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Reviews by rcaret (15)

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Soloist popular Average Rating = 4.89/5 Average Rating : 4.89/5

In: Gear: Essential Equipment: Belay Devices & Descenders

Review 5 out of 5 stars

Review by: rcaret, 2003-09-28


The Rock Exotica Soloist ($100) is similar to the Solo Aid, but feeds rope out automatically, making it superior for free climbing. It is about twice the size of the Solo Aid, is heavier, and costs $20 more. This device also has a three-part construction and is assembled around the rope. Threading the rope properly and correctly positioning the unit between your sit and chest harness (a chest harness is mandatory for using the Soloist) takes practice, which is wisely done at home.

When you are climbing, the Soloist glides smoothly along the rope, letting you do harder free moves than any of the knot belays or the Solo Aid. However, the device wonít catch upside-down or head-first falls. In situations where you might fall inverted, such as laybacks or roofs, you need to tie backup knots close to the Soloist or switch to the figure-8 belay.

Aid climbers will find the Soloist more bane than boon. The unit tangles easily with an aid rack, and its hands-off operation isnít an advantage since while aid climbing you are hanging on gear and always have a hand free.

Toprope solo climbing is the Soloistsí real specialty and for this use we favored it over all other solo devices. It glides up the rope easily, locks securely when you weight it, releases easily when you want to resume climbing, stays out of your way because it rides above your waistline, is easy to back up, and quickly converts into a functional and controllable single-rope rappel device.

The Soloist, like all solo-belay devices, works best on straight-up topropes set on vertical or less-than-vertical climbs. Overhanging and traversing routes are difficult to get back onto once you have fallen, and cause the device to drag hard because the rope pulls at an angle rather than running straight through the unit.

We used the Soloist on 10-, 10.5- and 11-millimeter ropes, these being the sizes recommended by Rock Exotica, and found that thicker ropes produced only slightly more drag. For best toprope performance attach an empty pack or small rack to the bottom of the rope, which lets the Soloist slide up the rope easier.


Solo Aid (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 4.00/5 Average Rating : 4.00/5

In: Gear: Essential Equipment: Belay Devices & Descenders

Review 4 out of 5 stars

Review by: rcaret, 2003-09-28


The Rock Exotica Soloist ($100) is similar to the Solo Aid, but feeds rope out automatically, making it superior for free climbing. It is about twice the size of the Solo Aid, is heavier, and costs $20 more. This device also has a three-part construction and is assembled around the rope. Threading the rope properly and correctly positioning the unit between your sit and chest harness (a chest harness is mandatory for using the Soloist) takes practice, which is wisely done at home.

When you are climbing, the Soloist glides smoothly along the rope, letting you do harder free moves than any of the knot belays or the Solo Aid. However, the device wonít catch upside-down or head-first falls. In situations where you might fall inverted, such as laybacks or roofs, you need to tie backup knots close to the Soloist or switch to the figure-8 belay.

Aid climbers will find the Soloist more bane than boon. The unit tangles easily with an aid rack, and its hands-off operation isnít an advantage since while aid climbing you are hanging on gear and always have a hand free.

Toprope solo climbing is the Soloistsí real specialty and for this use we favored it over all other solo devices. It glides up the rope easily, locks securely when you weight it, releases easily when you want to resume climbing, stays out of your way because it rides above your waistline, is easy to back up, and quickly converts into a functional and controllable single-rope rappel device.

The Soloist, like all solo-belay devices, works best on straight-up topropes set on vertical or less-than-vertical climbs. Overhanging and traversing routes are difficult to get back onto once you have fallen, and cause the device to drag hard because the rope pulls at an angle rather than running straight through the unit.

We used the Soloist on 10-, 10.5- and 11-millimeter ropes, these being the sizes recommended by Rock Exotica, and found that thicker ropes produced only slightly more drag. For best toprope performance attach an empty pack or small rack to the bottom of the rope, which lets the Soloist slide up the rope easier.


Silent Partner (Manufacturer link) popular Average Rating = 4.67/5 Average Rating : 4.67/5

In: Gear: Essential Equipment: Belay Devices & Descenders

Review 5 out of 5 stars

Review by: rcaret, 2003-09-28


The learning curve is long and hard and alot of work to master, The hardest part is learning not to grab the rope when you fall , Let the Slient Partner do its work.

Set the anchor, lead the pitch, fix the ropes. Rappel down, clean the pitch, haul, re-rack and trudge on. Anyone for roped soloing? Letís face it, climbing alone is damn hard work. You go without encouragement, congratulations, camaraderie, and, worst of all, an easy-feeding, secure belay. That is, until the Silent Partner. This long-awaited tool from Wren Industries answers the call for a smooth-feeding self-belay device capable of catching falls in any situation.

Although first manufactured in 1989 and used by Steve Schneider during his first one-day solo of El Capitanís Nose, the Silent Partner didnít hit the market until March of this year. Thatís a long wait, especially when you consider Schneiderís high praise for the device in the book Climbing Big Walls, published in 1990. So why the holdup?

Mark Blanchard, the Silent Partnerís inventor and original manufacturer, delayed production after facing the ogre of product liability and in 1996 licensed the patent to Rock Thompson of Rock Exotica. Rock Exotica already produced the Soloist and Solo-Aid, two popular solo-belay devices, and the Silent Partner would have rounded out the lineup. In 1997, however, Petzl absorbed Rock Exotica and wanted nothing to do with solo-belay gizmos. Thompson organized another company, Wren Industries, which now produces all three solo devices.

The Silent Partner differs greatly from the Soloist and the Solo-Aid. The latter two consist of a cam mounted inside a metal housing and operate like ascenders. The lead line feeds automatically through the Soloist, making it acceptable for free climbing, but the device requires a chest harness and may not hold a low-angle or inverted fall (any fall where the climbersí body, and thus the Soloist, are not aligned parallel to the rock). The Solo-Aid holds these falls but requires one hand to feed out slack - an improvement over the old clove-hitch method, but cumbersome for free climbing and speedy aid ascents.

The Silent Partner improves upon these designs by employing a centrifugal clutch mechanism hidden in the axle drum of the device. Attach the lead line by opening the device and clove hitching the rope around the drum. The unit clips directly to the harness without need for a chest harness, and the clip-in hole accommodates two locking Ďbiners, an improvement over the cord or webbing needed to attach the other devices. While climbing, the drum rotates freely, allowing the clove hitch to slip. In a fall, (or at roughly 4 mph, according to Wren Industries), the increased speed of the slipping rope locks the clutch (think of your carís seat belt) and the clove hitch tightens around the locked drum.

During my short test falls on vertical rock, the clutch locked immediately, cinching the clove hitch securely. Just remember your ascenders so you can unweight and unlock the clutch after a fall, and get back to your high point.

Overall, the Silent Partner performed wonderfully. While free climbing, the rope fed smoothly, the clutch never cinched inadvertently, and I could feed out slack to clip overhead placements (although it is still easier to clip gear at waist level). I moved quickly and confidently on aid pitches and felt much more comfortable stepping out of my aiders to pull free moves because I didnít have to pay out gobs of slack before casting off into the unknown.

The Silent Partner retails for $225 - pretty spendy compared to the $100 Soloist or the $80 Solo-Aid. But if youíre looking to speed up your wall times on routes with free stretches like Yosemiteís Prow or Zionís Touchstone, and you want a belay that catches falls in any situation, then consider saving up for what Steve Schneider dubbed "the coup-de-grace of solo devices".


Duo (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 4.25/5 Average Rating : 4.25/5

In: Gear: Archive

Review 5 out of 5 stars

Review by: rcaret, 2003-09-27


The Petzl Duo headlamp has two beams, one high and one low (halogen and standard bulbs respectively). Use the halogen when you need bright light, and flick the switch over to the standard to conserve battery life. The Duo is water resistant and ideal for wet caves, canyoning, kayaking, and any wet weather sports or rescue situation. Runs on 4 AA batteries


Light Year 45į Down Average Rating = 5.00/5 Average Rating : 5.00/5

In: Gear: Archive

Review 5 out of 5 stars

Review by: rcaret, 2003-09-26


At under 2 pounds, the Kelty Light Year 45 sleeping bag is the perfect bag for lightweight summer trips. This bag is so light weight and compact that it stuffs down smaller than a 2 liter soda bottle! Kelty combined a half-length side zipper with a 13" zipper in the toe box to save weight without decreasing the bags ventilation. You won't find a better summer sleeping bag at any price.

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