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Giga Jul Initial Impressions


Original Post
Tim Meehan · · Boulder · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 160

I put some miles on my Giga Jul this past weekend.  Here are some initial impressions.  First, some context, then some opinions.

Context.  I have been using tube devices for nearly 30 years for belay and rappel.  I am most comfortable with tubes. That’s just the way it is.  My favorite tube has been a DMM Pivot.  I have been feeling compelled to move toward some type of assisted braking belay device to increase the safety margin.  So, I learned to use a Grigri to belay leaders and was taking that and the Pivot on multi-pitch routes.  I wasn’t thrilled taking the extra device along, even one as versatile as a Grigri, so I tried a Mega Jul.  I didn’t like the Mega Jul at all.  It seemed too fussy to me, especially when belaying a second from above off the anchor.  So, I sold it and bought a Giga Jul hoping that this would be a good single device for multi-pitch belay and rappel.

Opinions. The Giga Jul appears to be a solid generalist device for multi-pitch climbing, on 9.6-mm Edelweiss and 9.4-mm Black Diamond ropes.

When belaying a leader off the harness from below, with the Giga Jul in assisted-braking mode, feeding out rope tube-style was smooth when the leader was climbing slow, and snagging the thumb loop and pulling out slack for clips was just like the Mega Jul, if not a little easier.

For belaying a second off the anchor from above, with the Giga Jul in standard guide mode, it was identical to my Pivot.  It was way, way easier to move the rope through the device than the Mega Jul.

For rappel, with the Giga Jul in standard mode with an auto-block backup, my preferred method, it was identical to my Pivot.

For rappel, with the Giga Jul in assisted-braking mode, it was smoother than the Mega Jul.  Similarly, lowering a climber off an anchor from below with the Giga Jul in assisted-braking mode was smoother than the Mega Jul.  And heat build-up and transfer to my lever-hand during rappel and lowering with the Giga Jul in assisted-braking mode was not an issue like it was with the Mega Jul.

So, there it is.  I won’t try to convince anyone that this is the best solution for belay and rappel for all situations.  There are a lot of different contexts and a lot of good options to choose from.  But, I will bring my Giga Jul along for future multi-pitch days, and leave the other devices at home.  It seems to be a simple, solid, light and inexpensive choice for a multi-pitch climber who is most comfortable with tubes and simply wants assisted braking for belaying a leader.  It serves the same purpose as the Mega Jul, but is much more user friendly.

Edit. I haven't yet had the opportunity to catch a nasty leader fall with a Giga Jul.  I am assuming it will work, and will certainly let folks know if it doesn't.

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Well yeah, some of us actually think stopping a falling climber is the acid test of a belay device!

gumbie gene · · NJ · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

How'd the assisted-breaking rappel feel? Still jerky or much improved? Curious on more info regarding that aspect if you could elucidate it. Thanks for the write up, much appreciated

Malcolm Daly · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 380

Raining here in Boulder so went to the gym with Coppolillo and his 9.8mm Boa today to try out the GigaJul. It basically does everything it claims to do and does it well. Much better than the MegaJul. Didn’t get the chance to try lowering a hanging climber in guide mode but it did seem to be a bit a easier to bring up a second guide mode than the MegaJul. Since its possible to rig the GigiJul backwards two ways we wanted to see how bad it was. We rigged it backwards in the  Manual mode with the Assisted switch on and Assisted mode with the manual mode mode on. In both FUBAR cases it acted like an old-school Tuber or ATC. Also tried rapping in the MegaJul style autoblock mode. While it was a bit better than the MegaJul it was still pretty ragged. Better to rap in the manual mode with a “third-hand” as a backup they way you’re supposed to.

Best of all I took my first real whipper in 20 years. My last whipper was a 200-footer that left me me with an amputated foot so I had been reluctant to climb to the point of falling.  I was pulling up slack to clip the last bolt when my foot blew off the hold for a 20 footer so I got to test the GigaJul in manual arrest mode. I weigh 195 and I’ll bet Cop’ is a solid 165 so it felt like a real fall. 

Damn thing worked pretty well and I think that both of us will call this our go-to device for multi-pitching

Climb Safe,
Mal

coppolillo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 70

Mal! Indeed, I can verify Mal was indeed clipping above his head at bolt 4 (right?) and managed to skate one of his feet off a back-step...he had enough rope out I consciously did NOT jump or give him much of a soft catch...for fear of catching his prosthetic on my noggin. The GigaJul was set up in its correct "non-assisted" configuration, meaning, it performed as a plain tuber/plaquette. Caught just fine. (Of note: he got back on and finished his climb--almost 20 years to the day of his mega-whipper in AK which resulted in mangling one foot, losing the other.)

I agree with Mal: GigaJul lowers smoothly in both manual and assist mode. I actually prefer belay/lowering in assist mode, as once you get the hang of feeding in assist mode, I find it predictable and smooth.

I rapped with it (three rappels) the other day---Marc Chauvin's in town and we did some sports climbing in BoCan. I rappelled with it extended in manual mode, with a third-hand back-up. Smooth and fine. I haven't rapped with it yet in assist mode, but Mal's thoughts are above.

9.8mm rope seems a little fat for it in guide mode, when belaying a 2nd. With a round-stock carabiner and a rope around 9.0...seems like it will take rope pretty well/smoothly. More on that when I get out with it and "guide-style" belay with it.

Haven't weighed it at home yet. I'll try and remember to get it done. Edelrid calling it 100g, I think.

I've tried just about everything (GriGri, GriGri +, both versions of the ClickUp, MegaJul) for a client belay device. GriGri is too expensive if they drop it, in my opinion. Also, you're teaching them how to defeat the device to give you a relatively smooth/fast belay, which worries me a bit. ClickUp is pretty good, but requires more coaching and teaching for them to use it. I like it, though. Light and relatively cheap. Haven't tried BD Pilot yet. MegaJul and now GigaJul is a pretty strong candidate for a client belay tool. Belay technique is pretty similar to an ATC (which most clients are familiar with), takes a couple pitches to get them hip to keeping the thumb in the thumb loop and providing a smooth feed, and relatively light/inexpensive if they drop it. Probably use the Mega and Giga as my client belay tools?! I think!

(Other option is direct belay from clients if you're doing "real" climbing---and by that I mean, climbing hard enough I might fall off. Given I got waxed on 12- today after you left, Mal, my "real" climbing starts pretty soon after Eldo 5.9-!)....

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I'll still prob guide with a Gigi because it top belays so well, and then consider a GigaJul for the client and an ATC or Giga for me. One thing I like about the ATC-Guide is being able to use it as an ascender in a pinch. I'll see how the Giga does that.....

More whippers soon, Mal! RC

Jared Chrysostom · · Charleston, SC · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 5

Have either of you used the Smart or Smart Alpine? If so, comparisons?

Malcolm Daly · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 380
Jared Chrysostom wrote: Have either of you used the Smart or Smart Alpine? If so, comparisons?

I need to do that. Matt at the shop is a big fan of the Smart 2 but I need to get it out and try it. I’m a bit concerned that it might not work well with a traditional tuber-style hand sequence but that’s only speculation at this point.

Mal
Jared Chrysostom · · Charleston, SC · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 5
Malcolm Daly wrote:

I need to do that. Matt at the shop is a big fan of the Smart 2 but I need to get it out and try it. I’m a bit concerned that it might not work well with a traditional tuber-style hand sequence but that’s only speculation at this point.

Mal

I can tell you that toprope belay works just like a tube device. Paying out slack when lead belaying works sorta like you described the Giga Jul, you hook and lift the device with the thumb of your brake hand and pull slack through with the other. I’m interested to hear your thoughts vs the Giga after you try one.  

mattm · · TX · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,395
Jim Titt wrote: Well yeah, some of us actually think stopping a falling climber is the acid test of a belay device!

Mine is inbound to give a try. It appears from numerous pictures that they’ve incorporated some form of the steel braking surfaces ala a click up or smart 2. Jim notes this is how the Click Up achieves notably higher braking forces vs the awful MegJul. Hoping they got the angles and spacing with the carabiner slot correct so this get closer to the Goldilocks piece on multis.  

Chris Blatchley · · Somerville, MA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 7
Malcolm Daly wrote:

I need to do that. Matt at the shop is a big fan of the Smart 2 but I need to get it out and try it. I’m a bit concerned that it might not work well with a traditional tuber-style hand sequence but that’s only speculation at this point.

Mal

I found that because if the weight distribution, it was hard to use normal tuber style hand sequence. The slider in the back would make it lean back or fall down close to the carabiner, causing it to snag more often and forcing me to use my thumb in the nose. This was with a fuzzy 9.8mm rope though. 

coppolillo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 70

I tried a first-gen Mammut Smart and didn't care for it, so I can't give any useful comparison between it and the Giga.

The braking surfaces are indeed stainless on the Giga. (Using it with the Edelrid "Bulletproof" HMS biner, which is pretty cool--it's the one with the inlaid stainless running portion of the biner...)

I'll be curious/hopeful that Jim can devote a bunch more of his personal time testing the Giga. The Mega didn't do as well as other devices in terms of holding power in his first round of tests. Certainly worrisome with a potentially high-force fall.....Mal and I were discussing direct-belaying in those situations....but that's another rabbit hole entirely!

Malcolm Daly · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 380

Jim Titt,
What’s the story on direct belaying the leader on multi pitch? Edelrid seems to recommend doing that rather than belaying off the harness.  Should we re-learn everything we thought we knew?

Again?

Mal

Andre Fortin · · Waterdown, ON · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 25

I also used my giga jul for the first time last week end. My buddy and I usually use a grigri to belay a leader and a DMM pivot to belay a second.

I never had the chance to play with any of the other "jul family" of devices in the past, so I had to resort to viewing youtube videos (some in German) and reading the manual that came with it. I found that it wasn't difficult to figure out how to use the different operating modes, however it did take us a couple of climbs to become more familiar with the device. I weighed the device and it came at roughly 50g lighter than my grigri 2. We got to use the giga jul when belaying a trad leader in assisted mode, a top rope climber in assisted mode (lower as well), belaying a second from above, and lowering a second from above. In the case of lowering the second from above; I directed the climber to get up on the route about 10 - 15 feet, at which point I inserted an edelrid locking biner into the designated giga jul recess to unlock the rope and was able to quite smoothly lower the climber back to the ground. Of note, not all carbiner noses will fit the giga jul for this purpose, obviously the giga jul seems to have been designed to accept an edelrid biner perfectly.

I have yet to rap with it, or use twin/half ropes, but so far, I am very happy with how the device is working out and feel confident that it is going to be my primary belay/rap item for everything. My buddy seems to think the same as well, since he's already ordered his as well.

Andre

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490
coppolillo wrote: I tried a first-gen Mammut Smart and didn't care for it, so I can't give any useful comparison between it and the Giga.

The braking surfaces are indeed stainless on the Giga. (Using it with the Edelrid "Bulletproof" HMS biner, which is pretty cool--it's the one with the inlaid stainless running portion of the biner...)

I'll be curious/hopeful that Jim can devote a bunch more of his personal time testing the Giga. The Mega didn't do as well as other devices in terms of holding power in his first round of tests. Certainly worrisome with a potentially high-force fall.....Mal and I were discussing direct-belaying in those situations....but that's another rabbit hole entirely!

I try to restrain myself from testing new devices, even if the numbers say it´s a heap of shit the enthusiastic new owners get all hot under the collar. I´ve found it better to wait a few years until some reality appear in the users impressions before sticking my head over the parapet!

Edelrids views on direct belaying are unknown to me, I´ve never seen them. The application of belay devices isn´t really my subject, I only test their capabilities within the constraints of the manufacturers instructions and say if they work or not. 

Karl Henize · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 643

I have used the Giga Jul for belaying in both assisted and manual modes.  I have also used it to belay in auto block mode.  I have used it to rappel in manual mode, but not assisted braking mode.

My initial impression is that it works as advertised, a jack of all trades.  The unique ability to switch between assisted braking and manual “tuber” modes is nice.  Unfortunately, you cannot switch modes, without taking the rope out of the device.  

In my opinion, manual and autoblock belaying is no worse than belaying with a Reverso. Rappelling is smooth, in manual mode.  

That being said, the weight is equivalent to a carrying both a Ovo/Reverso and Mega Jul.  So, it is not necessarily better than carrying two tube/plate devices that, together, could provide similar functionality.

Karl Henize · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 643
Malcolm Daly wrote: Jim Titt,
What’s the story on direct belaying the leader on multi pitch? Edelrid seems to recommend doing that rather than belaying off the harness.  Should we re-learn everything we thought we knew?

Again?

Mal

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eqZQnCGl24A 

William R · · Unknown Hometown · Joined 30 days ago · Points: 3

going to try it out.  FYI right now they have them at gearx.com and you can use promo code KICKOFF20 to get 20% off.  Mine came out to 39.95 with free shipping and an additional 5% off with active junky.

Ben Ha · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0
William R wrote: going to try it out.  FYI right now they have them at gearx.com and you can use promo code KICKOFF20 to get 20% off.  Mine came out to 39.95 with free shipping and an additional 5% off with active junky.

Sadly its OOO :( 

William R · · Unknown Hometown · Joined 30 days ago · Points: 3
Ben Ha wrote:

Sadly its OOO :( 

Someone must have picked up some.  After my order they still had some in stock.  But I don't see any now.

Chris Blatchley · · Somerville, MA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 7

was happy with the giga jul's performance this weekend belaying and rappelling with half ropes. rapping in autoblock mode was significantly better than the mega jul. absolutely worth the upgrade if you liked the mega jul as a jack of all trades but were frustrated by it's mastery of none.

coppolillo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 70
  • Just climbed a few more days on the GigaJul, using. 9.2mm Edelrid Topaz rope. Several pitches belaying a single follower in guide mode, rappelling, etc. Also had a very inexperienced client belay with it, several pitches. All in all, does everything well. Client took about 40 feet to get the hang of feeding rope, no sweat. I still prefer top-belaying with a Gigi---but the Gigi basically beats every other device when belaying in guide mode. GigaJul totally fine, works well, but just requires a bit more pulling to keep rope moving thru it. Rappels smoothly and I still prefer it in non-assisted mode, with a third-hand backup, instead of rappelling in assisted mode. I'll try to get some pitches on it when a skinnier cord, just for comparison....
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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