Several years back, I did an initial review of the Salewa Quick Screw ice screw and the Climbing Technology Alpine Up belay device.
The initial review for the Alpine Up can be found HERE
The initial review for the Salewa Quick Screw can be found HERE
This is a long term review update, detailing my experiences with these climbing implements.
The Alpine Up has become my go-to belay device for every type of climbing. I use it for top roping on rock, lead climbing on ice, alpine climbing, trad rock, and everything else. It does everything so well that I find that I’m not interested in using any other device.
I generally belay a leader in the assisted brake “click up” mode. The brake assist gives me extra confidence that I will be able to arrest a lead fall, even if my technique is less than perfect, I’m taken by surprise, or I get conked on the head by a falling rock and knocked unconscious. Paying out slack is at least as easy as any other device I’ve used, and better than many.
When belaying someone on a top rope from below, I typically use the dynamic mode. It allows for smooth belaying and easy transitions to lowering down from the route.
Belaying a second up a pitch in “guide mode” is very easy. Of all the autoblocking guide mode devices I’ve used, only the Kong Gi Gi or Plaquette has less friction in guide mode (and these devices aren’t great at anything other than guide mode.)
Rappelling can be done in autoblock or dynamic mode. If I’m going down first, I typically rappel in autoblock mode. This allows me to go hands free and untangle ropes etc. It also provides self-locking safety, and if I’m injured or otherwise take my hands off of the device, I stop.
If I’m rapping down second, I will generally rap down in dynamic mode, as it’s a bit faster and smoother, and if I’m going down second, I’m not worried about being able to stop and go hands free.
The down sides of the Alpine Up are that it’s a bit bulky, and it only works well with specific shaped carabiners. I’ve become used to the bulk, and I have purchased a couple of Climbing Technology locking biners of the same shape to use with the Alpine Up in case I lose the original biner. I just carry these on my rack for rigging anchors and other standard locking carabiner uses.
This device is so versatile, and does everything so well, I just don’t see any reason to use anything else at this point.
Salewa Quick Screw
The Salewa Quick Screw has become my go-to ice screw for waterfall ice climbing. (I use aluminum screws for alpine ice climbing because of the significant weight savings.) I have a full rack of nine Quick Screws now and the more I use them, the more I like them.
Being able to rack screws on my harness is great. The color coded biners make it easy to grab the right length of screw without faffing around with ice clippers. The teeth bite the ice as well as any other screw I’ve used, and I like the compact head design, which fits nicely in my palm and makes it very ergonomic when getting the screw started. The attached quick draw makes clipping very fast once you get the screw in.
When I’m climbing ice, I want the process of placing a screw to be a quick and simple as possible, and the Quick Screw lives up to its name. I can get the screw in and clipped into the rope faster than with any other style of screw.
Here is a short video of placing and removing a Quick Screw one handed:
I am becoming more and more convinced that belay/rappel devices with assisted braking are a big improvement over traditional ATC or Reverso type belay/rappel devices.
Assisted braking devices are not fully auto-locking like a Gri Gri, but provide significant extra friction when catching a falling leader or rappelling, when compared with an ATC or Reverso. I really like the added security of the braking assist. When catching lead fall, the effort needed to control the rope running through the device is minimal, and there is very little rope slippage. Similarly, when rappelling, it’s very easy to stop yourself while on rappel. Generally, you can just take your hand off the device, and it stops itself. In most circumstances, this eliminates the need for a prussik back up when rappelling.
My first assisted braking device was the Mammut Smart Alpine (see my initial review of that device HERE.)
The Smart Alpine is a pretty good design, but it has a few flaws that have led me to abandon it in favor of some newer devices: First, the Smart Alpine tends to lock up too easily when feeding out rope. It also had a habit of allowing thinner ropes to migrate under the separator bar, causing the ropes to get stuck, and a somewhat jerky rappel mode when in auto-lock configuration. I put up with these issues because of the enhanced safety of the assisted braking, but these flaws made me interested in trying out other assisted braking options.
Enter the Edelrid Mega Jul and Micro Jul:
My next trial of an assisted braking device was the Mega Jul and Micro Jul by Edelrid. These devices are identical in design, but the Mega Jul is designed for ropes of diameter from 7.8mm to 10.5mm, while the smaller Micro Jul is made for skinny ropes from 6.9 to 8.5mm.
My first impressions using these devices were so good that I bought 2 Mega Juls and 2 Micro Jules. They seemed like they would replace all my other belay devices. However, I was somewhat disappointed and worried when the thumb cables failed, first on my Micro Jul, and then on a Mega Jul. I sent all four of them back to the Edelrid distributor, and they eventually replaced them with new ones that have improved connection between the device and the cable.
The new and improved Mega Jul and Micro Jul devices seem to have solved the problem of the weak cable attachment, as I have used them without any failures. These devices are really very good. They are made of steel instead of aluminum, so they can be made very compact and still retain the needed strength. The Mega Jul is very compact and weighs only 2.3 ounces.
In spite of its small size, the Mega Jul is a very versatile device. It provides a very effective assisted braking function while lead belaying, can be used in guide mode to belay one or two seconds (with an autoblock function that locks up automatically in the event they weight the rope,) and can be used to rappel in either an assisted braking mode, or in a normal mode similar to a regular ATC or Reverso.
Paying out rope to the leader is pretty easy. I found the Mega Jul (and Micro Jul) to be easier to use for lead belaying than the Alpine Smart. They hang up less often than the Alpine Smart, and are smoother when paying out rope. Lowering a leader and rappelling are about the same as the Alpine Smart. Both devices are adequate, but are not super smooth. They tend to be a bit jerky when lowering or rappelling. Rappelling is greatly facilitated by using a separate carabiner, although you can use the thumb release. If you use a separate carabiner, it needs to have a nose that is narrow enough to fit in the carabiner hole. (The Edelrid small locker biner fits well, but not all others do.)
Guide mode is also reasonably good. Taking in rope requires about as much effort as with an ATC Guide or Reverso, and lowering a second while in guide mode isn’t overly hard. (It requires a third carabiner inserted into the carabiner hole to release tension.)
Overall, the Mega Jul and Micro Jul are superior to the Mammut Smart Alpinet. They outperform the Smart Alpine in lead belaying, and are much smaller and lighter. Performance in guide mode and rappelling are about the same.
Climbing Technology Alpine Up.
The Alpine Up is made by the Italian company, Climbing Technology. It has some advantages over the Edelrid Jul devices, but is signficantly heavier and bulkier. The Alpine Up weighs in at 6.2 ounces, which is close to double the weight of the tiny Mega Jul. It is designed to work with twin and half ropes from 7.9mm to 9mm in diameter, and single ropes from 8.9 to 10.5mm in diameter.
If you can overlook the significant disadvantage in size and weight, the Alpine Up is the best performing assisted braking device I’ve ever used. The signature feature of the Alpine up is the “click up” mode. The click up feature allows the rope to run more smoothly than any other device. This is because when the rope is not weighted, the rope runs in a loose, large radius curve that allows for very quick and easy rope control. Paying out or taking in rope is effortless, with very little friction and resistance. However, when the rope is weighted (when the climber falls) the rope changes position, and “clicks” into a tighter assisted braking position.
This feature makes the Alpine Up by far the easiest of the assisted braking devices for belaying a leader. It doesn’t hang up or bind, and makes taking in or paying out rope super easy and smooth.
Once the device is locked, a flip-out lever allows for easy lowering of the leader if necessary. If the leader begins climbing again after a fall, you just give a tug on the carabiner and move it back into the non-braking position.
The assisted braking configuration is also used for rappelling, with the lever controlling the rate of descent. Rappelling is very smooth and easily controlled, and you automatically stop if you take your hand off of the release lever.
Guide mode with the Alpine Up is very smooth, and requires the least effort of any belay device I have used other than the Kong GiGi, which is designed specifically for use in guide mode.
Overall, the performance of the Alpine Up is superior to any other belay device I have used. The only drawbacks of the Alpine Up are price (about $100 including a carabiner) and weight and bulk.
Bottom Line: What is the Best Assisted Braking Device?
So, given my views regarding the Alpine Up’s performance, It would seem as though it would replace my other belay devices. However, even though it’s the best performer, there are times when I still prefer the Edelrid Mega Jul or Micro Jul.
The Mega Jul and Micro Jul are significantly lighter and more compact, so when weight and space are at a premium (i.e. alpine climbing) I will usually reach for one of the Edelrid devices over the Alpine Up. Also, the Micro Jul is the only device capable of being used with really skinny twin ropes, such as the 6.9mm Edelrid Flycatcher.
Bottom line is that when I’m cragging, I generally take the Alpine Up. When I’m alpine climbing, I generally take the Mega Jul or Micro Jul.