Here’s some insight into Climb Central’s decision-making process on the move to introduce assisted braking device (ABDs) and improve belaying standards.
Usage of ABDs may result in an increased margin of safety
ABDs are designed to assist a belayer to hold a falling or hanging climber. A report by the German Alpine Club shows that usage of ABDs results in an increased margin of safety. The rate of observed error falls from 1.09 errors per person on a non-ABD, to 0.5-0.75 with the ABDs that were tested. See full report here.
Proficient belaying, education and training are still important
An ABD or any belay device, is only effective if used in the intended manner. When using a new belay device, climbers will not only need to be a proficient belayer but also need to learn about manufacturer’s usage recommendations, as well as the advantages and limitations of each device. As the number of new climbers increases, we need to do more if current levels of education, training and checks are insufficient. Climb Central will run ABD workshops on the Click Up, Mega Jul and Lifeguard. Sign-ups are already open here. We want you to understand the limitations of each device, practice using them and be equipped to choose your own.
Other climbing gyms have taken this step to manage risk. Should we follow?
Despite our best efforts, some risks will remain inherent. We know of some facilities in US, Canada and Australia that only allow ABD or have pre-equipped all lanes with GriGris as an additional precaution (e.g. BKB Chicago, Allez Up, Junction Climbing, Bayside Rock Climbing). While these are not a majority, the central question is how we can reduce or eliminate as many risks as possible. One injury could affect the reputation of the entire sport of climbing. It could also be an injury to someone we know. Climb Central has committed to 3 x per week evening re-verification to ensure you are able to confidently climb /belay and also use your preferred ABD. This will be done between March to May, before our ban on 1 June 2017. We are also working towards a system where verification is focused on skill proficiency and not attendance at classes.
Change will continue to happen.
Time, energy and other resources will be required for every change. Nonetheless, manufacturers are consistently improving their technology and introducing new belay devices. Regardless of how we feel, we should not be ignorant of these developments. Find out more about 2017 ABDs launches here or learn about manufacturer thinking here. Climb Central will not restrict or recommend any particular ABD. However, for operational ease, we will only be renting out the Mega Jul. Rental will be free until 1 June 2017. We will also be training our staff on general principles of ABD usage and to conduct verification in accordance to recognized standards. It should be noted that ABD usage does not change core principles of belaying. It remains the responsibility of climbers using any personal equipment in the facility to use the equipment in accordance with manufacturer guidelines.
We hope this answers some of your questions and addresses some of your concerns. Please feel free to speak to us if you would like to know more.