I bought the Pivot the first day it arrived in the Outdoor Gear Exchange, where I was working at the time it was released. Intrigued by the new design, I had to try it. That was in the summer. Now, over six months later, I’ve had the opportunity to put this thing to the test, and I must say, I’ve only been pleased with how it operates.
Let’s start with the basics. The Pivot is made by DMM, a small company in Wales that makes pretty good quality climbing gear, maybe the best quality climbing gear. I love DMM for a number of reasons. Top notch products, great customer service, and perhaps best of all, enormous attention to detail and quality. DMM makes everything in house in Wales, and puts a serial number on everything so it can be tracked back to the particular person who made it. Pretty cool stuff. Everything DMM makes is pretty expensive, and for good reason, it works, and it works well. If you’ve ever owned anything DMM, you probably know what I’m talking about. So when the Pivot was first released, I knew I could expect something of high standard.
The Pivot weighs 72grams, which is just in-between the Black Diamond ATC guide (88g) and the Petzl Reverso (59g). Not exactly the lightest plate for you weight conscious climbers. When you first look at it, most people say “Wow, that looks a lot like the Reverso!”. They aren’t wrong. In fact, DMM manufactures the Reverso for Petzl. While not official, I sort of view the Pivot as DMM’s way of taking the Reverso and improving it, which is pretty much exactly what they did.
Prior to buying the Pivot I was using the Reverso, so the first thing I noticed when using it was in the belaying. The Pivot is listed as compatible with ropes ranging in size from 7.3 to 11m, which is a slightly bigger range than the Reverso. I attribute this to the Pivot being slightly narrower, which actually makes it feel a bit easier to catch falls with skinnier ropes. I don’t own any fat ropes, but I would imagine it would be a bit more challenging to belay with ropes thicker than 10mm, particularly in guide mode. All in all, however, the Pivot belays a leader pretty similar to the Reverso and ATC guide. Where this device really shines is in guide mode.
The Pivot does exactly that, pivot. The intention, according to DMM is to “allow controlled and easily initiated lowering when used in guide/direct mode.” While I’m not sure that this device is the magic solution to controlled lowering using a guide plate device, I do think DMM did a great job of creating a device that significantly improves the problems that occur when lowering a second.
I can think of two main reasons why you would need to lower a second. The first is because they fell on the route, and need to be lowered to get back on, or they want to re-try the sequence. This generally happens when people are climbing on overhanging terrain, or they are climbing at their limit. Generally speaking, these are shorter lowers, and may only be a few feet or so. The second reason you may need to lower someone is after they've finished the route. Your managing from the top, the second finishes and you lower them off and then you will rappel. This doesn’t happen a ton in recreational climbing, for a number of reasons, and I find that generally most people will rappel the route, however, this does happen often in guiding, when a client is not yet ready to rappel on their own.
Let’s talk about the first situation. Here is where the Pivot really excels. This happens pretty commonly. You and your partner are out climbing and you led the pitch. Your belaying your partner up to you and they need some slack. Maybe they got to a roof and need to pull a big move, or maybe they fell and need some slack to get back on route, whatever the situation is, pulling slack through a standard device is usually a pain if they need more than a few inches. The Pivot solves this problem. Feeding a few feet of slack to a second is quick and easy with the Pivot. However, if your second is hanging in space, you might have a bit of trouble getting the device to unweight. It gets easier with practice. Lowering short distances with the Pivot is a joy. It releases smoothly and is easy to control. (See animation below for an example) If for some reason you were to lose control, letting go of the device would re-engage the break. That being said, after countless lowers, never once did I ever fear losing control. The whole process feels similar to lowering with a GriGri, but isn’t quite as smooth since your controlling the release with your hand, rather than with a lever. The main difference is that your required to hold the Pivot open with more force than what's required by the GriGri. If the second has anything close to full body weight on the rope, this can take a fair amount of effort on your behalf. For this reason, it is my opinion that the "pivoting" aspect of the device is really only useful for shorter lowers.
Now let’s talk about the second situation, lowering a full pitch. As I mentioned above, it can take some effort to hold open the device when lowering a second. For this reason, I would never choose to lower someone a full pitch on this device using my hand for manual release. If I did need to lower someone a full length, I would always lower using a dynemma runner redirected through a higher point, and backed up properly. Simply put, the small 2:1 you create for yourself in this situation makes for much smoother and easier lowering. (The only exception to this would be on really slabby terrain, where lowering would be quite easy without the redirect.) Now all that being said, no one really ever lowers in guide mode by choice except guides. While it's an important skill to know, just about everyone I know who guides in a single pitch setting, myself included, is going to chose to use a GriGri for lowering seconds whenever possible. It's just safer and easier.
So what’s the short and sweet? The DMM Pivot is a phenomenal solution to the problems presented by standard tubular belay devices with the guide feature. The Pivot allows for quick and easy lowering of seconds in situations that require them to be fed a bit of extra rope. When lowering a full pitch, the Pivot works better in the standard redirect mode, but offers no real advantage over other devices that also require this method for safe lowering. People who chose to lower their second regularly would always chose devices like the GriGri for this application. When all is said and done, the Pivot offers no obvious disadvantages, and for this reason, is the only tubular belay device I carry. Retailing at the same price as just about every other belay device on the market, simply put, I see no reason not to chose the Pivot over other devices.
Full Disclosure: I bought the Pivot with my own money and have no affiliation with DMM what-so-ever. Also, climbing is dangerous, before using a device like the Pivot, make sure you receive proper instruction on the correct application of the techniques listed in this review!