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Gear Review - Trango Cinch Belay Device
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By Josh Janes
Aug 16, 2007
Trango Cinch
Trango Cinch

The Trango Cinch

Introduction



Since its inception Boulder, CO based Trango has offered high quality and thoughtfully designed climbing equipment ranging from ice tools to cams to ultra light carabiners. The Cinch belay device is no exception. Although for many years the Petzl GRIGRI has been the autolocking* belay device of choice, Trango, taking advantage of the fact that the GRIGRI has remained essentially unchanged for over a decade, makes a strong entry into the market with its innovative design.

Here is what Trango says about the Cinch on their website:

"The Cinch is the latest in a long line of innovative belay devices introduced by Trango. We designed it with an eye for function, aesthetics, and simplicity (it's about as complicated as a door hinge) so it offers up a secure belay for UIAA/CE certified single ropes. On smaller diameter ropes, or when holding falls that generate extremely high loads (in excess of factor 1) the Cinch acts dynamically, reducing shock loads to the belay system. In addition it will release easily and modulate fluidly while you're rappelling or lowering off. The Cinch feeds ropes easier than any other device, fits nicely in your hand, and weighs 182 grams."

The retail price for a Cinch is $69.95.

Because of the widespread acceptance by the climbing community of the GRIGRI, comparisons are difficult to avoid. As such, three things immediately become apparent: First, the Cinch is lighter (by 20%). Second, the Cinch is smaller (it truly does fit in the palm of your hand). And third, the Cinch is less expensive (by $16). But how does it work?

Design and Function



On a personal note, I first handled a prototype Cinch about four years ago while cragging in Eldorado Canyon in Boulder, Colorado. At the time I was a little taken aback by the unpolished appearance of the pre-production model, but very impressed by its performance. When the finished model was unveiled a year later, I promptly bought one. It has not left my rack since.

The Cinch essentially has two halves that are connected by a pivot point, one half serving as a cam and the other half serving as base. The two halves swivel open, allowing a rope (ranging from 9.4 to 11mm diameter) to be slotted into the device, and then swivel closed again. Incidentally, the likelihood of the rope being fed backwards is reduced by clearly visible pictures of a climber and a brake hand, and a simple "tug" test confirms correct setup. A locking biner is then used to attach the device to a harness belay loop -- the presence of this locking biner also prevents the halves from swiveling open accidentally. The rope can then be paid out or taken in with a fairly normal belaying motion. In the event of a fall, the sudden tension on the rope coupled with the resistance of the belayer's brake hand causes the halves to pivot slightly, and the rope is squeezed between the cam and base, thus locking off the climber. When the climber begins to move again, or is to be lowered, a small metal tab can be pressed or a release handle can be actuated to unlock the device allowing the rope to once again travel freely.

Performance Notes from the Field



Trango Cinch
Trango Cinch

Standard belaying position with the Cinch, as per Trango's instructions.

The Cinch is clearly a well thought out and well constructed piece of equipment. By essentially integrating the internal parts of the GRIGRI into the shell itself, Trango has simplified the autolocking design and created a significantly smaller and lighter package. Using it takes some adjustment, whether one is transitioning from using an ATC or from a GRIGRI, but once the technique is mastered, it does its job quite well.

In fact, I believe I can pay out rope faster and more fluidly with the Cinch than I can with a GRIGRI. Furthermore, I trust the Cinch to lock off on a smaller diameter or slippery rope more than I do a GRIGRI.

Lowering a climber (or rapping a single line) is perhaps slightly easier with a GRIGRI because of the increased leverage offered by its bigger release handle, but this advantage is a minor gain for the tradeoff in weight and bulk.

There is one domain, however, where the GRIGRI still reigns supreme, and that is in use during route projecting and hangdogging. In situations where a leader is taking frequent rests or small falls, and rapidly weighting and unweighting the rope, the GRIGRI is noticeably easier to operate. It is in these situations where the Cinch's strengths (its small size and secure lock off) are also its weaknesses: when a leader is fully weighting the rope and then suddenly begins climbing again, unlocking the Cinch rapidly enough to pay out slack on demand can be difficult. The large size of the GRIGRI allows a simple squeezing of the body of the device to achieve this, whereas the Cinch requires a precise push on the release tab or a separate hand movement to actuate the handle.

Where the Cinch really shines, however, are in situations where its weight and size can be capitalized upon: On longer routes or by the weight conscious climber. Indeed, it has been the Cinch, not the GRIGRI, that has followed me up the Rainbow Wall in Red Rocks, Astroman in Yosemite, the Naked Edge in Eldo, and in the Black Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Unconventional Uses



Trango Cinch
Trango Cinch

The author's Cinch, an older version, complete with keeper cord (discouraged by Trango).

There are a few other applications for the Cinch that I've discovered over the years and have found quite useful. Keep in mind that the following uses are not endorsed by Trango and only try them at your own risk.

  • The Cinch in a hauling configuration: Frequently when belaying a second up to my position I will attach the Cinch to the anchor and belay my partner directly off the anchor instead of off my harness. This could conceivably also be used to haul a light load in lieu of a separate piece of hauling equipment.

  • The Cinch as an added level of protection in simul-climbing situations: Anyone who has ever done much simul-climbing understands that the follower must not fall. However, catastrophe can perhaps be averted by using the Cinch as a "rebelay". Because rope will slide very readily through a Cinch, even unmonitored, and because the Cinch locks up so easily, the Cinch, when clipped directly to a piece of gear midway through a simul-climbing pitch, can protect the leader in the event of the second falling. To further illustrate this use, here's an example from my experience. A few years ago a partner of mine and I wanted to round out our day of climbing in Black Velvet Canyon by climbing Frogland. Lacking adequate daylight, we decided to simul-climb the entire route, but since 5.8 was near the limit of our comfort simul-climbing, we used the Cinch as a rebelay: After leading through the crux, I placed a bomber piece of pro and clipped the Cinch directly to this piece and continued upward. Theoretically, should my partner arrive at the crux and fall off, the Cinch, which was immediately above him, would lock off and prevent me from even noticing that he had weighted the rope. Of course, his weight would have been entirely arrested by one piece of gear, so the importance of that piece being bomber is very high. Furthermore, the Cinch cannot be monitored in this situation. Were it to somehow lock off or become inoperable, it could cause havoc for the party. For this reason I recommend attaching the Cinch directly to the piece (unrunnered) to prevent it from moving around excessively. This of course creates drag -- another thing to consider. Use at your own risk!

  • The Cinch as an ascender: While doing bolt replacement with the ASCA, I've used the Cinch in conjunction with a prussic to create a simple and effective jumaring rig.

  • The Cinch for rope soloing (my favorite illegit use for the Cinch): This past year when I decided I wanted to climb Hairstyles and Attitudes on the Bastille in Eldorado Canyon, I knew it would take some work. I also knew that I'd be hard pressed to find partners interested in belaying for that kind of project. My solution? I rehearsed the route by fixing a line above the climb and rapping in on the Cinch and then climbing out using it as a rope solo device. It worked flawlessly. The Cinch slides over the rope much more freely than a GRIGRI (another common device for this kind of thing) and doesn't damage the rope like a Mini TRAXION. I've used this method for dozens of pitches even right at the limit of my climbing abilities without problems. Tie backup knots, don't let your carabiner get cross-loaded, and use at your own risk! I have not, nor do I ever intend to, use the Cinch for rope soloing on lead.

Miscellaneous Notes



  • There have been a few iterations of the Cinch since its introduction several years ago. I still own and use the very first model which can be distinguished by its gold color and lack of CE certification. The major changes between the models have been a slight modification of the pivot point and a reworking of the release handle. These changes have solved a few common problems such as the Cinch locking up irreversibly while on rappel and poor modulation while lowering a climber. Having used the newer model, I can say that Trango has addressed these minor gripes extremely well. The newer model is blue in color and has a "CE" certification stamp on it.

  • I've found tying a keeper cord through the pivot point of the Cinch helps me to avoid dropping it while inserting or removing the rope at a cramped belay stance. Please note that attaching anything to the pivot hole is specifically warned against in the instructions -- do so at your own risk!

  • Support from Trango is excellent. The instructions provided are detailed and logical, and anytime I've had questions or concerns with the Cinch, I've had them addressed quickly and thoroughly by Trango -- and often personally by Malcolm Daly, Trango's CEO.

Bottom Line



Personally I don't view the Cinch as a GRIGRI replacement -- they both have places on my rack. The Cinch goes with me on every multipitch climb I do, sport or trad. When doing single pitch climbing (or any type of climbing where I anticipate a lot of dogging) the GRIGRI is still my belay device of choice. However, if I didn't already own a GRIGRI, and cost prohibited me from purchasing both devices, I would probably buy the Cinch because of its versatility. Weigh your needs as a climber, try one out in a controlled environment (remember not to expect the Cinch to work exactly like a GRIGRI or an ATC), and go from there.

The Trango Cinch

Retail Price: $69.95
Weight: 192 g
www.trango.com




An explanation of "autolocking"...
The Cinch and GRIGRI are both commonly referred to as "autolocking" belay devices. This term is an unfortunate misnomer as the devices still require an informed understanding of their use, experience, and proper attention to work correctly. Both Trango and Petzl's instructions advise against removing the brake hand from the brake end of the rope in any situation and the misunderstanding of this fact along with the "panic reaction" typical of a new user has resulted in severe accidents. The Cinch and GRIGRI are not foolproof; using autolocking devices is a skill just like belaying with a tube-style device. However, learn the proper way to belay with these devices and they will indeed make one's life easier.

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By saxfiend
Administrator
From Decatur, GA
Aug 16, 2007
Relaxing at the P1 belay of Fruit Loops at Rumblin...
Nice, informative review. I'll have to try the cinch sometime, though the ATC Guide is still my primary device as I use doubles more and more.

JL

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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Aug 16, 2007
Thanks for the writeup. I own both devices as well, and thought your review was spot on. Like you, the biggest challenge I've had with the Cinch is unlocking it quickly when a dogging partner starts climbing again. Glad to hear I'm not the only one. It's a great piece of gear.

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By Ron Olsen
From Boulder, CO
Aug 16, 2007
In the cow pasture below the Tre Cime de Lavaredo,...
Nice review, Josh. I have used the Cinch for the past few years (both old and new models), and it has become my belay device of choice for many routes.

Another point to mention is that the Cinch is designed for 9.4 mm to 11 mm ropes, whereas the GriGri is designed for 10 mm to 11 mm ropes. I think some of the problems people have had with the GriGri are due to using it with ropes less than 10 mm in diameter. The Cinch is the preferred device for skinnier ropes.

I especially like using the Cinch to belay directly off the anchor when bringing up my partner. This use is sanctioned by Trango and is detailed in their instructions:

Belaying a second off the anchor with the Trango Cinch. Control brake end of rope at all times.

Belaying a second off the anchor with the Trango C...
Belaying a second off the anchor with the Trango Cinch.

Control brake end of rope at all times.


Lowering a climber with the Trango Cinch. Redirect brake-end of rope through carabiner when lowering.

Lowering a climber with the Trango Cinch.  Redirec...
Lowering a climber with the Trango Cinch.

Redirect brake-end of rope through carabiner when lowering.


Lowering a climber directly off the anchor with the Cinch is much easier than with other devices like the Trango B-52 or the Black Diamond ATC-Guide.

Trango says you can belay directly off the anchor only when bringing up a second, not when belaying a leader.

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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Aug 16, 2007
Artist Tears P3
Thanks for the excellent review!

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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Aug 16, 2007
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...
The gym I climbed at over last summer in Austin had Cinches. I found them extremely smooth to feed out rope with. In addition, when lowering the break of friction was more gradual than a Gri Gri, so it was easy to do that nicely.

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By Spiro
Oct 21, 2007
summit of whitney
everyone should have one, takes out a layer of risk....sleepy belayer!!

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Jan 29, 2008
I'm finally giving myself up completely to the dark side: I think I'm going to invest in a Cinch or GriGri. So I have a couple questions for those of you in the know. Given that my main (probably only) use will be in the gym and at sport crags, does anyone have any strong opinions about which device is better? IF I end up going with the Cinch and IF I like it well enough to use on multi-pitch climbs, I assume that you can rappel with it on only a single line which would require carrying an extra piece of gear (an ATC or whatever) to avoid simul-rapping (or leaving your cord behind!), no...?

Great Cinch review, BTW.

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By brenta
From Boulder, CO
Jan 29, 2008
Cima Margherita and Cima Tosa in the Dolomiti di B...
Richard Radcliffe wrote:
I assume that you can rappel with it on only a single line which would require carrying an extra piece of gear (an ATC or whatever) to avoid simul-rapping (or leaving your cord behind!), no...?

Check Page 6 of this for rappelling without a second belay device.

Besides GriGri and Cinch, there's also the Faders Sum. I seem to recall that Neptune in Boulder carries it.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Jan 29, 2008
brenta wrote:
Check Page 6 of this for rappelling without a second belay device.

Very interesting single-line rappel technique. You definitely want to be totally focused when setting that up.

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By KCP
From Eldorado Springs, CO
Jan 29, 2008
Richard Radcliffe wrote:
Given that my main (probably only) use will be in the gym and at sport crags, does anyone have any strong opinions about which device is better?


Richard,

I haven't used the Cinch, but I have been a devotee of the Gri Gri for years. I always belay with it - especially on multi-pitch routes -
because of its added safety margin. I also carry an ATC for rappeling, whose added weight and space consumption are insignificant to me.

I have climbed with Ron Olsen, who uses a Cinch, and it appears to work well for him. It seemed a little quirky in that you have to hold the brake handle a certain way, although it is more compact than the Gri Gri.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Jan 29, 2008
Ken Cangi wrote:
...I have been a devotee of the Gri Gri for years. I always belay with it - especially on multi-pitch routes - because of its added safety margin.

It's kind of interesting. I hear of more and more very experienced climbers using the Gri Gri on multi-pitch trad.

My buddy and I have been discussing one safety issue for which the Gri Gri would be useful: if rockfall knocks the belayer unconscious. The leader would be kind of left hanging (literally), but at least they wouldn't be dropped. Is this what you're referring to?

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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Jan 29, 2008
Nice thorough review. One minor issue:

"...and doesn't damage the rope like a Mini TRAXION"

I've done tons of minitrax soloing and most people I know use it in the same application. I have never seen it cause even the slightest amount of rope damage. Maybe you had a different experience with it, but it's an unjustified slag on the minitrax IMO.

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By Nate Oakes
Jan 29, 2008
~2000' above Boulder.
I haven't used a Cinch before, so I'm afraid I have nothing pertinent to say about Cinch vs. Grigri. However, I've rappelled off a few multi-pitch routes with the Grigri and have really liked it. When I'm doing long multi-pitch rappels or free-hanging rappels, when my arm would normally get tired with an ATC, it's nice having an auto-locking pinch-off, especially after a challenging route when I'm pumped already. I used the system shown in the manual, like brenta pointed out. The trigger/handle piece takes just a minute to get used to it, by feel I mean. Just make sure you don't depend on the auto-lock function, always keep a hand on the slack end of the rope and back up your rappel with a Prussik, and tie knots in the ends of the rope.

As for sport cragging and the gym, I use the Grigri more than my ATC. You have to be johhny-on-the-spot when belaying a leader, because if you're not careful the Grigri can pinch the rope when the leader is trying to pull slack for a clip. But it doesn't take much time before you get the hang of it. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. See other threads on this board regarding proper belaying technique, people have been overly dependent on the auto-lock function (or otherwise used the device improperly) and have dropped a leader before.

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By Guy H.
From Fort Collins CO
Jan 29, 2008
Once you have Black, you will fear to go back...
If you are not going to leave the ground (sport, gym, and TR climbing), the Grigri is probably the best fit. It is easier to control the lowering speed with a Grigri.

The Cinch is lighter which is nice for multi-pitch climbs. It can also feed out rope faster in experienced hands.

I can't recommend the single rope rap with either device, but you can control your speed better with a GriGri. This is a big deal for climbers over 175lbs. You should always carry a regular ATC-like device for raps.

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By John Hegyes
From Las Vegas, NV
Feb 16, 2008
South of Windy Peak
Will S wrote:
Nice thorough review. One minor issue: "...and doesn't damage the rope like a Mini TRAXION" I've done tons of minitrax soloing and most people I know use it in the same application. I have never seen it cause even the slightest amount of rope damage. Maybe you had a different experience with it, but it's an unjustified slag on the minitrax IMO.


I think the point was made based on the traxions containing potentially rope-damaging teeth rather than a cam to lock on to the rope.

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By Evan1984
Apr 16, 2008
I recently went to the dark side and dropped $ on an autolocker. I have used both exstensively. I chose the cinch for several reasons: Its lighter, it handles more rope sizes, and it locks off harder. The trade off is that it is slightly less inuitive than the gri and less smooth.

If your main purpose is gym and sport with a lot of hanging, I wold go with the grigri. If you want something thats light and grippy for other things, the cinch gets my vote.

I think I might end up purchasing both, sigh.

Richard Radcliffe wrote:
I'm finally giving myself up completely to the dark side: I think I'm going to invest in a Cinch or GriGri. So I have a couple questions for those of you in the know. Given that my main (probably only) use will be in the gym and at sport crags, does anyone have any strong opinions about which device is better? IF I end up going with the Cinch and IF I like it well enough to use on multi-pitch climbs, I assume that you can rappel with it on only a single line which would require carrying an extra piece of gear (an ATC or whatever) to avoid simul-rapping (or leaving your cord behind!), no...? Great Cinch review, BTW.

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By Mike Pharris
From Longmont, CO
Apr 25, 2008
Climbing above Black Lake
I just popped for the Cinch. In short - i like it a LOT. The added margin of safety due to the autolock is nice to have - especially when my belayer is my daughter.

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By Not So Famous Old Dude
From Denver, CO
Apr 25, 2008
Good review. In response to those asking for opinions about this type of autolocking device. Based on my experience:

1. Gri-gri,Cinch, etc. devices are most useful for times when fatigue or distraction can create a potentially unsafe belaying situation. For me, that is aid/wall climbing and very long all-day type multi-pitch affairs.

2. I have done a lot of rope soloing and would never consider these devices for soloing. They are not designed for it. If you are serious about safely rope soloing, then I would recommend the devices specifically designed for the, i.e. Wren's solo-aid, soloist, or silent partner. Each has it's use, although the SP works for all situations, except very cold weather use.

3. I generally do not use these for gym, sport, or routine trad climbing because they are clumsy for feeding rope, taking in slack, and lowering.

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By DFrench
From Cape Ann
Apr 25, 2008
Vervet Monkeys know which site is best.
I just wanted to comment on my experiences with the Cinch.

I learned to belay on an ATC and I find that the Cinch allows me to feed rope much more smoothly, safely, and efficiently. Though, I do agree that the lowering can be jerky in untrained hands.

As far as soloing goes (TR soloing ONLY) I use the Cinch as my main device because it follows me smoothly on its own and has never failed to lock up in a fall. But to back this up, I trail a Mini-Traxion on a 10" sling below and on the second strand of rope (I usually tie a bight mid-rope and solo <30m routes, hence the two strands). Put 'em both on a BelayMaster to avoid cross-loading and you're good to go. In my mind, this is the safest method available without splurging on a solo-device that has one purpose only.

BTW: I saw a guy with a bright orange Cinch at the BRC, what's the deal with those? Do you have to work for Trango to rock the snazzy ones?

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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Apr 25, 2008
Not So Famous Old Dude wrote:
3. I generally do not use these for gym, sport, or routine trad climbing because they are clumsy for feeding rope, taking in slack, and lowering.


This is incorrect for both Cinch and Grigri if you spend some time using the device. I probably feed smoother with both than an atc now because I use them much more.

My grigri got jacked at the gym, so I have been using the Cinch a LOT. At first I felt clumsy with it, because it does operate much differently that the grigri. But, after belaying 20 leads or so I have it down super smooth. It feeds better than the grigri, and locks down better on skinny ropes.

Lowering, the grigri still is smoother and more controlled, but I am much better with the cinch now.

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By David Lammers
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 7, 2009
Personal Photo
I have used a Gri-Gri for years and got damn good at using it. However, I find the Trango Cinch to be easier to use, lighter, and safer. Feeding out rope to the leader is faster, super smooth and you do not have to temporarily hold down the locking mechanism to do so (like with the Gri-Gri). It lowers faster then a Gri-Gri when fully opened up. This can be tricky for new users. I like to lower with the device full open. So when I lower someone, especially if they are heavy, I will loop the rope through a carabiner on my leg loop and pull upward for some more friction. This works great. I always belay with this device. There is no extra rope placed in the system when the leader falls. Also, it is great to know that I can always catch the leader quickly and hold them even if I am surprised/injured by rockfall or other unforeseen event. I use a DMM Belay Master belay carabiner with the Trango Cinch because it would creep up and cross load the other belay carabiners I would use. This fixed that problem.

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By Chase Gee
From Wyoming/ Logan Utah
Mar 8, 2009
My Top Secret Yet to be named crag.
I just bought a Cinch and I love it although my DMM Python wouldn't fit into the biner hole very well but its super burly so I bought a Petzl Am'd and the combo is very nice. The cinch is simple and you can become an expert prett damn quick. plus its a bit cheaper than a Gri-gri

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By Nich Cloward
From American Fork
Aug 16, 2009
Golden Cathedral, Escalante
I haven't used a grigri much, mostly bc when I started using it, I didn't know much about it, hadn't read ny reviews or heard anything, other than it was an "auto-locker." When I did buy it, and started using it, I felt that it wasn't very smooth in feeding out or lowering my climber. I couldn't find the right place to hold the release handle to keep the feed smooth.
Recently I heard about the SMART by Mammut. I checked it out a little, asked around some and made the purchase (~$30) and I'm very glad I did. It's smaller, much lighter, and cheaper, than the grigri, and has no moving parts. It handles smaller ropes just fine (we use a 9mm mostly, but I've used an 11 with no problems), I think it's rated at 8.5 to 11mm. . .Double check me on that. It is considered "auto-locking" as well, and I tested this by intentionally taking a short fall (not much off the ground) and having my belayer take his hands off the rope (again, not high up and he was spotting me). It locked up beautifully, and releasing the rope to feed to continue climbing is a simple light motion. I defintely suggest buying this piece.
My one concern/drawback is that the rope may rub against itself while feeding slack enough for the leader to clip well above him, so say two-three feet of slack needs to be given, the rope can rub a little against itself.
Anyone have additional review for this piece?

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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Aug 16, 2009
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wal...
Nich Cloward wrote:
Recently I heard about the SMART by Mammut. I checked it out a little, asked around some and made the purchase (~$30) and I'm very glad I did....Anyone have additional review for this piece?

Here's a recent thread on it: mountainproject.com/v/climbing...

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Aug 16, 2009
Nich Cloward wrote:
I haven't used a grigri much, mostly bc when I started using it, I didn't know much about it, hadn't read ny reviews or heard anything, other than it was an "auto-locker." When I did buy it, and started using it, I felt that it wasn't very smooth in feeding out or lowering my climber. I couldn't find the right place to hold the release handle to keep the feed smooth.

The Freino is a little device that helps quite a lot for the issues you describe. You can open the release handle all the way and control the rope friction by changing its angle as it comes out of the little accessory 'biner. Even with it, however, I still only use the grigri for gym, TR, and very occasionally for sport climbing when the situation is appropriate. Also, if cost is a concern, the little bugger will set back a few bux.

The Freino:

Freino
Freino

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