Did you ever go to the gym alone, hoping to find a friend to climb with, but failed to do so? It might happen that you are not in the mood for bouldering, or perhaps you want to run laps up and down the wall for training. It would have been impossible to find a slave to serve as your belay in the past. The auto belays are the useful tool that climbing gyms have incorporated to help climbers climb without a belay partner.
Your belay loop should be connected to the free locking carabiner. After locking the crab on the ground anchor, unclip the other carabiner. Now climb. It is your responsibility to ensure the auto belay works correctly, so be attentive to any strange or changing performance. You should always clip the anchor to your harness before unclipping from it when you’re done.
A belay device that takes up the slack during climbing reduces the need for a ground belayer to assist you. Climbers are automatically caught and safely lowered to the ground by the device upon reaching the top, or if they fall.
Doesn’t that sound easy?
What does it do to pick up the slack, you ask? How does it keep me from falling?
In this article we will review some of the mechanics of the device to better understand how it works as well as why it is a safer alternative to free soloing than climbing alone.
Auto belay devices consist of two parts: an internal mechanism and an outer shell.
The device’s exterior features a durable metal case and an installation handle that anchors it to the wall.
It is also relatively simple inside.
An inner spool is attached to a coil of nylon coiled tight around the device’s lanyard. Rather than tying a rope to this lanyard, you clip into it.
Ascent is usually accomplished through a similar mechanism, but descent is achieved by differing mechanisms among different types of automatic belay devices.
In order to ascend, a retraction spring winds the lanyard into the device while you ascend. In order to control a descent, there are two types of braking systems: friction-based and magnetic-based.
For braking, one auto belay design uses magnets.
Think of the braking force you felt when you rode a roller coaster, train, or elevator – all of these use magnetic forces for deceleration.
Two large magnets inside the device are attached to a rotor, which controls the belay.
By descending, the climber pulls the slack out of the device, turning the rotor. Consequently, the magnets move away from the center of rotation.
With the magnets moving outward, the plate that borders the rotor is being drawn closer to the magnets.
An electromagnetic force is induced as the magnets approach the metal plate, slowing down the rate of descent to a safe and comfortable speed.
There is a minimum/maximum weight of 22 lbs/330 lbs for the TRUBLUE auto belay system.
Because the magnets take some time to recoil the slack, it is possible to outclimb a TRUBLUE auto-belay, but they are one of the most popular auto-belays on the market these days.
While descending, friction braking systems such as the one found in the Perfect Descent auto belay rely on centrifugal force to slow them down. An object spinning in a circle experiences centrifugal force, which produces an outward push.
When you use a washing machine, imagine how your laundry is pushed to the outside walls of the machine during the spin cycle – centrifugal force is used to accomplish this.
This device has a drum brake (similar to what you would find in a car parking brake).
As the climber descends, the climbing lanyard uses centrifugal force to slow him down.
During a fall, your weight creates centrifugal force when the spinning wheel (the drum brake) spins in the opposite direction.
By pushing the internal brake pads out against the braking drum, you slow down your descent to a safe and controlled speed.
As your weight increases, the faster you descend with Perfect Descent auto belay system.
The operating minimums and maximums of this type of auto belay are 25 and 310 lbs, respectively.
To auto belay to work properly the first time (or 100th time), you must clip into the lanyard and locking carabiner.
As with partner belays and climbing in general, human error is the biggest liability when it comes to auto belays.
Additionally, you must unclip your lanyard from the ground anchor before clipping it to your harness.
It’s not uncommon to see an autobelay completely retracted because someone fumbled the clip to their harness before unclipping from the anchor.
The first step in using an autobelay is to clip the locking ‘biner on the nylon lanyard into the belay loop on your harness. Unclip the carabiner from the ground anchor after the carabiner is locked and securely attached.
After that, unclip from the ground anchor and climb the route of your choice.
The devices should be regularly maintained and checked, but testing at a low level is not harmful. Be extra careful since it is just you and the auto belay.
You should climb until you reach the top or your own personal limit, then stop. To practice your footwork, you can either declimb the route using the auto belay or use the upclimbing route.
It may seem intimidating at first, but trust me – an autobelay will catch you.
If you would like to jump off a wall, you must be willing to let go of it with both hands and position yourself as if you are sitting in a chair with your legs extended.
From there, the auto belay takes care of everything! You can safely descend!
While this shouldn’t happen, if you notice any weird behavior in the device, changes in decent speed, or weird sounds, feel free to ask one of the staff members to check it out.
When it comes to climbing gear, it’s your responsibility to ensure everything is in good working order and that you’re happy with it.
As an alternative to solo bouldering, auto belays are considered an incomparable training tool.
An auto belay allows you to run laps down and up the wall as many times as you want, provided no one else is waiting for you. Especially when you’re feeling pumped, laps will improve your endurance and technique.
Furthermore, you can descend on an autobelay to improve your footwork.
Climbers should know how to downclimb, especially if they plan on getting on traditional routes without a lot of beta in the future.
Another great reason to use an auto belay is when you climb slowly.
It is easier for you to improve your weaknesses when you slow down your speed on the wall.
To fine-tune your technique and move your feet as efficiently as possible, you can move as slowly as possible, gripping each hold for a few seconds.
A simple route on an auto belay is also a great way to warm up before getting on a bigger project in the gym.
A further advantage of auto belays is that new climbers can try out their skills before they tie on to a sharp end in the real thing.
Using the auto belay and a lead rope, you can practice clipping. When you climb, clip your lead rope to the autobelay so that it acts as a backup lifeline in case you fall unexpectedly.
The ability to maximize solo training time and relieve your partner of the burden of belay duties makes an auto belay an excellent option for anyone trying to improve their training routine or get into lead climbing without needing to deck.
Many decades ago, early automatic belays designed for indoor rock climbing revolutionized the industry, and their efficiency and safety have only improved with time.
If you want to climb on your own, auto belays is the perfect solution!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How do you use auto belays?
To know how to use auto belays, check out this video.
Do auto belays make climbing easier?
Auto belays encourages you to commit to a route. If you learn to fall rather than ask for a take, you’ll be able to climb much harder. Once you’re back to climbing with your partner and when you’re on autobelay, this mental shift will work wonders.
How does a belayer work?
Basically, you feed a rope through a slot that is attached to your harness with a locking carabiner. When the climber weights the rope, the non-assisted devices crimp on it and create enough friction for the belayer to catch or hold the climber.