Lead Belay Policy

Assisted Braking Device (ABD) Policy

Effective December 1st, 2019, Ascent Studio requires the use of assisted braking belay devices for LEAD belaying. Non-ABD devices, such as the ATC, may still be used for top rope belaying.


As the sport of climbing evolves, so do the technology and techniques that help to minimize risk for you and your partner. Many gyms worldwide are adopting the mandatory use of Assisted Braking Devices (ABDs) to reduce risk. ABDs help the belayer to arrest the climber’s fall, feed rope smoothly, and make it easier to lower the climber in a controlled manner.

We recognize that ATCs or other similar belay devices still have a place in climbing, and this is not an attempt to water down climbing. Nor do we believe that ATCs are dangerous. This change is simply an effort to reduce risk in our facility, not to tell you what device you should use in all cases. Please check out the related articles and resources below to further educate yourself on ABDs and the evidence that informs this policy change.

At the end of the day, we hope that Ascent Studio remains a space where the climbing community can share camaraderie and positive experiences. We would be devastated if a life-changing accident happened in our facility that could have been avoided. Requiring ABDs, a move that many climbing gyms across the nation are making, is the next step in making sure everyone returns home safely after a great session at the gym.


Remember, these devices are not considered "auto-locking" nor are they hands-free device. Their efficacy still depends on an attentive belayer who maintains control of the brake strand of the rope. We will still require the PBUS method of belay.

Approved Belay Devices

Below are a list of belay devices that have been approved for use at Ascent Studio

  • Petzl GriGri 1, 2, Plus, or Grigri
  • Edelrid MegaJul, MegaJul Sport, Jul 2, GigaJul, or Eddy
  • Black Diamond ATC Pilot
  • Mad Rock Lifeguard
  • Trango Vergo or Cinch
  • Climb Tech ClickUp, ClickUp +, or AlpineUp
  • Mammut Smart or Smart 2.0
  • C.A.M.P. Matik
  • Wild Country Revo
  • Beal Birdie
Any other device that is considered an Assisted Braking Device will be up to the discretion of the staff on duty.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a tube-style device and an assisted braking belay device?
Assisted braking devices are classified as either mechanical or geometric and aid in safe belaying by providing extra stopping force via the geometry of the device or a mechanism that grabs the rope in the event of the belayer losing control of the brake strand of the rope. Some examples of assisted brake devices are the Petzl GriGri, Black Diamond Pilot, Edelrid Mega Jul and Jul2, and Mammut Smart. They should still be treated like a classic ATC with the belayer always maintaining control of the brake strand of the rope. Tubular belay devices do not provide a backup in the event of a belayer losing control of the brake strand and work via the belayer holding their hand in a downward position to apply friction between the rope and the device to catch a fall. Some examples are the Petzl Reverso and Black Diamond ATC.
I've never used an assisted brake belay device before. Can I get some help?
Absolutely! While much of the belay process itself is not different from a tube style device, feeding slack or lowering the climber is slightly different with ABDs, and even from one ABD to another. If desk staff is available, they'll be happy to give your a tutorial on ABD use and belay basics.
Will I need to retake my lead test?
If you have already taken a lead test with one of our staff and been lead qualified then you will not need to retake the lead test. That said, there is nothing wrong with asking to be lead tested again or simply asking the staff to watch you belay to get some reassurance from our staff that you are using a new device properly.
I currently use an ATC; what do I need to do so I can lead belay as of December 1st?
If you are already comfortable with an assisted braking device, we recommend that you switch to using that device exclusively in our facility. If you need help transitioning to an assisted braking device and need just a few pointers to safely switch devices, come chat with the front desk for a quick orientation.
Will you have assisted braking belay devices for use if I don't own one?
Yes, we will have free rentals of GriGris and Jul2s on a first come, first served basis, alongside demo units of every assisted braking device that we sell (plus some we don't sell).
I use an assisted braking device that isn't on your list, can I use it?
Perhaps! Please come ask our desk staff. If we are unfamiliar with the device we may not be able to give you an immediate answer. If that's the case we'll let you use one of our ABD devices (Jul2 or GriGri) for free, and are happy to give you instruction in their proper use if needed.