B52 belay device
I set up my belay and pull up the slack on the third pitch of Cathedral Ledges’ ultra classic, “Intimidation.” Now it's time to belay. I yell down to my partner Jay, “How many belay devices do you have?” He replies, “Two, how many do you have?” My reply, “None!” Jay down there on his cushy ledge has the Petzl Reverso ($20.95), the standard in auto-locking belay devices, and the Trango B52 ($23.95), its first real competition. We had been switching between the two all day long for comparison, and he ended up with both! Meanwhile I am thinking it’s a good thing I know the munter hitch, and I ask to Jay, “So which device do you like better?”
Like many other climbers, over the past year I've been using the Reverso. I use it primarily for multi-pitch trad climbing, generally with either a single 9.7mm cord or double 8.6’s, which were used for this review. There is no doubt about it; these auto-locking belay devices are slick. They provide a major convenience, whether you are swinging leads, sorting gear for the next pitch, taking pictures, or having a snack. But they really come into their own when belaying two seconds at the same time. With these babies, moving slow in a party of 3 is a thing of the past.
The first thing I noticed when I got my hands on the B52 was that it basically looks like a normal run-of-the-mill “ATC.” This gives it a distinct advantage over the rigid frame Reverso, in that it is much less clunky to use. You’ll first notice this when you are getting ready to rappel and trying to shove two ends of rope into your device. Another main difference between the two is when belaying two seconds, or when double ropes are used in the auto-locking mode. The Reverso needs 2 locking carabiners to do this and the B52 needs 3. With the B52 a locker is required on your anchor for each rope used, plus an additional locker that serves as the brake. This can be viewed as an inconvenience, but it sure adds redundancy to the belay chain.
Another major plus to the B52 is found when doing rappels with 2 skinny ropes, 8.6mm in my case. Many belay devices especially the Reverso produce fast, hard to control rappels when using thin ropes. The B52 however has plenty of friction, giving a predictable easy to control rappel. This friction also makes catching whippers a breeze, and doesn’t seem to have an affect on feeding out rope to a sketched-out leader making a desperate clip.
I feel the Trango B52 is well worth the cash, and is my new belay device of choice. Jay’s response to my last question was, “I’m not sure which one I like better, but the B52 is something new to play with.” Maybe that’s why he stole from it my harness when I wasn’t looking!
multi-function belay/rappel device