Weighing in at 88g (3.1 oz) the Black Diamond ATC Guide is the latest generation of this classic belay & abseil device. With a solid construction and good feel, this pedigree device provides versatility and quality from your local gym to your next multi-pitch project.
The ATC Guide is designed for ropes between 7.7mm and 11mm in diameter and performs exceptionally well within this bracket. We did find a deterioration in performance with ropes exceeding 10.5mm, and above it’s limit (11mm) the rope becomes very difficult to manage so make sure your equipment fits within this range (most ropes will).
The reason we mention this, is that some gyms tend to have fat ropes (11mm+?) on top-rope, so we’d recommend looking at other devices if your doing a lot of top-roping.
This device features two friction modes; high and low. We found the standard low friction mode excellent in most situations, the high friction mode would undoubtably come in handy with a larger weight difference between climbers when extra resistance is required. This two mode system doesn’t add much bulk or weight and is certainly a nice feature to have.
Another feature which adds to this devices versatility is the auto-blocking guide mode (if you’re not familiar with this system, it’s normally used on multi-pitch climbs for seconding climbers, see the video below), the rear loop is reassuringly burly and the auto-block release fits a range of carabiners.
Within it’s rope tolerance, the ATG Guide handles the rope very well. It’s corse finish needs a bit of breaking in but after a few weeks it began to perform really well. Giving slack and taking in is generally smooth (even more so with thinner ropes) we did find the Guide would occasionally lock on big payouts but we didn’t find this a major problem overall.
On a fall the lock off is secure and effortless, and the lower off is smooth with good control over the rate of decent. We haven’t abseiled on this device yet (we will update this post when we do), but you get the feeling the ATC Guide will perform well in this area too, let’s wait and see.
It’s worth a mention that, for this test, we used the Black Diamond Vaporlock screwgate carabiner. We found this lightweight pear-shaped biner a great pairing to the ATC, it’s a good size and has a well built gate with an easy action. According to Black Diamond, the Vaporlock increases friction on the ATC by up to 30%, either way, we think it’s a fantastic carabiner. Full specification below:
- Gate Opening: 20 mm (0.79 in)
- Closed Gate Strength: 21 kN (4721 lbf)
- Weight: 52 g (1.8 oz)
- Open Gate Strength: 8 kN (1798 lbf)
- Minor Axis Strength: 7 kN (1574 lbf)
We like the ATC Guide – yes there are lighter devices on the market, but for build quality and versatility this device is hard to beat. For indoor top-roping, you won’t need all the features so save some money and have a look at a more basic device such as the standard ATC or the Mammut Element Light. For everything else, from leading to multi-pitch climbing the ATC Guide really shines.
We’ll be updating this review (and others) in April after our first outdoor test in El Chorro, Spain. Like us on Facebook to get the latest news and reviews.