Mechanically assisted belay devices are the norm in today’s sport climbing world. In theory, they are safer than passive belay devices and also much more user friendly. Just try and think about belaying your partner while they quest up their next project sussing beta for an hour without one. Sounds like a pretty miserable experience, huh? We couldn’t agree more.
This need for both safety and an ergonomic, user friendly experience for the belayer is exactly what Trango focused on when they designed their just released Vergo belay device. With the Vergo, they wanted to put out a mechanically assisted belay device that was both safer and easier to use than anything else on the market.
With these goals in mind, here’s a review of the Trango by experienced climber and rolfer Dave Sheldon. Dave has been using the Vergo for several months and he weighs in on exactly how the Vergo’s design makes it so safe and easy to use. Before you buy your next belay device, definitely give this review a read.
Trango Vergo Belay Device Review
This is a long review, so for those with short attention spans, I’ll get right to the point. Trango has just released a mechanically assisted belay device called the Vergo. It’s amazing and you should go buy one.
Need more info? Then, consider that the Vergo was designed with the help of a PhD. ergonomist to ensure it was compatible with the dynamics of the human hand. One result of this design partnership is that the Vergo must be held in a very specific way. Thankfully, the hand position is comfortable, intuitive and maximizes the device’s safety and performance.
To use the Vergo, position the thumb of your braking hand (right hand) onto the thumb-pad located on faceplate. Grip the back of the device by laying your index finger in the textured finger grove. The remaining three fingers of your braking hand hold the rope.
I could not find another way to comfortably hold the Vergo, let alone hold it and use it effectively. I feel I cannot overstate this…the safest way to hold the Vergo and maximize its performance is to simply use it exactly as it was designed.
Feeding Out Slack
Depending on the size of your rope, feeding slack can feel almost frictionless, and with some practice, I was dumping out rope considerably faster than with any other belay device I have used, all the while staying in total control of the brake side of the rope. That’s right, the Vergo lets you feed slack with blazing speed without a safety compromise or decrease in performance. And if the leader were to fall while you’re in the midst of dishing out a few feet of cord, the Vergo will lock down tight.
The Vergo does require one adjustment from the user to ensure smooth rope deployment. You must pull rope out in a horizontal motion, keeping your hand parallel to the ground. The move is quite different than the standard technique of extending your arm up toward the leader as you feed out rope, but after a few routes in the gym, I was a pro. The motion is also easy on sore rotator cuffs and deltoid tweaks.
If you do accidentally lock up the device with an improper feed, drop your hand to your side, pull horizontally, and you’ll have all the slack you need. I found a similar procedure worked during the dreaded short-rope-lock-up that happens when you have not given your leader enough slack to clip with and she locks up your belay device pulling up rope. To remedy this event, I found it best to take a step toward the cliff (putting a little bit of slack in the system) while vigorously tugging out one length of slack with the correct horizontal pull technique. This always unlocked the Vergo and put me in a position to quickly feed out more rope, if needed.
When catching leader falls, I found the Vergo locked down on ropes so well I half expected to hear a beast-like “grrrrrrr” emanate from its aluminum jaws every time someone pitched off. This tight and rope friendly squeeze was especially welcome when climbing with 9mm diameter cords: think zero rope creep. (The device is rated for ropes 8.9mm to 10.7mm and weighs 195grams). Lowering also felt especially safe as the lever arm allowed for a welcome degree of control.
Overall Impression of the Trango Vergo
Then, when multi-pitch climbing, the Vergo was a joy to use rigged in guide mode (belaying the follower up with the device clipped into an equalized anchor). Again, there was zero rope creep and the pull was smooth and easy. Finally, rappelling was refreshingly simple as I was able to control my rate of descent so well using a glove was not a necessity. However, the Vergo does struggle a bit in the gym when top-rope belaying on 11mm static ropes, as cords this fat are outside the maximum diameter the device was designed for.
After four months of testing in a variety of climbing scenarios using numerous ropes in different diameters, I am happy to report the Vergo always impressed with its safety, performance and ease of use. So, whether you’re new to the sport and are ready to purchase your first mechanically assisted belay device or have been climbing for decades and have lost count of the rope grabbing contraptions that have passed through your gnarled mits, consider putting the Trango Vergo at the top of your shopping list.
About The Author – Dave Sheldon
Dave has been climbing for sixteen years and has climbed sport routes up to 5.13b. He enjoys writing about what makes top climbers tick and how the 99% can more efficiently achieve their climbing goals in a creative, safe, and injury free manner.
When he’s not burning valuable resources commuting to Rifle Mountain Park, he works as an Advanced Rolfer and SourcePoint Therapist in Boulder, CO. Neely is one of his highly satisfied clients, actually! Visit his website for more information about his private practice. www.davesheldon.com