We are taking these two puppies out for a spin today, since they are the top belay devices with auto locking features.
The new GriGri Plus comes with great upgrades, such as; two belay settings for top-rope and lead belaying, anti-panic mode and smoother rope management for both belaying and descending.
The Mammut Alpine Smart has been often criticized for its bulcky design, but it comes with great features as well, such as; auto locking mechanist, turns into guide mode for top belay with the smoothest rope feeding yet to be seen, double loops for rappelling and making this device the perfect companion for left handed individuals.
We shall share more information on them once we take them outdoors today and update this post.
And here is the UPDATE (4/25/2017):
I took these two devices out for a day of trad climbing and immediately realized how much I obviously prefer the GriGri 2 and the regular tube style ATC, and here is why;
The GriGri + (Plus)
The new GriGri Plus is missing the little lip on the right side that used to hook perfectly on my finger to hold the device in the perfect position to pay out slack to a lead climber. Just holding it on one finger made it easy for me to pay out slack even without having to release or hold the break down, because I would make a cycle curve with the rope in my hand that would allow for the rope to run smoothly. Petzl has removed this little side curve and replaced it with a slippery nob that is only useful when you need to squeeze the device to unlock it with your thumb and pay out slack. So now we have no choice but to hold the entire device to pay out slack. I am pretty sure there must be some higher purpose for such thing and I hope to find that out in time.
In addition to this change, Petzl also added the Anti-Panic function, which I found to be incredibly helpful in two areas – lowering a climber or descending on a rope (descending a rope was way smoother than with the GriGri 2). I tested the anti-panic mode by pulling on the break handle all the way while lowering and it worked like a charm, stopping my decent immediately.
Also, the GriGri Plus does offer two settings (lead-mode and top-rope) with a little white switch to lock it on either mode. Once locked, there is no way you can unlock this – unless you have a tooth pick or a nut tool. For sport climbers, this won’t work – because they don’t carry nut tools (just saying). So unless you carry a small pocket knife with you while climbing, a nut tool or a tooth pick – do not lock it on either mode.
The Mammut Apline Smart
The Mammut Alpine Smart is another device that will take some adjustment. I normally use extensions off my harness to rappel, and I found this made it very hard to unlock the device since it requires a lot of pressure to be applied to unlock it when is loaded. During my rappel with a single rope, it was a little tricky, but with two ropes it was even more work.
Using an auto-block cord is recommended for descending/rappelling, but I found it to be cumbersome to have two items to unlock during a rappel – so I took the auto-block off and the descent was not as smooth as I had expected. Again, I just tried it with an extension and need to test again rappelling directly off my harness to find out if it makes any difference. I will update this post, once my test has been completed.
One more thing I wanted to point out; as I was standing at the top of a cliff with someone else that had forgotten their ATC to rappel, my instant reaction was to look at my gear loops for a spare when I came to the realization that the only extra piece of equipment I could offer them was the Mammut Apline Smart. This is something that never came to mind before, if I ever needed to share my equipment with someone, the Apline Smart is not a device I could just hand to anyone – because it is very complex to use. Someone who does not fully understand or has used the device before will have a lot of trouble trying to rappel with it.
I tested the device on guide mode to bring up a second and it is definitely way smoother (even with a 10mm rope!) than a Reverso or ATC Guide.
Just like with any new piece of equipment there is a learning curve and a period of adjustment. With an open mind and lots of practice, I am looking forward to keeping these two devices as part of my regular equipment. If that changes at any point – You will be the first to know. Maybe I will make a video and post it here too.