I don’t generally think of myself as a sport climber. While I do own a GriGri, it has seen almost as much use on big walls as it has clipping bolts. So when I received a new Trango Cinch, I wasn’t sure if it would fit into my gear quiver. One of the first things I noticed was that the Cinch accepts a wider range of ropes than my old GriGri. The Cinch is rated for ropes as thin as 9.4mm and as thick as 11mm. Since I have been using thinner ropes in recent years, this was an immediate plus in my mind. The other thing I noticed was the complex instruction manual that accompanied the device. After using the Cinch for sport climbing and multipitch guiding its smooth operation, compact size and lightweight earned it a place on my rack, after a few hiccups.
Fast forward several weeks after the Cinch’s arrival and I’m on the sharp end with my wife managing the Cinch belay. When my foot pops off of a miniscule Smith nubbin, I find myself sailing into a reassuringly soft catch that ends any of my worries about the Cinch’s reliability. On pitch after pitch at Smith, I found the Cinch to be incredibly smooth whether belaying a leader or a follower. Here I must mention that this was in no way thanks to the instruction booklet. That cryptic sheet of diagrams provides the basic information for using the device, but neglects to emphasize the nuances necessary to fully utilize the Cinch. After going to the Trango website and watching an instructional video on the Cinch’s use, I felt much better prepared to safely belay with the device. While most climbers will be able to figure out the basic operation of the Cinch, the video’s clear advice helps make the Cinch operate like a dream.
Next it was off to the multipitch venues of Lover’s Leap and Red Rock. Here I used the Cinch to belay the second from above, directly off of the anchor. As a guide I have been using this technique for years with Petzl’s Reverso and BD’s ATC Guide, and I know many guides that have developed elbow tendinitis from performing this repetitive motion all summer long. I was amazed at the ease and smoothness with which the Cinch worked in this configuration. Far smoother than any device that uses a carabiner as the locking mechanism, the Cinch felt like belaying through a pulley.
While not recommended or rated for these uses, I know climbers that have used the Cinch as a self belay device (both leading and top roping) with great success. Big wall climbers have also taken to using the device as a backup on the rope when jugging fixed ropes, as its smooth feeding provides an extra margin of security with very minor fuss.
There were a few minor issues that came up with the Cinch. When lowering a climber on a skinny rope, the Cinch was harder to control than other similar devices. The video offers some great tips on hand position for addressing this issue, and I doubt I would have figured them out on my own. Once the new tactics were employed, it was much easier to offer a smooth lower– something every climber enjoys! My only other complaint with the Cinch was that the carabiner hole is too small to spin a locking carabiner in. This was particularly evident when belaying off of a top anchor and wanting to rotate a carabiner through the device instead of through the anchor’s power point. While I did get used to this small annoyance, I can’t help but wonder what it would take to expand the clip-in hole to enable the screwgate of a locker to fit through.
Finally, I did use the Cinch for a limited number of rappels. Similar to a GriGri, to rappel of off a device like this, you must have a blocking knot that allows you to rappel on a single strand of rope. In this configuration, the device feeds incredibly smoothly and eliminates the need for an autoblock, or prussik backup, as it is possible to go hands free by simply letting go of the device.
While certainly not a do-it-all belay device, the Cinch is remarkably adept at doing what it does extremely well. If you are in the market for an auto locking belay device that fits on a wide variety of rope sizes and is as smooth an operator as the stud that Sade sang about, be sure and give the Cinch a spin.
Pros: Small and light weight; accommodates a wide variety of ropes; incredibly smooth rope feeding; simple to use*
Cons: * Simpler to use after watching video; small carabiner hole