MSA Redpoint Descender Auto Belay Discontinued Indefinitely

MSA Redpoint Descender Auto Belay Discontinued Indefinitely

Climbers all over the world are going to have to go back to a more quaint time (2002?) when one actually had to make friends in order to climb routes in a gym, at least if their gym uses the Redpoint Descender auto belay device manufactured by MSA.

Back in October, MSA issued a stop-use notice after two climbers were injured in auto belay accidents:

MSA very recently became aware of two incidents where climbers using Redpoint Descenders experienced rapid rates of descent resulting in injuries. Our preliminary investigation indicates an issue with the one-way bearings provided by our supplier, which may prevent the brakes from engaging during descent. Due to the nature of this condition, the users were not able to detect the problem before the rapid descents occurred.

After evaluating the situation these past 2 months, MSA decided to get out of the auto belay business completely instead of trying to fix the problem (emphasis mine):

As you are already aware, MSA issued a Stop-Use Notice on Redpoint and Auto-Belay Descenders on October 14, 2009 and a subsequent Stop-Use Notice Update on November 3, 2009. The Stop-Use Notices were emailed and mailed to all Redpoint and affected Auto-Belay purchasers that MSA has on record. After conducting a thorough investigation, MSA is planning to discontinue the Redpoint Descender.

MSA did not make this decision lightly, and we regret any inconvenience this action may cause. As you are aware, there are alternative belay systems available from other manufacturers. While we regret having to take this action, the overriding need to ensure the safety of all those using our product on recreational climbing walls is our highest priority. With this action, MSA is effectively exiting the recreational market for climbing wall auto-belay systems.

This decision has left gyms using the Redpoint Descender in a bit of a pinch.  At least one gym, Boulder’s Movement, has introduced a new program aimed at connecting people looking for route climbing partners until they can come up with an alternate, more trustworthy, auto belay system.

I’d be interested to know just how many gyms were using this auto belay so if your gym used the Redpoint Descender please share in the comments.

Update:  Here’s an excellent comment from StellarTemple who works at a gym.  Keep them coming.

I work at Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul. We had 6 of them that we had to take down. We still have nine up that work on a hydraulic system. As far as I know there are no other companies that make self-contained auto-belay systems such as the Redpoint Descender. All the other auto-belay systems out there need to have a hydraulic system permanently fixed to the wall. Alot of gyms are going to have a problem going that route because they are very expensive, and really you need to build your gym with their presence in mind. They take up a lot of wall space, something climbing gyms dont really have to spare. The word I’ve heard regarding MSA is that they are going bankrupt so their withdrawl from this fiasco might be an attempt to stop some bleeding.

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26 Responses to MSA Redpoint Descender Auto Belay Discontinued Indefinitely

  1. Tom Markiewicz December 9, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    Saw this last night via a Nicros email as well and can’t help but wonder – aren’t there other manufacturers? Was MSA the only game in town?

    I liked occasionally using the auto-belays. They’re great for warming up and getting some laps in.

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  2. Dan December 9, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    I work at Upper Limits Bloomington and we have ten of them sitting. Usually five set up in the gym and also used them on portable walls. We haven’t found any other models that aren’t built into/behind the wall, and the walls that had autobelays are concrete…

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    • Narc December 9, 2009 at 9:34 am #

      From what I know these things are really expensive. Are gyms just left holding the bag on these now unsupported auto belays?

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      • Dan December 9, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

        Yea they are far from cheap to purchase and then cost hundreds to get rebuilt/refurbished each year.

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  3. cadaverchris December 9, 2009 at 9:39 am #

    In the DC area Sportrock used them, (they’ve been down since the stop use notice). I never saw them at the Earth Treks gyms.

    I’m wondering how word will get out to small time owners (park systems, scoutgroups, camps, carnies etc).

    -C

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  4. Matt Hoffmann December 9, 2009 at 10:19 am #

    One of the gyms I go to (Cliffhanger Coquitlam) had 3 set up. They were nice occasionally for getting in some laps or warming up.

    They disappeared a few months ago and just never came back. Seems like this is why.

    -Matt

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  5. Eric December 9, 2009 at 10:51 am #

    Hangar 18 southbay used to have 2 of them. They went in for service just before the recall and never came back… its a shame b/c i used to use them to run laps to warm up and i hate being a toprope belayer

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  6. StellarTemple December 9, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    I work at Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul. We had 6 of them that we had to take down. We still have nine up that work on a hydraulic system. As far as I know there are no other companies that make self-contained auto-belay systems such as the Redpoint Descender. All the other auto-belay systems out there need to have a hydraulic system permanently fixed to the wall. Alot of gyms are going to have a problem going that route because they are very expensive, and really you need to build your gym with their presence in mind. They take up a lot of wall space, something climbing gyms dont really have to spare. The word I’ve heard regarding MSA is that they are going bankrupt so their withdrawl from this fiasco might be an attempt to stop some bleeding.

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    • Narc December 9, 2009 at 11:20 am #

      Thanks for the excellent thoughts.

      We have the hydraulic system as well. I couldn’t believe how expensive they were, but they sure are nice. I was under the impression that the Redpoint Descenders were also very expensive so it’s got to be especially frustrating for all the gyms that have them and now can’t use them.

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      • StellarTemple December 9, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

        The Redpoint Descenders are about $3,000-5,000. Very frustrating for those stuck with them.

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  7. Eggbert December 9, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    “Climbers all over the world are going to have to go back to a more quaint time (2002?) when one actually had to make friends in order to climb routes in a gym”

    LOL.

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  8. Craig December 9, 2009 at 12:37 pm #

    Narc-As usual you have your finger on the pulse of the industry. Their are a few issues with the Roses being discontinued. Like many of the other folks have commented, the Auto-belay has become a vital tool in a modern climbing gym. We have built a business around the auto belay from walk in families who can easily access our facility without a class to members buying memberships because they come in without their unreliable partner. I can bring in my family and my wife and swap off semi watching our kids and climbing. Now MSA discontinues the program. Now what? A lot of gyms are going to be hurting. For businesses who operate on a very thing margin it has the potential to put gyms under. The worst part is MSA is currently in the process of deciding who they will be reimbursing and for how much. I can sense that a lot of gyms will not “qualify”. We will see what happens. Spectrum sports makes an awesome auto belay. Thanks for the post.

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  9. Josh December 9, 2009 at 4:14 pm #

    Looks like Rockwerx may have something…

    http://www.rockwerxclimbing.com/3229.xml

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  10. Mike December 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm #

    check these guys out: http://www.extremeengineering.com This says that they have the patent on the hydraulic system.
    Looks like the Rockwerx system is the same as the red point descender just with 2 brakes instead of one. If one brake fails, what’s preventing the second one from doing the same thing. I think they are more expensive also.

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  11. Stephan January 18, 2010 at 4:22 am #

    I had 2 pcs :(

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    • Daniel February 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

      We were able to find replacement units that can be easily swapped for Red Points. We’re currently providing them to our existing customers but if you need 2 units we can order those for you. Please e-mail me if you need them.

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  12. Candie June 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    We recently launched the TRUBLUE Auto Belay (www.climbtru.com). It is designed for the climbing industry and is the only auto belay engineered to meet international safety standards (US, Canada, Europe, NZ, Australia) and has undergone extensive testing by an ISO 17025 certified lab specializing in product safety testing.

    The TRUBLUE uses a self-regulating magentic braking system, which eliminates the needs for a clutch bearing (a key potential point of failure in previous and current modular auto bealy designs). TRUBLUE is owned by Eldorado Climbing Walls, and we think it is the best option on the market and will set a new standard in auto belays.

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    • Geoff June 5, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

      I have just finished reading Candie’s post and feel that it’s a very arrogant and unprofessional way to PR your product. The thing that concerns me the most is that Candie is not being truthful and makes a lot of misleading statements.

      Here are the facts:

      -TruBlue is NOT the only auto belay to meet international safety standards. A number of other belays were engineered to meet those standards. So this is simply NOT TRU. :)))

      -TruBlue has not provided ANY evidence of the safety certifications it has. Although it has been ‘engineered to meet the standards’ there is no official proof that it actually meets them!

      -Candie makes a dangerous statement that clutch bearing is a ‘key potential point of failure in modular auto belay systems’. However, she does NOT provide any evidence that this is so. Clutch bearing auto belays have been around for almost 20 years and we still don’t know what caused the MSA recall. Was it clutch bearing or something else in the belay? Either way, she makes an empty assumption to toot her own horn.

      -The magnetic system has absolutely NO TRACK RECORD and we have no idea how it will perform in field conditions a year or two years from now.

      Finally the statement that TruBlue is ‘the best option and will set new standard in auto belays’ is very conceited. This belay has not even been on the market and has not proven to be better than hydraulic or centrifugal break belays.

      Making loud statements such as this one before the product has even proven itself does not reflect well on the company or its employees. Definitely something to keep in mind when researching auto belay options.

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  13. Candie Fisher June 7, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    Geoff, my intention in posting about the TRUBLUE Auto Belay was to provide another option for the readers of this thread.

    Our research shows that the TRUBLUE auto belay is the only auto belay to meet US, Canada and NZ/Australia safety standards for fall arrest devices. The North Safety unit it the only other auto belay we know of that meets fall arrest safety standards, but this is for Europe only.

    On our website we list the safety standards with which the TRUBLUE auto belay complies. This can be found at http://www.climbtru.com/trublue-auto-belay/safety-standards/

    The magnetic system does have a track record of almost a year in field testing, as well as 4 years in development and safety testing.

    My statement was that “we believe” that this is the best option. This is not conceited…it is a fact. Because we believe that this the best option, we have purchased the company and distributing the product. We are not the only climbing wall company distributing the TRUBLUE. Rockwerx and EP will also be distributing this product.

    As far as the bearing issue, you have a point that I do not have evidence on my post backing up this statement. My understanding is that the bearing in the centrifugal unit wears over time and is therefore a potential point of failure.

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  14. Daniel June 7, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    Candie,

    Before we talk off this forum I must inform you that I will be taking legal counsel with respect to the statements you have made.

    My responsibility also lies with the manufacturer and I will be sending them a link for them to view the statements made and take any action they feel appropriate.

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