Ever since I first laid eyes on this little device hanging off my buddy’s harness, I knew I had to have one. Simple ascender, rappel backup, makeshift belay device, part of a hauling setup: this little device is probably the single most versatile piece of gear I take into the mountains.
The minimal weight of these simple gadgets and their potential to turn a sketchy spot into a safe and controlled situation greatly outweigh the extra hundred grams or so on your harness. I’ve used mine as an ascender, as a rappel backup instead of a prusik, as part of a crevasse-rescue system, as a load-hauling stopper, and, most recently, a self-belay device: I had managed to fuck up setting the ropes for top-roping (how?!), so instead we had to climb up on a semi-fixed line, using our basic ascenders. Clipped to the belay loop, the ascender rises effortlessly up the rope alongside the climber, yet locks immediately with even the slightest downward load. Sketchy situation turned into, well, a somewhat less sketchy situation.
The tooth-less construction doesn’t damage ropes, and the camming action works with every diameter of rope I’ve tried – from one 8mm half-rope to an 8mm half and a 9.5mm single stuffed into the device at once! Additionally, the cam works with muddy, iced-up, and frozen ropes.
There are probably several makes of these devices out there, though I know of only three, the Ushba Basic Ascender, the Camp Lift Ascender and the Grand Wall Equipment uAscend. All three work on the same basic principle, though the Camp is slightly lighter and more compact (122g for the uAscend, 120g for the Ushba, 95g for the Camp). For what it’s worth, I own and use the Ushba and the Camp.
Pros: multiple uses, relatively light
Overall: A great multi-purpose device that comes along with me almost everywhere.