Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Gear Review: BD Guide Belay Device/Commentary

OK, it's out now so I can write about a cool toy I've been playing with for the last year or so, the Black Diamond ATC Guide belay device. First, a disclaimer: I'm sponsored by Black Diamond and basically paid to say nice things about them. That said, if you ever read any of my product reports to BD I call it like I see it (ask the designers, they @ucking hate me some days, but ultimately they make the gear work right.).

I used to have a box of belay devices, and chose which one to take depending on the day. If it's a multi-pitch route my belay device needs to belay the leader well, function as an auto-block for the second, and rap well on widely varying rope diameters. The "auto block" idea for the second is very common here in Canada and in Europe, but less so in the United States. Years ago my partner and I would share a Placquette (sp?), which was a flat piece of steel with slots in it. You hook it to the belay and it allows the second to fall off and still get caught even if the leader is eating Twinkies and sucking back an energy drink that tastes like liquid Gummi bears. If you're not using some sort of autolock device for the second on multi-pitch routes you're missing out, it's great and a lot safer. It took me a couple of years to come around to the idea of belaying the second with a placquete-style device, but once you start you'll never go back, it's just safer and lower stress (if you have a decent belay anchor--if you don't you're an idiot anyhow).

With a placquette you had to also carry another belay device for the leader, in my case an ATC and later an ATC XP, the grooves on the ATC XP made rapping on the super skinny ropes I often use on alpine climbs much safer. Then the Petzl Reverso came out, and desite being a BD-sponsored athlete I used it a lot, it was lighter than carrying two belay devices and worked well enough for all three rope-handling tasks. The problem with it was that rapping on two 8mm or smaller ropes was sometimes terrifying. The mini-Reverso came out, and that worked well enough but often I climb on one 10.5mm lead rope on ice and use one 7mm as the rap cord, which didn't work well with the mini-Reverso. I found myself taking the ATC XP, it dealt with two different diameter ropes very well, and I liked the security for belaying the leader and rapping.

Finally BD came out with the Guide, which is basically an ATC XP with another 'biner hole to clip it into the belay for bringing the second up in "Reverso" mode. It works very well on any diameter of rope for belaying the second and leader, and also raps very well. There's a cunning little hole to put some cord through that allows the belayer to lower a second while the second is hanging on the rope, pretty cool.

I've rapped on it with ropes as small as 7mm, no problems thanks to the additional friction grooves. It works great for belaying a leader, even if the leader brings an Anaconda 11mm fuzz monster rope, or two "hot" super skinny ropes. It also works well for bringing up the second.

I've used the ATC guide on frozen ropes of all diameters, all kinds of half/twin ropes, and a wide variety of single ropes. It's the best tool for a multi-pitch environment currently on the market.

-Will Gadd

Monday, March 20, 2006

Ice Book in German

I just found out my ice climbing instructional book was published in German--who knew?

von Will Gadd

Endlich ein fundiertes Lehrbuch - u.a. Gewinner des Banff Mountain Book Festival! - für die modernen Spielformen des Eiskletterns. Will Gadd geht sowohl auf die Grundlagen als auch die Spezialdisziplinen wie Mixed und Drytooling ausführlich ein. Die konsequente Schritt für Schritt Vorgehensweise wird durch inspirierende Farbbilder und spannende Erlebnisberichte perfekt ergänzt.

Eisklettern - Eis Mixed Drytooling
Lieferbar ab 17.12.2005
14,8 x 22 cm, 232 Seiten kompl. in Farbe,
engl. Broschur, über 90 Farbbilder
ISBN 3-936740-27-5, Preis € 24,80

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Climbing Again!

I often don't know how much I need to climb until I can't or don't for some reason. For the last two weeks I've been dealing with a sinus infection from hell, but antibiotics have cleared it out. On Thursday I got to finally go climbing after more than two weeks off--not only was climbing with JD, dD and Kennan fun but I felt like a wrap of gauze had been removed from my brain, the rest of life just lit up. I fell off things I can laps on when fit, but it was a great day out! Got home, timed a scotch between antibiotic doses and slept like a rock, just wasted from the "easy" day out.

On Saturday Andy, Kennan and I went into the Real Big Drip, a fantastic Ghost route I've always wanted to do but someohow never have. Just driving into the Ghost and hiking into the climb brought back all the reasons I love to go climbing, most of which actually have little to do with climbing. It's just getting outside with an objective and moving around in winter, hell yeah! I had to try hard on the Real Big Drip, just pumped silly from the get-go, my body still isn't firing on all cylinders, but I really wanted the on-sight and somehow pulled it out of dead forearms. The crux first pitch doesn't have as much ice as normal, so you're looking at a pretty good fall getting to and up the first 20 feet of detached weird ice, but at least it would be clean air! The second and third pitches are also fun, but we stopped after the third as I was worked and so was Andy so we bailed. The ice on the upper pitches looks more fun up close than it appears from far away, it is indeed a Real Big Drip.

Today Kim and I went classic skiing up at Shark, the sun was beating down like it starts to in March--you can truly feel the power of the sun returning this time of year, each day is longer and I can track the progress of the sun as it climbs higher and higher over the mountains in the Canmore valley each day. The snow at Shark was perfect, it's funny how the best snow conditins for skiing are in the spring, when we're all starting to get burned out on winter. dD made a comment on the way into Hafner the other day about how we "push the seasons," or try to do everything too early. We mixed climb in November before it's really fully ice season, then come March we're thinking rock in the height of the best snow and ice season... It's true, but today we grooved on the deep snow and sun while the Chili dog beast sprinted around like a mad coyote, I think dogs know it's going to get warm again soon and it quickens their spirits also. Today there was light in the sky until almost eight in the evening, meaning there is now way more daylight than dark, yeah!

So, even though it's still really winter for another day or something, happy spring!!