Design of a Universal Belay Device (Patent Pending)

Nathaniel Young, M.S. University of Utah, November 2005

Rock climbing involves the use of a rope for a number of different of purposes. One is to secure a climbing during a "lead" whereby the climber is secured by a belayer on the ground. In sports climbing where the rope is secured with gear securely fixed to the rock, it is convenient to use a belay device that is self-locking and allows the climber to be secured "hands-free". As such, the fall of the climber is stopped rather abruptly, resulting in a "hard" catch that creates a large load on the securing gear. Traditional climbing, on the other hand, uses gear that is placed by the climber along the route. This gear, usually cams, wedges, slings, etc. tends to be less secure than fixed gear. As such, it is beneficial to use a frictional belay device that allows a "softer" catch of a fall.

While there are numerous belay devices available on the market, no currently available product is both based on friction as well as self-locking. Instead, climbers tend to need two or more devices to cover all belay and rapelling needs. This project is developing a device that can be switched between friction and auto-locking mode without the need of handling the rope. As such, this device is capable of satisfying all needs of rock climbing, eliminating the need for multiple belay devices. A provisional patent has been filed with the Technology Transfer Office.





Universal belay device (open for rope loading and unloading)

Fully functional alpha prototype (closed)


Drop Tower Tests

Universal Belay Device - Drop Tower Test 1 (320x240).mpg


Universal Belay Device - Drop Tower Test 5 (320x240).mpg


Universal Belay Device - Drop Tower Test 6 (320x240).mpg


Universal Belay Device - Drop Tower Test 11 (320x240).mpg


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