Sponsor Content: Are Self-Braking Belay Devices Hands-Free?

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This story was written by Petzl as advertising material. Climbing Magazine’s editors endorse the content, but had no involvement in its creation.

Q: Is a self-braking belay system hands-free?

A: Self-braking does not imply “hands-free.”

Explanation

When multi-pitch climbing, the first climber can belay one or two climbers on a self-braking belay system from above using a plaquette style belay device in “Reverso Mode”—also known as “Plaquette Style” or “Guide Mode.”

A plaquette style belay device, like the REVERSO, helps the belayer arrest a fall from the climber(s) below. When a climber weights the rope, the climber strand traps the brake strand in the device. The REVERSO was the first device to incorporate the functionality of both tube style and plaquette style devices.

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Be aware that the self-braking properties of a plaquette style belay device may be disabled by any event that:

  1. Prevents the climber strand from trapping the brake strand
  2. Prevents the free movement of the device
  3. Prevents the free movement of the braking carabiner

The following scenarios illustrate two examples of how the self-braking feature of a plaquette style belay device could be disabled. However, if the belayer maintains control of the brake strand, they will still be able to arrest a fall.

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Scenario 1: A thin rope has become twisted in the device and will not trap itself should the climber fall.

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Scenario 2: The belayer has placed directional protection on one rope to keep Climber B from climbing directly above Climber A. Climber A falls or needs to hang on the rope. With Climber A’s weight on the belay, the device will self-brake and orient towards Climber A. With the weight of Climber A preventing the free movement of the device, the Climber B’s rope will not self-arrest in the event of a fall.

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Conclusion

Plaquette style belay devices like the REVERSO are not “hands-free” because their self-braking mode can be disabled. It is vital that the belayer maintain control of the brake strand of the rope(s) at all times.

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Technical Notice

It is important to fully understand the information provided in the technical notice for the REVERSO before using this complementary information. All Petzl products include a technical notice with their packaging. These notices are also available on every product page of Petzl.com. It is important to fully understand the information provided in the technical notice for each product before using this complementary information.

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Technical Solutions are provided by the Petzl Technical Institute. The Petzl Technical Institute serves as a center for knowledge, discussion, and the creation of solutions for those who work or play in the vertical world.

This story was written by Petzl as advertising material. Climbing Magazine’s editors endorse the content, but had no involvement in its creation. 

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