The Edelrid Ohm – one climbing partnership, two body types, two views, one review
“I dunno, I’m not 100% sold. It can make it a little bit more difficult to pull rope through to clip. I guess if it stops me from hitting the ground that’ll be a good thing.” S Madden, oscillating between 75-80kg of not-exactly-lean muscle.
“Shut up Fatty. I love this thing.” J Davis, 50kg (when dripping wet).
Climbing partnerships where one climber weighs considerably more than the other can be difficult to manage.
Little shorties (or the very skinny) live under the threat of being violently yanked up to the first draw or smashed into the wall by their bigger, heavier lead climbing partners. It can be uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst.
Into this dynamic comes the Ohm from Edelrid. Ohm is harmony, centredness and oneness. An intoned mantra that seeks to guide us towards balance. Edelrid has hijacked the mantra in their attempt to restore a little balance to the out-of-whack, one-big-climber-and-one smaller equation.
It’s not rocket science, when the heavier climber is leading you clip the Ohm to the first bolt. In the event of a fall the Ohm lifts up and forces the rope to run through a V-slot constriction and, in so doing, increases the friction in the system. This friction works to equalise the weight disparity so that the belayer is not violently jerked upwards and the leader does not fall too far.
We tested it in real-rock rock climbing outside. We have not tested it indoors.
S Madden’s view
My regular climbing partner might be big on personality but she is small in body – I am half again as heavy as she is. In order to deal with this discrepancy and make her more comfortable and me safer we have used a fair bit of trickery. The technique we generally employ is adding ballast to make her heavier. This involves stuffing everything we are not using into one of our packs and putting that on her shoulders or clipping it to her harness. It seems to work okay, I rarely crater into the ground and can rely on nice soft catches. She doesn’t complain that much so I assume that it is fine.
The first thing I noticed about the Ohm is that it is heavy. You are probably not sending with the thing on your harness, though, and if you are it’s gone at the first ‘draw anyway, so this is not that big of a deal. That said, it does add 360g to your pack. Not outrageous but it does have enough heft that you could use it as a weapon in a fight.
You need to make sure that it is on you harness correctly in relation to the clipping stance of the first bolt – it is not multi-direction and only works if orientated the right way. Again not a deal breaker. Surprise! You need to know how to use the thing that you are using.
It purportedly has no impact on the leader when climbing, but I found that it definitely snagged when I tried to clip the second bolt on a route where I had climbed sideways past the first bolt. With the second bolt diagonally up and to the side of the first, the rope would catch in the V-slot when I went to clip. This was solved by giving the rope a light flick before pulling it and whilst this disengaged the Ohm pretty easily the potential of unwanted drag in some situations is something to bear in mind. Edelrid says it works on ropes from 8.5-11mm, maybe our 10.5mm was a little old and fuzzy and snaggy. The problem of snagging is mitigated if the route you are on goes straight up past the first bolt.
If we were both working the same route it was a bit of extra faffing. You can’t stick clip it if it is already on the first bolt and you don’t want to use it with a light climber/heavy belayer situation as it is harder to give a soft catch and very, very difficult to lower. The Ohm works best when you and your partner are working different routes and you have two ropes. If not, you will need to do some jiggery-pokery, such as clipping another ‘draw to the first bolt, going up, going in hard, swapping the rope to the Ohm and then coming back down to ground again.
The first catches that I got were definitely on the harder side but that just means that it is doing what it says on the box! Like all new tech, it seemed to take my belayer some getting used to and the catches quickly got softer until I didn’t notice.
J Davis’ view
The pressure to belay well can sometimes be as anxiety-inducing as going for a red-point shot. Especially when said climbing partner is also your romantic partner. First of all you want to keep them safe. My partner has a particular aversion to lower leg injuries. If he were to hit the ground and break his ankles, for example, our relationship would be brought to its knees.
Belaying is no easy task when I’ve got a fatty to keep safe on the sharp end.
Prior to the Ohm coming into our lives we developed the very crude ballast system described above. This dealt with some of the safety issues but at a cost. I had to belay with a backpack either on my back or clipped to my harness. Both of which are extremely uncomfortable and awkward. I would still be dragged up, albeit slightly less but with my centre of gravity thrown way out of whack by the ballast I couldn’t just hang freely enjoying the air between my legs. Instead, I’d be cussing under my breath at how unfair the world was and fighting to keep control of the rope and of my body in space.
Enter the Ohm and the ability for me to belay like most ordinary sized people take for granted.
Once I overcame the initial learning curve of actually having to try to give a soft catch it worked perfectly. The task of lowering became a simple one rather than arduous. On a particularly ankle-breaky climb my partner was selfishly working over days and days and days in a cold and steep gully, I did not have to burden myself with a backpack. I didn’t get dragged up to the first bolt or smashed into the wall, leaving him below me and in agony due to newly-sustained lower leg injuries. And despite his complaints that the Ohm would catch when he was clipping the second bolt, he still sent the thing. So it couldn’t have been that bad.
I’m into it and my opinion is the important one.
At VL we reckon the Ohm is a good piece of kit that will help people with a real life problem that is not only annoying but potentially dangerous. If you regularly climb in a pair of climbers with substantially mismatched weights it is worth considering if the Ohm might even up the score. We reckon when you get the knack of it, it’s preferable to anchoring and it’s better than ballast.
* it’s worth noting that the Ohm is not designed for trad climbing as it pulls the first piece upwards in the event of a fall. Use it for indoor and sport climbing only.
Editor’s note: this piece has been edited from its original posting. An image has been removed.