An Alternative Way to Release an Autolocking Belay Device

Tip/Trick/Gimmick:An Alternative Way to Release an Autoblocking Belay Device

Source: "The Mountaineering Handbook" - Craig Connally  

Contributed by: Marty Comiskey (

Best useful for:   Top rope     Trad  x       Mountaineering x
                            Sport           Ice   x        Other (list) Rescue scenarios

Description: An autoblocking belay device (i.e. Petzl Reverso, BD ATC Guide) is a convenient device for belaying a second off of the anchor. On occasion it becomes necessary to "release" the device after it becomes "weighted" in order to give slack to the second for climbing purposes and/or to 

lower the second. If the amount of rope to be released is relatively short and/or the lower is only a small distance, the usual methods to release the device work fine (i.e. use a sling to rig a pulley/

use nut tool as a lever/ use carabiner nose as a lever).

However, there may arise a scenario where you need to lower the second a full rope length to the ground due to injury or such. Using the above mentioned methods would be cumbersome and control would be problematic trying to "feather" the sling/pulley or "lever" system for a full rope length.

Craig Connally had a suggestion in his book that should be filed away in your "tool box" for such a situation. His suggestion (briefly):

- take rope coming off locked belay device and rig a Munter Hitch on a biner located above the belay device and tie it off with a Munter/mule knot
- attach a prussik knot/loop to the rope leading to the second and attach a biner
- attach a sling (or use the climbing rope) to the anchor and run it through the biner on the prussik knot and attach end of sling to your harness belay loop with a biner
- using your legs stand up from a squat, this will cause a 2:1 pulley effect on the sling applied through the prussik knot/climbing rope
- now that the belay device is "unweighted" remove belay device from rope/anchor. Squat back down putting weight back onto the climbing rope (now being supported by Munter hitch/Mule knot)
- remove prussik knot/loop from climbing rope
- untie Munter/Mule (while holding onto rope)
- lower second using Munter hitch

You can now more easily lower the second without the constant fiddling with the Reverso/lever set up. Hopefully, you will never need to do this rescue procedure, but if the occassion calls for it, it is a more workable alternative to the "standard" methods.


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