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Until recently, I always had a hard time choosing which
to bring on multi-pitch trad and alpine climbs: my standard belay plate, or an auto-locking device. One was lighter, the other allowed me a free hand to snack and add extra layers while my partner cleaned the pitch. But after a season of using the new Petzl Reverso, it is now the only belay device on my rack.
The Reverso ($21, 2.9 ounces) plays the dual roles of a belay/rappel plate and an auto-locking device. In lead/rappel mode it feeds both single and double ropes just like a tube device. The amount of friction can be adjusted by orienting the device in either of two directions, which is handy when rapping skinny double ropes or paying out slack on a fat lead line.
But the Reverso really shines when bringing up one or two followers. When you reach the belay as a leader, simply clip the ropes and the device directly into an equalized anchor, rig it properly with an additional locking
, and you have an auto-locking belay device. Ropes slide through the Reverso freely, but it locks down with a swift camming action when weighted by a fall from below. And the great part is that not only can two followers ascend at different rates, but if either falls the anchor will hold their weight, not your
. The only downside is that lowering someone with the Reverso, or any other auto-locker, can be awkward because the device is difficult to unlock when loaded against an anchor. If your follower falls on overhanging terrain and swings out, it’s a real pain to lower him back to a ledge.
The speed conscious will appreciate the Reverso’s quick transition from toprope to lead belay modes. After the follower reaches the belay and clips in, you can unclip the device from the anchor, remove the “toproping” locking carabiner, clip the still-rigged Reverso into your harness, and send the new leader on his way.