ATC ban

ATC Ban – climbing gyms are banning non-braking belay devices

Are aTCs moving out and ABDs the new norm?

Many climbing gyms have banned devices that do not have assisted braking. This includes most ATC devices and tube-style belay devices in the market. Although some people are not happy about this, there are some safety concerns that can be hard to argue with. As things progress there is always resistance, but many would feel unsafe now if their belayer was using a belay plate or a figure eight rappel device for belaying at the climbing gym, or a munter hitch knot. Still these have been at times the best methods for belaying. Especially with the figure eight it device, as it was quite common to use them as the main belay device.

Safety issues with tube-style devices

In 2012 the The DAV Safety Research Group did a study in German climbing gyms and found that about the ABDs had only one third of the error rate compared to ATCs. The study also found a lot of safety issues caused by poor belaying skills and also bad habits with assisted braking devices, such as letting go of the brake hand and gripping the lever with it. So you can’t really blame the device if the belayer is making mistakes. When it comes to accidents it still is obvious that many could be avoided with a ABD. 

Price issued with assisted braking devices

Many people complain about the higher prices of the ADB devices as a reason to use a tubular device. This is understandable, but there are some devices such as the Edelrid Jul, MegaJul or GigaJul that are quite affordable and also have assisted braking capabilities.

Usability issues with ABDs

Other issue that many climbers have with ABDs such as the Grigri is that rappelling can’t be done with it (or is at least more complicated) compared to a tube device with two holes (one for each end of the rope). Well the Megajul device can be used for rappelling and it can be even safer than older tube-style devices, as there is semi-automated locking available as well.


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