Belay Device Policy


Assisted Braking Device (ABD) Policy

Effective March 13th, 2019, Spire will require the use of assisted braking belay devices and will no longer allow the use of tube style devices for belaying.
Why?  Because safety is the number one priority at Spire.  As the sport of climbing evolves, so does the technology that keeps us safe.  Years ago, some of the best climbers in the world used a Figure 8 (belay device) and even a Munter hitch to belay.  Today, the Munter hitch, which was popularized in 1970, is generally considered an "emergency only" option, and the last Figure 8 belay device you likely saw was hanging from Sylvester Stallone’s harness in Cliffhanger (1993).  
We realize that tube style belay devices may still have a place in climbing, and this is not an attempt to "water down climbing."  It is more an effort to make our facility and sport as safe as possible.  If you already use an assisted braking device you won't be affected by this change.  For those who still use tube style devices, we encourage you to explore newer assisted braking devices such as the Black Diamond Pilot, Mammut Smart, or Edelrid Mega Jul, etc, if you'd like to continue to belay at Spire.  The American Alpine Club has a great article on how you can increase your safety by using an assisted-braking device, both indoors and outside, which we’d highly recommend giving a read.
At the end of the day, our first priority at Spire is to make sure everyone stays safe while having a great time.  We would be devastated if a life-changing accident happened in our facility that could have been prevented, and we feel that it is our duty to reduce these accidents to the best of our ability.  Switching to only allowing assisted braking belay devices, a move that many climbing gyms across the nation are making to improve safety in their facilities, is the next step in making sure everyone returns home safely after a great session at the gym.


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 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! Our free Intro to Assisted Brake Belay Devices class will help you learn the ins and outs of belaying on an assisted braking belay device.

Will I need to retake my lead test?

If you are already using an assisted braking device, then you will simply need to check in at the front desk to receive a new tag and orientation on our new policy.

I currently use an ATC; what do I need to do so I can lead belay as of March 13th?

If you are already comfortable with an assisted braking belay device, you will need to switch to using that device exclusively in our facility and chat with the front desk for a quick orientation.  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 an orientation.  If you know nothing about assisted braking devices and need further instruction, please take our free Intro to Assisted Brake Belay Devices class, with more information and dates available below.

Will you have assisted braking belay devices for use if I don't own one? 

Yes, we will have free rentals of GriGris and Black Diamond Pilots on a first come, first served basis, alongside demo units of every assisted-braking device that we sell.  We will also be discounting all assisted braking belay devices we sell by 20% until April 1st.

How will this change the Spire Lead Belay Assessment?

To complete a lead belay assessment we will require the use of an assisted braking device.  In addition to our standard lead belay assessment, participants will be required to verbally explain the difference between belaying with a standard tube style device and an assisted braking device.

I use an assisted braking device that isn't on your list, can I use it?
Unfortunately, no.  You can continue to use your tube style belay device until March 13th, at which point you will have to transition to an assisted braking device to continue to belay in our facility.  Our list of approved devices can be found below.  


If you have any other questions or feedback please feel free to reach out at