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The new Black Diamond ATC Guide is the same guide climber's know and love, just lighter and a larger auto-block release hole to accept a smaller carabiner. Both are improvements on a belay/rappel device that was already a standard of the industry.
The new ATC Guide has the same basic construction and features as its predecessor, version. Black Diamond shaved .5 ounces off of the device by creating windows machined through the body. For ultralight climbers who count ounces like an accountant counts pennies, the half-ounce weight decrease will make this belay device even that more appealing. The enlargement of the autoblock release hole to accept a smaller carabiner allows climbers to utilize the new ultra-light, yet quite smaller, locking biners.
The Black Diamond ATC Guide is a solid, versatile belay/rappel device for whatever the climber's objective is – alpine, sport, trad, mixed or ice climbing. This device's design and features are easy to use while versatile. The device can handle ropes from 7.7mm up to 11mm in diameter.
Like other tubular styled belay/rappel devices, the ultra-skinny ropes can be too thin to create enough friction for a slow rappel or belay if the lead takes a big fall. The rope will move quickly through the device, especially for heavier climbers or climbers wearing a heavy pack. This just requires some vigilance when using thin ropes or employing the auto-lock system.
The ATC Guide can be used two ways - standard belaying/rappelling off of the harness or in "Guide" mode. Guide mode has the device attached directly to the anchor when belaying, instead of attached to the belay loop on the climber's harness. In Guide mode, the second can be belayed up or lowered down efficiently. This is important if the lead is lowering a heavier climber.
When belaying a second in Guide mode, the large metal eye ring is clipped with a locking biner to the belay anchor. A loop of rope is inserted through the ATC Guide opening and a locking carabiner is clipped through the loop of rope and the ATC's cable. This takes the weight off of the belayer and the device locks (auto-locking mode) if the second, who is now climbing, takes a fall.
In Guide mode, a climber can be lowered easily and smoothly. A sling, cord or the cable of a small stopper is threaded through the small release hole (small ring) and girth hitched to the hole. The ATC Guide is raised enough to release tension on the rope, the sling (or other material) is then run through a carabiner which is attached to the anchor. When the sling is pulled down, the rope can be slid through the device, lowering the climber.
These new improvements for the Black Diamond ATC Guide make this an even greater alpine tool. The changes are seemingly small, but show attention to detail that Black Diamond is known. The improvements are not frivolous or unimportant, they do matter to alpinists, especially those who go as light as possible. (MSRP$27.95)
Genevieve Hathaway is a journalist, osteo-archaeologist, world traveler, skier, avid ice climber, and alpinist. She is the founder, Editor and creative force behind Alpine Athena, a core-focused woman's alpinism magazine dedicated to the woman climber. When not in the office, Genevieve can be found climbing mountains and peaks near her native Seattle, and frozen waterfalls in the Washington Cascades, in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, in Ouray, Colorado and as far away as South Korea.
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