What is Guide Mode?

What is Guide Mode?

  • Posted by kaleigh
  • On March 7, 2018
  • Comments

Since the development of the ATC (Air Traffic Controller) or at least that’s what I like to call it, climbing companies have been making belay innovations, especially on multi-pitch routes. The old tried and trusty ATC has a few extra designs built into it. At The Front, we carry the ATC Guide, Petzl Reverso, DMM Pivot, and Edelrid Mega Jul. All four of these can be used in so-called guide mode (aka auto-block).

So, what is this guide mode? And how does one master it and become said "guide"? Well as you can see these ATCs have extra holes in them. As shown below the top hole attaches to the anchor while the rope loops through the ATC just like normal.

So what’s the big deal anyhow? Unlike traditional belaying from the ground, if you are on a multi-pitch route belaying your partner up it’s important to address the anchor for both of you. The best practice currently is to remove yourself from the belay system. By removing the ATC from your belay loop and placing it on the anchor you are removing yourself from the system, therefore, setting up a better orientation to belay with. Second, since the rope your partner is on is pressing down on their own brake end of the rope, you are more able to manage proper belaying mechanics.

Guide Mode on an ATC

Now each device has its own unique advantage. In general, the most used are the BD Guide or the Petzl Reverso, but take a look at the DMM Pivot below. You can see the anchor part of the belay device does exactly that, it pivots. By creating a moving part on this ATC it makes it easier to give slack or lower a climber, which is exceptionally difficult to do in guide mode.

Next, we look at this strange Edelrid Jul device. Edelrid quite cleverly developed a way to create an ABD (Assisted Breaking Device) out of a regular tube style ATC. So, if you are multi-pitch climbing you no longer need to haul up a bulky GriGri to keep your led climber safe on lead falls. In guide mode shown below, the Jul works in the same way as other ATCs with one exception: you load it backwards and lock the carabiner on top then back through the belay ring on the ATC. Seems confusing but this is the only way to keep a rope from flipping over itself in guide mode, which all other ATCs will do if the rope has lots of twists in it or you are belaying with a very skinny rope (like a 9.2mm or less).

Jul

You can also use ABD devices like the GriGri in guide mode. The old GriGri 2 is not as foolproof in the same way that the other ATCs are so you must keep your hand on the brake at all times (see video). The new GriGri+, however, has a top-rope mode built into it and if you set it up on guide mode it is better suited for mitigating brake hand errors as an ABD.

GriGri2

GriGri+

Lastly, all of these devices have a second smaller hole on the bottom - it’s made smaller so it’s not to be confused with the anchor side of the ATC. This hole is used to leverage the device open when it locks so you can lower a climber or give them slack if need be. No matter what device you end up using make sure you read and understand the proper uses demonstrated by the manufacturer, and don't forget no device is absolutely foolproof, it's important to never take your hand off the brake when belaying a climber in any form.

So, what have we learned? Sheesh too much!

BY BEN GARNDER
RETAIL MANAGER AT THE FRONT CLIMBING CLUB

*THE EXPLANATIONS ABOVE ARE NOT INTENDED TO BE COMPLETE INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE OF THE GEAR. CLIMBERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR EDUCATING THEMSELVES ON ALL ASPECTS OF CLIMBING, BELAYING AND USE OF ALL GEAR, AND FOR FOLLOWING ALL MANUFACTURER INSTRUCTIONS AND PERMITTED USES OF ALL GEAR. THE FRONT RESERVES THE RIGHT TO RESTRICT THE TYPES OF CLIMBING GEAR THAT ARE ALLOWED TO BE USED IN ITS GYMS AT ALL TIMES, INCLUDING RESTRICTING THE USE OF THE GEAR DESCRIBED ABOVE.*