In 2015, Bloomberg spotted a quietly growing movement on the brink of a ‘Cross fit-like explosion.’ Three years on, indoor climbing now attracts over 1 million people in the UK and 35 million worldwide. The sport’s growing popularity has meant that for the first time in history, it will be an Olympic Sport in the Tokyo 2020 games.
The reason for the growth is mainly due to the number of indoor climbing walls springing up globally in urban locations. This is making climbing accessible for everyone. This has meant a democratisation of a pursuit that was once reserved only for the wealthy Victorian adventurers.
With the invention of auto belays (an assisted braking device that takes up the slack while climbing and slows the descent or fall of a climber) climbing has become even easier to get into as it no longer needs an experienced climbing partner.
This means more opportunities to learn, play or train, whenever a climber wants.
But, for many owners climbing wall servicing is often an overlooked element in the setting up and running of climbing walls. Both climbing walls and auto belays need to be regularly serviced to ensure the safety of climbers.
We’ve answered some common questions about climbing wall and auto belay servicing to help you get up to speed with the requirements and some key areas to consider.
Why service your climbing wall?
All artificial climbing structures (ACS) / roped climbing walls should be checked and undergo an annual inspection using the manufacturer’s manual and in line with EN 12572-1:2007 regulations.
It is recommended that at a minimum, annual checks are carried out. These checks involve assessing the foundation, structural frame integrity, wall surfaces for evidence of wear or corrosion and that all protection systems are safe.
Why service your auto belay?
An auto belay makes climbing safer, easier and can increase the number of lower-skilled customers without the need for other climbers to belay them. This can lower your overheads and increase membership for your business.
At their core, however, auto belays are life safety devices. This is why it is vital that your auto belay is checked regularly by your staff and that it is also fully serviced annual and re-certified by qualified professionals. Auto belay servicing should be offered as part of a purchase. Also check with the distributor whether it is serviced on site or has to be sent away for servicing.
What does re-certification mean?
All auto belay devices must undergo a yearly service and re-certification. This re-certification is an industry requirement that states that the system complies with national safety standards.
At SafeClimb, we service a wide range of auto belay products as well as our own Safedown auto belay.
What happens in re-certification?
Auto belays are fully cleaned and every individual component in the device is inspected for wear and tear. The retraction mechanism are reviewed and tested, as are the braking mechanisms, clutch and drive.
The auto belay is then fully reassembled and tested.
How long does re-certification take?
Some turnaround times for servicing / re-certification can take up to 10 days, possibly longer if a service centre is busy. You may even have to send your auto belay to a service centre miles away or even to a different country. SafeClimb offers on-site servicing and warehouse options to climbing facilities and proactively notify customers when it is due. We also bring spares and replacement components to ensure that we carefully repair all devices on site to get you up and running as soon as possible.
Why consider auto belay servicing costs before buying?
The cost of purchasing an auto belay devices will cost you around £2,500. However, while these look like good value, these prices exclude the cost of yearly servicing. Servicing is mandatory because liability for any failure passes to the operator. Yearly servicing costs varies by manufacturer, but over the lifespan of the device (usually at least 10 years) it will almost certainly add up to more than the initial cost of the device.
In terms of the economics of auto-belay systems, this needs to be considered before choosing a system to invest in. For some of the US-made devices, servicing could set you back another £400 per unit per year. Over 10 years, this could make the cost of each device (purchase plus yearly servicing, at current prices) somewhere around £6,500. Compare this to the cost over ten years of a Safedown Auto Belay (with onsite servicing at just £150 per year) at £4,000. Auto belay servicing, therefore, an important consideration when evaluating cost effectiveness.
This is even more important when you consider that most climbing centres will have multiple devices – a climbing centre purchasing 10 auto belays is therefore likely to need an initial outlay in the region of £25,000, but when calculating payback periods servicing costs make a huge difference:
For a climbing centre with 10 auto belay devices, high auto belay servicing costs from manufacturers can mean paying anywhere up to £25,000. (10 devices at £2,500 upfront with servicing at £400 per unit per year [total £65,000] versus 10 devices at £2,500 upfront with servicing at £150 per unit per year [total £40,000] – all for ten years at today’s prices)
Not only that, but to be serviced, many auto belays need to be shipped to a service centre, at additional cost and without a replacement device to be used whilst yours is being serviced.
Safedown devices are serviced on-site, by one of our trained engineers.
What questions should I ask about auto belay servicing plans before choosing a device?
- How much will servicing cost, per unit per year?
- What additional costs might I incur (for parts, for example)?
- Is servicing on-site or return-to-base?
- If return-to-base, how long will I be without my auto belay?
- Do you manage the servicing schedule and send me requirements?
How can you keep on top of your servicing requirements?
Safety is our number one concern at SafeClimb, which is why we remind our customers and plan in their servicing and maintenance well in advance. We monitor, diarise and schedule visits for all of our customers, thereby providing pro-active service support and scheduling. This ensures you can effectively manage your business.
Why choose SafeClimb to service your climbing equipment?
- We limit the amount of downtime on your devices by servicing on site. That means you don’t have to worry about packing, scheduling deliveries or worrying about when serviced gear will be returned.
- Our engineers can service a wide range of devices at a location of your choice. Currently, we service companies across the United Kingdom, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and Japan.
- We leave nothing to chance and plan for every eventuality. That means that all replacement parts and repairs can be carried out and completed on the day of service, so you have no interruption of your business.
- We do of course offer workshop servicing. But, even in this case, we can turn around devices within 24-48 hours with diagnostics, repairs and re-certification all fully completed.
- We are able to service both static & mobile climbing walls, as we are NTTA qualified we are also able to service the trailer units to the mobile walls. We have completed hundreds of inspections over the last 10 years and are trusted partners to a number of climbing facilities across the world.
We love climbing and are passionate about safety. We can help you find the right climbing wall for your facility and provide auto belays and all other climbing equipment through SafeClimb. For more information about the Safedown Auto Belay, contact Liza or Scott on +44 (0)333 200 2602 to find out how our SafeClimb can become your climbing partner.