02 Nov Who Makes the Best Climbing Ascender for Tower Climbers?
In many industries one product often rises in popularity above the rest and becomes the standard to which all other products are compared. Since Fernand Petzl developed the first mechanical ascenders in the 1940’s to further his caving exploits, the Petzl Corporation has maintained its status as producing the gold standard in ascenders.
Most climbing ascenders are a variation on this design. By and large, more Petzl Crolls sit on harnesses than any other design. That said, having something recognized as the best also provides a goal for others to achieve. It is the human drive to achieve and rise that brings us a constant stream on new innovations in science and engineering.
The Italian manufacturing company, C.A.M.P., has made a worthy attempt to dethrone the king.
Photo credit: http://www.camp-usa.com/products/rope-tools/turbo-chest/ and https://www.rei.com/product/884204/camp-usa-turbo-chest-ascender
While Petzl has its roots in caving, C.A.M.P. (Conception of Articles for Mountaineering Made in Premana), as a company, began with a call for better mountaineering equipment from an officer of the Italian Army Alpine Troops. Their first product was an ice axe, meant to facilitate troop movements over difficult terrain. Fast forward 100 years, their equipment offerings include a full range of industrial and mountaineering tools.
Both companies carry a spirit of furthering exploration by providing high quality fall protection and difficult access equipment.
C.A.M.P.’s premium entry into the climbing ascender arena is called the Turbo Chest. In overall design, it is comparable to the Petzl Croll chest ascender. Both devices come with a 3 year guarantee of craftsmanship.
The Croll is designed to accept ropes in varying diameters, from 8mm to 11mm. The Turbo Chest accommodates diameters of rope from 8mm to 13mm.
The Croll has maximum weight capacity of 309 lbs versus the Turbo Chest, which has a maximum weight capacity of 265 lbs. So, while the Croll can handle more weight, the Turbo Chest is more versatile in the diameter of rope it can safely accept. The Turbo Chest’s claim to fame is its rollers, designed to reduce friction and wear between the rope and the device.
These rollers provide a friction limiting surface for the interaction of the rope in the ascender.
Additionally, the rollers also allow for the device’s use as a low efficiency pulley, whose capacity is 110 lbs worth of non-living load. These features add some versatility and potential long term advantages to the Turbo Chest.
Limiting Factor to the Turbo Chest
That said, we’ve had the opportunity to use both devices over an extended period of time and we have found one limiting factor to the Turbo Chest.
As part of the design philosophy, C.A.M.P. has taken great lengths to ensure the Turbo Chest is not as hard on the rope as the venerable Croll. To this end, the teeth used on the cam are far less aggressive. Over time, as wear on the teeth occurs, we have found the Turbo Chest is less able to achieve a positive grip on the rope, occasionally leading to slippage.
Overall, we have NOT found this to be too great a hindrance, as proper inspections and correct climbing form will mitigate any slippage issues. What it does mean is that the overall service life of the product is diminished. I have come to accept this as part of the cost of having a high performance rope ascender, which is designed to be easier on your ropes.
Simply put, the Turbo Chest has a combination of features and draw backs that, while may not place it solidly above the Croll, will allow it a seat alongside it as a quality product.
In terms of a clean, simple design we give the nod to the Croll. However, for overall versatility, our vote is for the Turbo Chest.
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