by Brad

December 15, 2020

How to Rappel with ATC

We have a large variety of belay devices in the market. It is mindboggling to compile a list of all rappel gears in one place. There was only one concern in my mind while putting together the gear items' list.

That's why we are going to look into how to rappel with ATC device. If you are interested in belay glasses, read my comprehensive guide on the 4 best belay glasses.

I must not make any mistake in choosing the correct rappelling equipment. There is a likelihood of selecting a wrong pair of gloves or a complicated and untrustworthy rappel device.

I took the help of a friend who is a skilled rappeler. He helped me to choose the right set of rappel gears. However, you are lucky to get all the required details from blogging sites similar to mine.

Today, I will talk about the Air Traffic controller belay device from Black Diamond. This device is amongst the most famous and dependable ATC gears for rappelling.

How to Rappel with ATC Device

People often face this problem in the online and offline world. They understand very well that ATC devices are highly reliable. However, they don't know how to use them properly. I will explain how we can rappel with ATC rappel/belay devices.

All your queries will be resolved without beating about the bush. I will also discuss this excellent device's features. I will even touch on its historical account of what made it different from its competitors. Have you ever wonder what does exactly ATC stand for?

You can follow these simple steps to start rappelling with an ATC device:

  • 1. Set up the anchors and your harness. Ensure that they are secure, and follow the product guidelines.
  • 2. Put the rope on your right by stepping over it if you are right-handed. It should be likewise followed on the other side by the lefties.
  • 3. The down portion of ATC needs to be on the right side.
  • 4. Here comes the most delicate part of it. Put the rope into a slot of ATC after pinching the string. Ensure the rope alignment with the wire-keeper loop. However, you got to put the two rope-strings in these slots if you want to rappel with both.
  • 5. Link the lockable carabiner by keeping the down portion of the string on the right. Ensure the link via the cord and the wire keeper loop. Here we are talking about righties only.
  • 6. Next, you need to clip the carabiner to the harness belaying loop. Ensure that the lock is perfect.
  • 7. It would be best to observe the carabiner closely. Ensure that the cord and wire keeper loop have gone via it properly. If you see any tweaking, you must remove the clip and do it all over again.
  • 8. Check that the anchor's cord is on the left. It must move via the ATC device slotting and wire keeper loop over the carabiner. Ultimately the string must pass through the opposite ATC slotting, which goes downwards.
  • 9. To rappel down, you can hang by the string and leave it slowly from the hands. Pull your braking hand behind the back for stopping anytime. If you want to speed up the rappel, you can sway your braking hand further from yourself.
  • Understand the differences between the belay devices and how a belay device is made.

The Original ATC Device 

Amazon's Choice

Black Diamond ATC-Xp Belay/Rappel Device

The ATC belay device from Black Diamond has been quite prevalent. There are several reasons for such a respected status for a rappel device. The rappeller needs to believe in the gear to perform such unsafe acts.

Black Diamond has rightly earned this reputation amongst the rappelling people. The trust was gained after years of evolution and calibration of ATC products. A high trust level makes ATC the best belay device in the climbing community. It is not a trivial achievement by any standard.

The belay device was discovered around the year 1990. There are two specific belay devices in the market. The first is the original one, and the second variant is known as ATC-XP.

The original version can be used to climb rocks that have a dia of at least 10mm. However, the ATC-XP version is used for ice climbing or canyoneering. It is crucial to choose the correct device based on the type of rappelling application of these devices.

How Did They Design the ATC Device

The Sticht Plate is amongst the most ancient devices. It had a very elementary design at the time but was quite useful.

Later, it got evolved into Chouinard Micro-Belay Plates. But Black Diamond was still not satisfied with this advanced design. It improved the design further, and the ATC was born.

You might be wondering what the problem was with a refined device like the Sticht Plate. The plate used to slide downwards to lock with the carabiner whenever the rappeller applied excess pressure on the cord.

It usually resulted in the string getting stuck. It was a terrible thing for any rappeler, irrespective of the skill levels.

A solution was found for this by making a little tweaking in the original design. The slots were set half an inch higher on the carabiner. The lockdown risk was thus avoided by allowing the string to have proper tension.

Besides, the ATC developers altered the edge. They made it a little sharper. In this manner, a higher friction level could be obtained on edge to have better control.

ATC-XP Design

With the excellent contribution of Jonny Woodward, the ATC-XP variant was designed after about ten years of the discovery of the original ATC device. Although ATC's earlier design was excellent, it failed to offer the required amount of friction with thinner cords. For instance, climbers use 8mm ropes for ice climbing purposes.

The new XP device had a lopsided design. A considerable amount of friction was generated on one side as opposed to the other side. Extra friction implied unnecessary wear. That is why the ATC-XP device has additional material to ensure a long life.

Amazon's Choice

Black Diamond ATC-Xp Belay/Rappel Device

The ATC belay device from Black Diamond has been quite prevalent. There are several reasons for such a respected status for a rappel device. The rappeller needs to believe in the gear to perform such unsafe acts.

Although it may not be challenging to rappel with the new device, you must learn a few things about it. Here is a detailed procedure for using it.

  • 1. You need to select the rappelling mode. I am referring to two unequal sides in the device.
  • 2. Ensure to keep the string on the right when facing the anchor, and you step over it. The assumption here is the same: for righties.
  • 3. Please take out the ATC from the carabiner and slide the string in the upper slot after you pinch it. It is to be noted that this step is difficult to apply. You may have to squeeze real hard or maybe apply pressure with your mouth to ensure proper pinching.
  • 4. The ATC orientation needs to be ensured here. The string should go from one side to the other or from up to the downward side.
  • 5. Check the carabiner. The carabiner should be clipped via the rope loop and keeper's loop. The rope must be routed via the carabiner. It would be best if you were doubly sure of this as your life is dependent on this.
How to Rappel with ATC Rappel-Belay Device


The Black Diamond ATC is a dependable gear. Almost every rappeler has vouched for it. Rappelers can safely use it for canyoneering and rappel jobs. However, safety is also dependent on humidity and canyon topography.

I am using the Classic ATC device for rappel sports for the last many years. I take pride in reporting that I never faced any problems with it. It has a solid design.

If you use it carefully, following the guidelines, and set it up safely, it will always provide the best results.

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About the author 


Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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