When using a plaquette style belay device (Black Diamond ATC Guide, Petzl Reverso, DMM Pivot) in Assisted-Braking Mode or Auto-Blocking Mode (to belay a follower directly off the anchor) there are some ways to reduce the amount of effort required to pull slack through the device. This can lead to a more efficient belay as well as save your elbows from over-use injuries like tendinitis (not uncommon in life long climbers and guides).
First make sure you are using an appropriate diameter rope for your device. Skinnier ropes will require less effort to pull slack then thicker diameters but make sure you are staying within the range the manufacture recommends! For reference here are the suggested ranges for some common devices:
Black Diamond Alpine ATC Guide (8.5mm – 9mm single ropes)
Black Diamond ATC Guide (8.9mm – 11mm single ropes)
Petzl Reverso (8.5mm – 10.5mm single ropes)
DMM Pivot (8.7mm – 11mm single ropes)
The skinnier rope you use the less effort it will take to pull slack through the device. Currently my favorite single rope for multi-pitch ice and alpine rock climbing is the Sterling Fusion Nano IX DryXP, 70m. This rope pulls very smoothly through any of the above devices!
Next be sure to use a round stock locking carabiner like the Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate Carabiner for the rope to run around as opposed to a forged carabiner with “ribs”. The rope will pull noticeable smoother around a round stock carabiner.
Finally consider adding a second carabiner for the rope to run around. This will again reduce the effort of pulling slack through the device with out removing the assisted-braking function.
I hope this tech tech helps your belays run more smoothly! Your elbows will thank you!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
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