sun is directly overhead – there can some glare through the prisms. Wearing sunglasses mitigates this somewhat. Also, although you do get used to them quickly, there are certain things that will always be disorienting: For example, if you ever have to reach for something with a free hand while looking through these glasses, you’re going to miss. And people will laugh. That’s just the way it is. And then there’s the price – but I consider this a lifetime investment in convenience and neck health. This is not a piece of equipment that will ever wear out.

In many ways, these glasses are favorably comparable to a GRIGRI. Sure, it’s technically a luxury, and yes, it takes a session or two to become comfortable using one, but not many dedicated climbers who have experienced its benefits could go without.

Power'n Play CU (At the Wall) Belay Glasses
$150 + $10 shipping (USA) or $15 shipping (Canada/Mexico)

www.powernplayusa.com/
powernplay.com/


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By CJC
Jun 16, 2012

kinda cool but with no shading or uv protection no thanks


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By Josh Janes
Jun 16, 2012

"That same frame design allows for them to be worn directly over prescription/sunglasses" and "Wearing sunglasses mitigates [glare]".

The low profile design and hingeless frames allows them to fit surprisingly well over other glasses. The closer they sit to your eyes, the better they work, but they work just fine with sunglasses - not perfect, but workable. I'm glad they're not tinted as they'd be rendered useless in low-light conditions. Incidentally, I can wear them with brimmed sun hats and still see just over the front edge of the brim.


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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Jun 17, 2012

I wear them regularly with sunglasses- its no problem at all. I love mine- definitely worth the investment.


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By SexPanther aka Kiedis
Jun 17, 2012
Thumbtastic

Only in Vegas. This is really what goes on here.


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By Darren in Vegas
From Las Vegas, NV
Jun 17, 2012
Skiing around.

I can't say enough good things about these glasses. I used to have terrible neck problems from belaying. I was getting massage therapy on a semi regular basis to deal with it. Then I did some quick math and figured that the cost of these glasses would roughly equal one 90 minute session. Now I bring them out every time I go cragging and so far my neck troubles are gone.


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By Perin Blanchard
Administrator
From Orem, UT
Jun 17, 2012
Racking too much gear, as usual.

I've been using these for a couple of years now (with prescription eyeglasses). Love them.

Sure, they look dorky—but not as dorky as the rolled up towel and slings I was previously using for neck support.


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By G McG
From Victoria, BC
Jun 18, 2012

If you can get a group together to buy a few pairs, its significantly cheaper.

We bought 3 pairs straight from the German company and it came to $105 CDN each AFTER tax/duty/etc.

And I love them!!

Forgot to mention: it does take a little while to get used to how a fall appears. I found my depth perception was off at the beginning. I've become used to this now and don't find it an issue. Maybe its just my weird eyes?


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By DevinLane
Jun 18, 2012

I would be interested in a joining a group buy -


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By Glenn Schuler
From Monument, Co.
Jun 18, 2012
A grey fox skull wedged in a crack 100' up on a FA I was working on - don't see that every day...

Thanks for the review on the glasses Josh. I've been developing some real bad neck pain in the last year. Doc says I have worn disks & arthritis. Been going to a PT and that has helped some - I think I'm going to have to drop the coin & get these.


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By slim
Administrator
Jun 18, 2012
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

i give these the 2 thumbs up for sure. i originally bought them for my wife, who has some neck and back problems. they allow her to give an attentive belay without the discomfort of looking up a lot.

then i tried them. they are great. i actually enjoy wearing them and watching my partner climb. great invention and worth every penny i paid for them.

glenn - do it, i think you will really like them. then, if kevin is all ran out and sketchin, when he places a stopper and kind of hangs onto it a 'little too long', you can say "ah, ah, ah!".


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By Glenn Schuler
From Monument, Co.
Jun 18, 2012
A grey fox skull wedged in a crack 100' up on a FA I was working on - don't see that every day...

slim wrote:
when he places a stopper and kind of hangs onto it a 'little too long', you can say "ah, ah, ah!".


Good point slim, I know he's busted me doing that manouver! Actually he should be paying for part of the cost since he'll be the one benefitting from my better balaying right? Might be a hard sell...


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By ipaulsen
Jun 20, 2013

I have a pair of these. They are more affordable, lighter than the other glasses out there, and still durable.
Serrett belay glasses


Serrett belay glasses
Serrett belay glasses


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By amarius
Jun 20, 2013

ipaulsen wrote:
I have a pair of these. They are more affordable, lighter than the other glasses out there, and still durable. Serrett belay glasses

More options, better
Couple of questions -
Serrets appear to be mirror based design - they will invert images. That is, if a climber is moving left, s/he will appear to be going right.
Did this create a problem?


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By ipaulsen
Jun 20, 2013

amarius wrote:
More options, better Couple of questions - Serrets appear to be mirror based design - they will invert images. That is, if a climber is moving left, s/he will appear to be going right. Did this create a problem?


It takes about one climb to get used to. Not really a big deal once you use them a few times. I like how these glasses give you a field of view of your surroundings as well.(because of their thin mounts for the mirrors) I also like how they don't feel heavy on your face at all!


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By NYClimber
From New York
Jun 26, 2013
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.

CJC wrote:
kinda cool but with no shading or uv protection no thanks


CJC - Do you wear sunglasses 100% of the time when the sun is out? If not - you're getting UV rays into your eyes anyway!


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By whittlesticks
From Nederland
Jun 26, 2013
hanging at the bridger jacks campground

These glasses are great. I have suffered from belayers neck for several years. I too had many massage sessions to repair this issue. They helped but the pain came back when climbing. Now i use these when I am belaying, and after quickly getting use to the different depth perception they are great. Also I don't think I will ever go ice climbing again with out these. Thanks to Dave for getting these in the US, and keeping us safe. www.powernplayusa.com


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By Bliss
From Vancouver, British Columbia
Aug 6, 2013

Check out these affordable belay glasses from belayshades.com! These are definitly affordable at $45. They work well. They have a 30 day no questions asked guarantee. Today we gave a pair away for half price on our Facebook page. They are also very responsive to any questions etc. Sure you might be able to make some yourself, but for this price don't waste your time just pick some up from us! Rock on!!

Belay Shades Belay Glasses $44.98


Belay Shades Belay Glasses
Belay Shades Belay Glasses

belayshades.com/index.html
youtu.be/zkB9LTT-4r0


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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Aug 6, 2013
OTL

Bliss wrote:
Today they gave a pair away for half price on thier Facebook page.


Quoted for oxymoron posterity.


Also shouldn't 'they' be replaced with 'we' or 'I'? Feel free to spam/whore your goods on MP, just don't try to deny it.


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