A lot of skill – and daring – is involved when someone goes out for some serious climbing. More than basic is to know how to belay and rappel properly. But that is not all. It is also essential for someone to choose wisely the type and quality of the belay device that is going to use
What Is Belaying?
Let us first define what belaying is. Belaying is basically when you and another climber are connected with a climbing rope and you control the rope’s movement to protect the other climber. It is one of the most vital climbing skills, considering that the climber’s safety depends on it. A belay device is a mechanical piece that is often employed as a friction brake device and makes it easier for the belayer to control the climbing rope and stop a climber’s fall.
Types of Belay/Rappel Devices
There are four types of belay/rappel devices that can be used, depending on your climbing needs.
- Tubular Belay Device: The most commonly used and popular type of belay device, the tubular belay device, as the name implies, is generally tubular or rectangular in shape. Lightweight and compact, this is very easy to use and deemed to be suitable for all types of climbing. Its twin holes at the bottom are made to easily accommodate single or double ropes, as well as ropes of varying diameters. There is no danger for the ropes to become twisted in the process. Meanwhile, the length of the tube gives precise control over the friction of the rope passing through it.
- Figure 8 Device: This belay device is shaped like the number 8, and is most effective as a ‘descender’. Just like the number 8, it has two holes, with one hole larger than the other. Rope is passed through the big hole, looped around outside the smaller hole, and then tightened in the area between the two holes. In order to attach the Figure 8 to the climber’s harness, a locking carabiner is clipped through the small hole. Any rope diameter can be used with this type of device. This is more suitable for caving and rappelling rather than belaying because it does not offer as much precision as the tubular device. Its main drawback is how the rope has a tendency to twist or kink while in use.
- Belay Plate / Sticht Plate: The introduction of other types has overshadowed this belay device. However, it is still favored by many climbers because of its ease of use. The belay plate usually has a flat metal or aluminum plate and two holes, making it ideal for double ropes. Rope is passed through the holes or slots and clipped into a locking carabiner on the climber’s harness. Friction is produced when both sides of the rope are pulled from opposite directions. This is useful in all types of climbing.
- Auto Locking or Self-Braking Device: Just like your typical car seatbelt, when force is applied suddenly on this device, a mechanism or a rotating cam integrated into it locks the rope down. It is very easy to use and would not cause a lot of strain on the belayer whether a climber fall suddenly. One sharp tug and the rope is automatically locked. They are mainly used for indoor and sport climbing and are more expensive than the other types of belay devices.
Whatever type of climbing you do, make sure you have the appropriate tools or gear to ensure your safety and reduce the chances of accidents or injuries. That includes the type of belay devices that you use. Remember, these small mechanism will save your live.