Belay Device: Faders SUM
WARNING: SEE THIS ARTICLE ON THE DANGERS OF USING A FADERS SUM FOR SELF-BELAYING
I've been an avid Gri Gri user for many years so I was quite open to the idea of testing a new auto-locking single rope belay device. I'm aware that many climbers loathe such abominations as the Gri Gri for various reasons.
For those who haven't used a Gri Gri style auto-locking belay device the principle is pretty simple. They work with single ropes only - by this I mean that you can only use one rope - the rope diameter permissible varies from device to device. The device opens up, the rope is passed through a channel within the device, it is closed, and clipped to your harness much like any other belay device. The trickery lies in a movable cam within the device which, when the rope is pulled through quickly in the direction of the climber the cam is moved and locks the rope tight. It is very similar to a car seat-belt mechanism. It is imperative to thread the rope through the device in the correct direction - devices usually come with an etched in diagram to make sure you get it right.
So how is the SUM different from other devices? Its main claim to fame is that it accepts a wider range of rope diameters - from 9.1mm to 10.5mm. With modern sport climbing ropes now dropping below 9mm in diameter this is a welcome device where previously using a Gri Gri with a sub 9.5mm rope was akin to holding a fall with a pair of greased Marigolds! In operation it is much the same as its big brother from Petzl, however there is one major drawback. Where the Gri Gri has a retractable plastic arm to help release the cam when lowering the climber down, the equivalent handle on the SUM is, in my opinion, less effective. This means that lowering can be pretty slow and difficult if the weight of the climber is much greater than the belayer, as the locked cam becomes very difficult to release.
The other major breakthrough, according to the Spanish manufacturer Faders, is that it allows dynamic braking, reducing the shock load by up to 75% (compared to 'alternatives'). It's obviously nigh on impossible to test such statistics at the wall or crag so we have to trust in the blurb - a fully illustrated printed document is available from the Faders website. However I can say that having used it fairly extensively over a couple of months all leader falls were comfortably held and the device and rope show no signs of wear and tear.
Lastly the SUM can be used quite comfortably for abseiling.
The SUM weighs 260g (Gri Gri is 225g) and costs retails at £49.99, the same as the Gri Gri.