September 30, 2021

What Does ATC Stand for Climbing: a Guide to ATC Devices

by Jullie


Table of Contents

In the world of sports, one can participate in very many activities, such as rock climbing. If you would want to start learning about rock climbing, you will realize that this is one sport that requires a lot of care and knowledge before engaging in. It is also one of the sports that require very powerful protective gear during the climbing session.

Many climbers focus on immediate protective gear such as; the helmet, carabineers, and climbing ropes while preparing for sports. They tend to forget some, such as ATC devices, which have a beneficial purpose in protecting the climber. 

To clearly understand the use of ATC protective gears, you need to learn in-depth what ATC is. Some of the questions that need to be clarified are what ATC stands for climbing, Air Traffic Controller in rock climbing, and how helpful ATC is during the sports activity.

What Does ATC Stand for Climbing?

ATC, abbreviated as “Air Traffic Controller,” is a professionally designed ATC device commonly used in rock sports activities. ATC offers solid and quality protection to the climbers during a sports activity. 

The ATC device is used by climbers, especially when they are going up and down the wall. It’s a tube-like device that is made from diamond, making it extremely fit for the work. 

Before the production of ATC, other belay devices were produced which had the same Kleenex effect as the ATC. In rock climbing activities, ATC has two major roles in the sport. 

One of its roles is to protect belaying and abseiling climbers from potential falls while going up or down the wall. If you need to purchase these rock climbing gears, such as ATC, you need to fully understand different types in the market.

Which ATC Devices are Used in Rock Climbing?

ATC has different types, which all serve the same purpose in the sport. This article will help you identify some of the types you might get in the market and their unique benefits. 

It’s always so important to learn all the devices used before attempting the use them. This article will help you identify which ATC device best suits ice rock sport and normal rock-climbing activity.

1) Basic ATC Device

7) PETZL Reverso Climbing Belay Device

In case you want to have your hands on an all-rounder device that doesn’t pinch your budget, consider buying Petzl Reverso. It’s a multi-use belay and rappel device you can use for belaying a second in the Reverso mode.

This device is considered one of the cheapest rock-climbing gear. It is professionally made with aluminum tubes that split the pipe into two, creating two identical orifices attached to a plastic loop on one side. 

It is one of the most used and preferred devices by rock climbers. If you have been to any sport, you would realize that the price of the equipment used would relatively affect some players. 

The urge to have good and efficient equipment in the market helps a lot. With Basic ATC in the market, it’s always easy for anyone starting rock climbing to purchase without making lots of struggles.

2) ATC XP Device

3) Black Diamond Big Air XP Package

Finding a belaying device better than ATC XP is hard. There’s a reason why you can’t find an alternative to ATC XP. It comes as one of the most affordable and the best devices in any country right now.

It is one of the most preferred devices, especially on ice rock climbers. It is different from the rest of the devices since it has an asymmetric tube within its structure made with teethed indentation. These teethed-like structures help to increase rope friction while the climber is in motion. 

Considering that ice rock is somehow slippery, the ropes get soaked with the dripping ice water. ATC-XP’s structural design makes it possible to withstand the effect. 

3) ATC Guides Devices 

4) Black Diamond ATC-Guide Belay/Rappel Device

This is Black Diamond’s most versatile belay/rappel device. The Black Diamond ATC-Guide is 10% lighter and features improved handling in guide mode. With an oval-ized anchor-hole, this device now feeds rope and allows you to pull rope more easily.

After briefly reviewing the two types of ATC devices, here comes another class, the ATC guide device. This device is almost similar to the other two, but what differentiates it from the rest is that it comes with an additional metal loop located on the opposite side of the serrated indentation. 

It’s the best device, especially when a climber belaying from the top and another following just below in a multi-pitch climbing scenario. The benefit of using this device is that it comes with an automatic lock ability that helps a climber not fall.

For the automatic lock to work, you have to attach the ATC guide device to the anchor. An additional metal loop and a carabiner should also be incorporated to make it more strong and more efficient. This setup helps create friction on the rope caused by the climber’s weight in case of any fall. 

With this device, anyone thinking of trying rock climbing can get an assurance of safety that in case of an accident, you will be so much protected by the ATC guide device using its automatic lock. So, worry not.

Related Article: GriGri vs. ATC

What are the Types of ATC Belaying Devices?

Having looked at the review of some ATC devices, we need to consider other belaying devices used in rock climbing sports. Each of these types comes with a different model and price depending on the market volatility.

Petzel’s Gri-Gri family is one of the models that you will always find in the market. This belaying device operates on a mechanical-based operation. While utilizing Petzel’s Gri-Gri gadget, the rope and slowing mechanism utilize mechanical ways. Some of these belaying gadgets use the mechanized lock. 

2) PETZL – GRIGRI 2, Belay Device with Assisted Braking

If you carry enough climbing experience and want to pick the best of all belay devices, look no further than Petzl GriGri. It undoubtedly makes your best choice. In my opinion, the product comes with everything you may want in a traditional belaying device. Despite this fact, its higher price might make you cringed.

As the saying goes, “knowledge is power.” Without figuring out how to use these gadgets, it will be difficult to make a fundamental move when one apparatus fails. Any equipment used always depends on the type of rock you are climbing, the climate, or the methods used.

After checking out different types and models of belaying devices, it’s always wise to learn how to use them perfectly to avoid mistakes when in operation.

How to Ways of Use ATC Devices when Belaying and Rappelling?

ATC Device in Climbing

1. ATC Devices for Belaying

Below are some simple steps on how to use ATC devices for belaying a partner.

1. First, you need to place a rope at the edge and make a bend on the climber. This edge should be attached firmly to the climber.

2. Check on the ATC device you are using because some come up with images and guidelines that show where to insert the bent edge. Carefully check the side that doesn’t have a plastic loop and insert the folded edge in one of the dents in the belay devices. It would be best if you were keen on the correct orientation when inserting it on the dent.

3. After correctly inserting the bend of the rope through the ATC, now you can easily lock the carabiner. When closing, make sure the carabiner grabs both the plastic loop and the rope, then attaché it to the harness’s belaying loop.

4. Before starting the belaying process, make sure the whole setup starts from the rope going towards the climber. 

5. Once you have keenly confirmed that everything is intact, you can safely start the belaying process, observing the belaying techniques needed before making any attempts. As we had clearly said earlier, this is one of the sports that need attention and care before making any attempt. 

1. ATC Devices for Rappelling (Abseiling)

Below are some simple steps that you need to follow before making any attempt to abseil anyone. 

1. Create a firm setup for the anchor.

2. Using the pinching criteria, use both ends of the rope to create a bend that should appear on each side of the rope.

3. Carefully check the side that doesn’t have a plastic loop on the ATC device and insert the small bend you created.

4. You can carefully insert the bend through the ATC and comfortably lock using the carabiner lock, which should grab both the rope and the plastic loop. After locking, please attach it to the harness’s belaying loop.

5. After making a good and firm setup, you can begin the abseiling process. 

6. Now, you need to pull the lower ropes down and carefully bring yourself down, ensuring that you don’t let go of the rope. Before making any attempt, you first need to learn the abseiling process because any slight mistake might lead to serious injuries.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using ATC Devices in Rock Climbing?

It’s challenging to get ATC devices in the market, so it’s always good to identify alternatives if you have no ATC device for rock climbing.

ATC Device Advantages

  • ATC devices are the primary devices used in rock climbing. ATC’s use helps one confidently use other devices alternatively rather than the ATC in the same sport.
  • It is the cheapest and commonly used device for belaying and abseiling. Learning how to use it might help if perhaps it’s the only option left for you to undertake, abseiling or belaying.
  • It’s a very flexible device that is easy to use and very adaptable to several functions. 
  • ATC is light making it a good device to carry along.
  • It’s a good quality device that can handle double-roped rappels.

ATC Device Disadvantages

  • It lacks the auto-locking ability. So in case a belayer (read what is a belayer in rock climbing) loses focus or fails to grab the climbing rope, the climber will fall, causing serious injuries.
  • The use of ATC can be tiresome to climbers on some occasions.

Rock climbing can be an interesting sport if you are ready to learn and take the necessary precautions. 

After going through all the reviewed devices used in rock climbing, it’s high time you choose which device will best suit your climbing sports activity. 

It’s always good to engage in physical sports activities, but it’s always good to be cautious despite all that.

Why is belay device called ATC?

ATC is an acronym for air traffic controller. The Black Diamond Air Traffic Controller was the company’s first belay device product. It was so popular that every other belay device that followed the same design ended up called an ATC, regardless of manufacturer.

Why do ATC devices have two openings?

The two holes on some devices provide different friction because they are asymmetrical. Some are shaped with an up-and-down orientation, so two holes are provided to make it easier for left- and right-handed people to grip. Two anchor lines are usually a better choice for lead climbs. The two holes make belaying a two-rope climb easy.

What is an ATC in climbing?

ATC stands for “air traffic controller,” which was originally the name of one of Black Diamond Equipment’s belay devices, and now refers to all of the brand’s devices with the same design.

What type of belay device is an ATC?

Air Traffic Controller or ATC is a type of rappel and belay device originally invented by Black Diamond Equipment. Tubular devices create friction and stopping power by having a greater area and steeper angles than Sticht plate devices.

How do you rig an ATC?

You can learn how to rig an ATC by watching the video “How to clip an ATC belay device to rope and harness” by Chillino Rock Climbing on YouTube. The video is 1:53 minutes long.

What is ATC belaying?

One of the most common belay devices used in rock climbing is the ATC. As a climber goes up or down the wall, it secures them. “Air Traffic Controller” is the name of a belay device manufactured by Black Diamond that resembles a tube. However, Black Diamond’s ATC became so popular that it led to the “Kleenex effect.”

Can you rappel with an ATC?

Yes, you can rappel with an ATC Black Diamond’s ATC belay and rappel tool, which is simple and versatile. With the Black Diamond ATC-XP, you can handle smaller ropes used for ice climbing and canyoneering better than the original ATC can.

How do you put the ATC on harness?

Learn how to put the ATC on the harness by watching the video Climb Safe: How to belay with the ATC on YouTube. The video is 5:25 minutes long and is created by Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV).

When was the ATC invented in climbing?

Many climbers have used the Air Traffic Controller at some point during their lives. The ATC was invented for climbing in 1993 and quickly became the most popular belay device on the climbing market.

What is Guide mode ATC?

The Guide Mode Belay Device is an ATC-style belay plate that has a ‘guide mode’ option, which allows it to be used by auto-locking belay systems.

What is an ATC Black Diamond?

ATC-XP Belay Device by Black Diamond is 30% lighter than the original thanks to improved construction and precision-machined windows through the body, making it a durable, versatile belay device that can handle a wide variety of situations and rope diameters.

When can I retire the ATC belay device?

You should retire the ATC belay device if the ATC device has any kind of sharp edge on it, your rope will be cut. When any part of it is visibly cracked, obviously worn out, broken, or in the cases where the ATC device is dropped from a great height.

How often should you replace your ATC device?

If your ATC device is more than five years old, even if it has been properly stored and used and shows no visible damage, you should consider retiring it. You should retire your ATC device as soon as a year after the first time you use it if you are a climbing professional such as a mountain guide.

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About the author 

Jullie

Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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