New, easy, lightweight, assisted belay device!
Sounds like an oxymoron, right?
Assisted braking brings to mind devices like the Grigri, Click-up, and Mega-jul. While all these are really great options (Don’t get me wrong, I use a Grigri all the time!), they’re either on the heavy side or can be difficult to use.
Now, Black Diamond is on the scene with a really cool, light and simple device.
The ATC Pilot is aimed at single-pitch gym or crag climbing. It’s an easy to use, lightweight (86g) assisted belay device.
Belaying is tiring particularly when the climber is working a route or projecting. A projecting climber often takes repeated falls and spends lots of time hanging on the rope.
With standard belay devices, the belayer has to grip the brake strand tightly to hold the climber.
With the Pilot the brake strand still needs to be controlled, but the device pinches the rope against the locking carabiner. This pinching action makes both holding the rope and catching falls more secure.
Better yet, use of the Pilot is quite intuitive.
The rope pays out smoothly when belaying. This is a bonus for your projecting partner! Just hook your brake thumb underneath the lip of the device to keep it from catching as you pull the rope thru with your non-brake hand.
Lowering takes a little practice, but adjusting the lowering speed and keeping your climber descending smoothly is easily accomplished by rotating the device towards you as you slide the rope through your brake hand.
Overall, the Pilot gets my thumbs-up for single-pitch climbing. Whether in the gym or outside, I most like it for belaying my climbing partner on her “proj,” or for those just learning to climb.
Always remember friends: No matter what belay device you are using, don’t ever let go of the brake strand when belaying.