Different kinds of belaying devices for rock climbing (from the left) munter hitch knot, ATC or tube, figure-of-eight descender, Cinch, Eddy and Gri-Gri
The easiest answer is: because almost all top climbers of the world are using an automatic
protection device (Gri-Gri, Cinch, Eddy, Smart). For the beginners who do not know much about the belaying during rock
climbing, I must explain: it is an "automatic" protection device which blocks the rope automatically, i.e.
without manoeuvre in case of a fall, without intervention by the belayer who does not have to hold the a potential fall
"manually". However, this reason is not sufficient for a large part of the German and English climbers who are
still belaying with their good old figure-of-eight descender or munter hitch knot ... this is what we have been
taught they said.... I would now like to tell a short story about rock climbing.
30 years ago everybody used to belay with the munter hitch knot because there was no alternative. When the first Gri-Gri came on the market, all climbers of the world welcomed this novelty with great enthusiasm, except for the Germans... Why? A famous "mountain guru" roughly wrote in the German press: "The Gri-Gri is difficult to use and hard to learn (true!) and ... it cuts the ropes (of course completely wrong!). Somebody trusted to ask to the "Guru": "Excuse me but what is the best belaying system for rock climbing?" Answer: "The use of the figure-of-eight descender!". Not everyone agreed with the order of the climbing guru because it is extremely difficult to hold a fall manually with the figure-of-eight descender and the chance to let go of the rope because it is burning your hands is very likely. The guru's quick and "logical" answer was: "wear gloves!" and additionally one more order: "... also in the sports rock climbing spots... wear helmet, breast belt, and of course... gloves!" Finally, after more than twenty years of accidents the guru has gotten quiet and I can report the reasons to you only in private. Some time ago someone published an article in the internet: "Hi climbers people... the figure-of-eight descender is dangerous because... (The reasons for this are described above)". Finally but ... too late for many climbers who have fallen down to the ground! These "news" made a large part of German climbers panic: What shall do we do now? Should we buy a Gri-Gri after all? Never (too expensive!), should we switch back again to the munter hitch knot? Reverso or Reversino? Finally a solution came up: "Now we recommend the ATC guide", also called tube! For those who don' t know yet, ATC means "Air Traffic control" it is not a great stupidity? The result is that more and more beginners are coming to our Alpine School Arco with a newly bought belt and an old type of ATC (received as a present). The sports shops have to clear their dead stocks shelves again! And now another problem: which type of belaying is taught by "professional Schools" or the so-called "climbing teachers"? In my long career I have experienced everything, but what still excites me is what I must see in as well Arco as on Kalymnos in Greece and also in Thailand. In the beginning the "climbing teachers" taught you to belay with the figure-of-eight descender, then they said: "The figure-of-eight descender is dangerous and from now on we are belaying with the ATC. However, when the same "professional teacher" come to Arco or to Kalymnos with their wife or with friends (i.e. without customers) can you imagine what they are taking out of their backpacks?... A Gri-gri! Hey guys! Would you call this "professional" or honest? This is what our professional rock climbing school in Arco at Lake Garda Italy is teaching: our mountain guides demonstrate all types of different belaying devices and systems to their pupils and let them try each type of system and tools. Then everybody can decide for himself what he considers best! And what do our pupils mostly decide on? They rush to the shops in Arco and either buy 9,8-10 mms. rope and a Gri-Gri (in Arco 60 euros - in Germany 85 euros) or if they absolutely want to look trendy they buy a new and thin 8,8-9,4 mms. light, slippery rope together with Cinch or Eddy (in Arco 80 euros). Should I now give advice or tell my opinion after 50 years of climbing experience? No, I am only writing down my personal experience: I am climbing, in spite of my age, either professionally in Arco and on Kalymnos or hobbywise (mostly in Thailand) about 200 days per year. My third Gri-Gri has already been used for five years but I think it is a pity to throw the old and used up device into the garbage! Why, it is only an old thing? Yes, but this device has saved my life at least twenty times! Hello climbers, please consider: do you really think that every person (your woman, your child, your friend) is able to hold the rope in a hand and to save your life in every situation in case of your fall?
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