UKH

Alpine up or Giga Jul?

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 David Coley 13 Sep 2021

Hi,

ideally addressed to those that have used both, any thoughts on plus and minus for each mainly for use with double ropes, please. Thanks.

My thoughts (after some use of both) so far are:

Giga Jul = compact, looks like a normal plate, reasonably obvious to load; but the need to insert the thumb is different to that when using a normal plate so kind of not building the same muscle memories(?), possibility that if the thumb is not dropped it is kind of possible to override the locking.

Alpine Up = works like a normal plate hand movement wise, seems to lock up well even if hands-free due to belayer messing up; but chunky, lots of complex holes that are confusing if not used often, sticky with fatter ropes, fiddly to insert ropes.

Thanks again.

1
 David Coley 13 Sep 2021
In reply to David Coley:

one more thing I find difficult with the giga jul, because one only pulls the rope through it, not pushes and pulls, the rope pile needs to be very well sorted, or one has to pull quite hard.

I can see this being hard on multipitch, and with some of the mess I've created over the years, or a complex ground surface.

 Exile 13 Sep 2021
In reply to David Coley:

First thing - I havent used both(!)

I have used a friends Giga Jul over the last month though for top roping in assisted, belaying a leader in both assisted and manual, abseiling in both assisted and manual, belaying a second in assistend and manual and in guide mode. I would say the use of the thumb in assisted modes comes intuitively quite quickly. The only issues I found ware being caught by an out of sight leader pulling a lot of slack through to clip gear, and it has a small amount of creep when holding a climber in top rope assisted mode when they are resting, (not as good as a gri gri for this) and when abseiling in assisted.

I did not have any trouble feeding out rope on cramped multipitch belays with less than ideally stacked ropes aa you have described.

I will be getting one to replace my Pivot as I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives for qhat I want it for - long alpine rock routes with abseil descents.

 David Coley 13 Sep 2021
In reply to Exile:

Thanks. Great info. 

 rgold 14 Sep 2021
In reply to David Coley:

I have many years of experience with the Alpine Up used with mid-sized (~8.5 mm) half ropes.  I haven't tried the Giga Jul but did try some of the earlier Juls and the Mammut Smart.  For half ropes, where we're taking in one strand while pumping out the other, I think the UP is superior.  First of all, it just plain locks better than the others---no creep.  Secondly, rope handling is much better, because the brake hand hasn't been immobilized with the task of levering open the device via the thumb loop.  With a thumb loop device, the non-brake hand has to rush back and forth pulling in one strand and pumping out the other.  It's doable, but the more natural two-handed motions afforded by the UP are better.  Hands-free lockup is quite robust as long as there's a bit of rope weight at the brake-strand end.

Rappelling on two 8.5 mm strands with the UP is ok.  A bit too much friction at the start of steep or overhanging raps because of rope weight, meaning the rope has to be fed in to move.  Ok after the first few meters, maybe ten meters of feeding at the worst.  CT provides a workaround using another carabiner, but in my experience, this twists the ropes far too much and I've never used it after the first few trials.  Releasing the lever stops the rappeller immediately, no creep, no third-hand backup is needed and so the device doesn't have to be extended. Going hands-free to untangle snarls is easy, and if you have to go up for some reason,  the UP works really well as a progress capture device, no reconfiguring or anything, just pull in the ropes as you move up.

I've used it a lot so don't find the configurations confusing.  Something to note is that there are notches to supply adequate friction in case the device is threaded backwards.

You're quite right about it being fiddly to insert ropes.  The problem is that the body is much longer than a plate and it can be trying to shove two bights of rope through.  It really helps not to be fighting rope weight when doing this.   I sometimes worry about dropping it and clip it back to my harness with a quickdraw through one of the holes meant for guide-plate belaying---this doesn't get in the way of threading at all. 

There's also, I think, a dangerous possibility when threading of clipping the two bights but not clipping through the slot in the body, in which case you've got this thing on the rope but it isn't attached to you and the carabiner, which is supposed to function as a cam, isn't in the device at all.  There's no cure for this except vigilence---the point is to be aware of this possible error.

You are also right about fatter ropes.  I think a bit above 9mm is as far as you'd want to go.  And as for needing a good rope pile or stack to feed from, I think this is true for all assisted-braking devices.

I don't belay the second off the anchor in guide mode very much, but when I've on it I don't find the device to be worse than the others.  However, I think Jim Titt did some tests on the pulling force required to take in rope and found the UP to be relatively bad. 

1
 David Coley 14 Sep 2021
In reply to rgold:

Thanks! 

 tmawer 14 Sep 2021
In reply to David Coley:

I have managed to break two Giga Jules as the wire loops parted company with the main body, this was not dangerous as such but was inconvenient as broke abseiling. I have been using the alpine up for a few months now and have yet to break it! Both took some getting used to and are more fiddly than a normal device, but for me worth the extra faff. 

 gravy 14 Sep 2021
In reply to David Coley:

reverso

5
In reply to David Coley:

I have both. I'm very much in favour of assisted devices.

The alpine up is much too big for me to carry, and is a faff to use 

I use the giga jul for all my trad needs now. However, I only use it in assisted mode for abseil. For lead belay, I'm heavier than most of my climbing partners, and I feel that my weight together with the assistance would result in an unnecessarily hard catch most of the time. And it's hard enough to give large amounts of slack quickly*, at any moment, that I'm not confident I could give perfect feeds at a stressful clip. 

If I was lighter than my climber, i would be more inclined to use it despite the risk of bad feeds.

*Used with 8mm ropes. What seems to happen is if the ropes are sightly twisted around each other, or are feeding from a stack not immediately below the device, it jams on big feeds

Chris

1
 rgold 16 Sep 2021
In reply to David Coley:

The wires breaking on the thumb loops of Juls has been a problem since the first models, but I'm surprised to hear about it with the Giga Jul, because they've had a lot of time to fix that problem.  Perhaps the design is fundamentally flawed.  What I've heard from people who have broken the wires is that it's the continual levering during rappelling that does it.  On the other hand, the UP is extremely robust; I'm using the same one I bought ten years ago.

It was perplexing to read a poster recommend the Giga Jul over the Alpine Up and then admit that he doesn't use the assisted locking feature for belaying because of poor handling.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the UP handles better with half ropes because it doesn't tie up the brake hand.  (Actually, the real problems aren't---or shouldn't be---with fast pumping, as the UP and the Giga and an ordinary plate behave in approximately the same way.  If you fail to keep the brake strands parallel to the leader's strands, any of these devices is likely to lock up inadvertently, and jamming up the device is as much a belay technique error as a device failing.)

Maybe its because I've had lots of practice, but I can break the lock on an UP more quickly and easier than with an ordinary plate. Plus, the lock can be deactivated when the rope is partially loaded, as when one lands on a stance at the end of a rappel and the rope stretch maintains significant tension (so no need to sit down and then stand up to get the device free enough to detach).

It should be noted that tests by Jim Titt suggest that none of the assisted braking devices, viewed as grip-force multipliers, perform well when subjected to very high loads, in fact, the good old ATC-XP does better. (Some earlier Jul, not the Giga, was part of the test.)  The UP was the best of the lot Jim tested, but  in other tests he found that it could damage the sheath under very high loading.

As for size and weight, no question the UP is not svelte.  But given the load of gear the modern climber seems to carry, the protestations about the size and weight of the UP seem rather overblown. A single quickdraw is heavier than the weight difference between the Jul and the UP. Some of the very best alpinists in the world have done cutting-edge climbs carrying Grigris, not to mention almost everyone doing things like the Nose in a day, and the UP is about the same in size and weight.  Somehow these experts are willing and in fact eager to drag up a heavier larger device if its advantages are sufficient. (Maybe they pared down a quickdraw ).

Here are some fairly non-fluffy reviews.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/climbing/belays/climbing_technologys_alpine_up-5743

https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/109687295/climbing-technologies-alpine-up-review

https://gocraggingblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/gear-review-climbing-technology-alpine.html

https://francocookson.blogspot.com/2013/09/gear-review-alpine-up.html

1
In reply to rgold:

> It was perplexing to read a poster recommend the Giga Jul over the Alpine Up and then admit that he doesn't use the assisted locking feature for belaying because of poor handling.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the UP handles better with half ropes because it doesn't tie up the brake hand.

I think you misread my post, or maybe I wasn't clear, but I didn't actually recommend either device. I now use the Giga Jul in manual, because that's what I have, and because of it's marginal benefit for abseils, but I wouldn't buy it again.

You raise an interesting point, that with the Up the brake hand is free to handle the dead ropes rather than being locked to the device. That does sound like a significant advantage, giving that hand a chance to unravel any twists and bring the rope to be paid out inline with the device prior to any feeds.

HOWEVER! I've just noticed that CT do not certify the AlpineUp to be used in assisted mode for trad - only sport. They say for trad lead belay the AlpineUp must only be used in manual mode. This comes back to my point about dynamic belay when used with gear that might be marginal. If the device isn't safe in assisted mode for trad, I can't really see the point. There are better assisted devices for sport.

https://www.climbingtechnology.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IST12-2D651CT_rev-7_07-21.pdf

Does anyone have any thoughts on the trad/AlpineUp prohibition?

Chris

Post edited at 12:22
 rgold 16 Sep 2021
In reply to peakschris:

The only thing I'd say is that Grigris especially but also all the other assisted locking gadgets are being used for trad belaying all the time in the US without disastrous results.  My experience belaying with ordinary plates is that there is rarely much "give" anyway; friction in the system makes the belay static most of the time, and when it comes down to controlling the "give" in high-impact falls, there are issues there too and dropped climbers to testify to them. Moreover, most of the plate belayers I've observed typically have their brake hand right next to the device, which means that any "give" in the belay is going to involve pulling rope through the belayer's (frequently ungloved) hand.

There is a continually increasing stream of evidence that belaying the leader directly off a (necessarily excellent) anchor is the best way to mitigate high loads, as well as protecting the belayer from being slammed.  I suspect the European trend to bolted belays will ultimately make  the direct anchor leader belay the predominant method everywhere, as is already happening with the second's belay.  Perhaps a Revo-like device that allows for some resisting friction but then locks up after a meter or so of rope runs through and is designed to be used on the anchor will emerge.

 YourNameHere 16 Sep 2021
In reply to peakschris:

I'm more surprised that @rgold has had his Alpine Up for 10 years when they've only been on the market for 7.

2
 David Coley 16 Sep 2021
In reply to YourNameHere:

> I'm more surprised that @rgold has had his Alpine Up for 10 years when they've only been on the market for 7.

I'm guessing you know, but it feels like I've had mine for a lot longer than 7 years. 

 David Coley 16 Sep 2021
In reply to peakschris:

This is an under researched IMHO. there have been some tests that show increased forces on the top runner if using a grigri. But the increase was I think of about the same size as using a less dynamic rope. And few worry which rope to bring except on a few routes 

The tests were also not extensive enough to account for different belayer weights and friction of rope on rock and through zig zagging runners.

More data would be great. But at the moment one has to make a call between possible marginal runners and a rock to the head of the belayer or him being distracted etc. I guess this might change between a short route where the leader can be seen and a 10 hour route.

I'm guessing el cap is rarely climbed with anything else but an assisted device, and that includes aid routes on marginal gear. 

 jimtitt 16 Sep 2021
In reply to YourNameHere:

> I'm more surprised that @rgold has had his Alpine Up for 10 years when they've only been on the market for 7.

I'm suprised you don't know it was launched on 14th July 2011 at OUTDOOR Friedrichshafen.

 rgold 16 Sep 2021
In reply to YourNameHere:

> I'm more surprised that @rgold has had his Alpine Up for 10 years when they've only been on the market for 7.

I got the ten-year figure from a thread about them on Supertopo from 2011, so they were definitely around ten years ago.  I knew I had bought mine soon after they were on the market in the US.  Maybe they arrived later in the UK.

Post edited at 21:10
 rgold 17 Sep 2021
In reply to YourNameHere:

As Jim said, the Alpine Up came out in 2011.  (I think I know why he happens to know this date...)

vimeo.com/26650084 .

Reading over the SuperTopo thread I mentioned, it seems most likely that I learned about it in 2011 and got one in 2012, so my ten-year ownership estimate might be off by a year.  Sorry about that...

Adrian Berry reviewed the device for UKC in 2014; maybe that's where you got your incorrect 7- year figure from.

 David Coley 17 Sep 2021
In reply to YourNameHere:

I got mine directly from CT for testing etc. So I'm guessing 10 years back? 

1
 galpinos 17 Sep 2021
In reply to David Coley:

Well, we do know that assisted belay devices (grigri) do increase force on the top piece of gear and that the increase if a function of the fall factor (the bigger the fall factor, the bigger the discrepancy). With the type of falls most of us take on trad, the difference is minimal.

We also know that increasing the the drag in the system increases the force on the top piece of gear.

In my everyday climbing scenarios, minimising force on marginal gear outweigh concerns about rockfall on the belayer (very rare) or my belayer not catching me (I trust him, he's caught me the four times I've fallen this year).

 David Coley 17 Sep 2021
In reply to galpinos:

> Well, we do know that assisted belay devices (grigri) do increase force on the top piece of gear 

I guess I'm suggesting, can, rather than do. 

I'd suggest that the only way a plate can lead to lower forces is if the rope slides through the plate. On some falls and with lots of friction in the system, this might not happen. 

Some may have less tested belayers. So the assisted device could be worth investigating. Or you might be climbing a route where the falls might be unexpected after many hours on the face. Leaders for example get plenty of pee, drink and eat time as they do this whilst using guide mode; seconds struggle to find time 

1
 rgold 18 Sep 2021
In reply to David Coley:

> I'd suggest that the only way a plate can lead to lower forces is if the rope slides through the plate. On some falls and with lots of friction in the system, this might not happen. 

Yes, this is almost certainly what usually happens.  I have friends who have belayed ungloved with a plate for fifty years and caught god knows how many whippers without ever getting even the slightest rope burn.  The vast majority of belays are going to be static whether belayed with a plate or an assisted braking device.  But when it comes to the much rarer big falls with low system friction, the rope sliding through the brake hand might (and has) resulted in total loss of control of the belay.  As I mentioned in one of my responses above, a lot of belayers keep their brake hand near the plate, which means that rope sliding through their hand is the only way fall loads can be mitigated, so some level (possibly quite severe) of belayer injury if not total loss of control of the belay is what is being counted on if friction in the system doesn't make the belay static anyway.  

The only way to get a good load mitigation effect from a plate is to have the brake hand down by the hip, as far away from the plate as possible, so that one to two feet of slack can feed into the plate under high resistance as the brake hand is pulled towards the plate, this without the rope slipping through the hand.  The CAI investigators call this the inertial phase of the belay.  It may or may not be followed by a slipping phase, but there are various videos on the internet showing factor-2 falls with steel weights being stopped by the inertial phase using a Munter hitch on an anchor, i.e. no slipping through the hand.

> Some may have less tested belayers.

The remarks I just made about brake hand position relative to the plate make this seem rather likely.

When all is said and done, there can be situations in which the leader is using marginal protection when one really wants there to be more give in the belay than one gets from an assisted braking device.  Both the Alpine Up and the Giga Jul can be switched to a non-locking mode.  No problem doing this at the start of a pitch, but some faffery is required if the changeover is to be in mid-pitch, with the leader required to be in at least a semi-stable position.

 David Coley 19 Sep 2021
In reply to rgold:

In some, no doubt fluffy kind of way, I think about these two phases as being very different. Phase 1, the movement of the rope through the device with the hand clamped to the rope with the arm being overpowered, I assume takes a lot of energy out of the fall; whereas, phase 2, the sliding of the rope through the hand less (per metre of slide) as the hand will be up against the device and the first bend as the rope enters the device not at a good angle. I think Jim's model of a belay plate shows this bend to be the most important one? (In the end I guess the burning also makes one grip less tight.)

Jim, and I think others, state that a hand on a rope can hold 20-40kg equivalent. Depending on the size/strength of the paw. And that a typical plate multiples this by 8 if the rope is held down to the side. I assume this is for a single strand and all fingers playing their part. Has anyone looked at that 20-40kg with the typical finger configurations people use with double ropes? I'm guessing most of us do some finger fiddling at times when people are clipping gear on cruxes and we need to pay out, take in and un twist the strands as they enter the plate from the pile of rope on a multipitch route? Might we be working at much less than 20-40kg?

If so, phase 2 (the slipping of the rope through the hand) might start more easily?

Post edited at 08:44
 rgold 20 Sep 2021
In reply to David Coley:

I think that's right.  I do remember that, forgetting about how the fingers are distributed, Jim found that one's grip strength is less when holding two strands, one of which is loaded.

The point being that there are even more reasons to use an assisted-braking device for half ropes than for a single rope, even for "experienced" belayers.


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