The Eyesend PitchSix Belay Glasses with built in adjustability (no more sliding them up and down your nose!) are a new take on this neck saving accessory for sport climbers. I have to confess that when the first belay glasses started to appear at the crag I was among the many who took the proverbial – ‘Mr McGoo’ comments and ‘Where’s your etch-a-sketch to go with the kaleidoscope?’ etc. As with so many innovations it didn’t take long to realise that they were pretty useful – a few missed sessions as a result of ‘Kilnsey neck’ and I was a convert eating humble pie. It might be that the increasingly ageing population of sport climbers are more susceptible to muscular aches and pains brought on by peering upward as your mate cruises (or crawls) up a steep bolted line.
One of our earliest reviews here at CGR was of the Y&Y Belay glasses and since then there has been an explosion in the number of brands that have come to market. All have been based on the same basic principle of two fixed prisms + mirrors to provide that periscopic view of your partner’s progress without the need to crank your neck back uncomfortably. Materials, quality and style vary but the design is fundamentally the same. PitchSix are the first belay glasses that I have seen that alter this basic design by incorporating a mechanism allowing you to vary the tilt of the mirrors below the prisms. By doing so they allow you to adjust your field of view to the angle of the rock face no matter how steep without having to move your neck from that comfortably neutral position. Build quality is upper mid-market. The PitchSix uses robust nylon/plastic throughout its construction and has withstood several months of abuse without incident. The arms have a non slip rubber coating and attach to the frame by a simple stud and recesses hinge that pops off rather than breaks if abused, such as (ahem) dropping a loaded sac on them! The frame itself is bulkier and heavier than standard belay glasses as a result of the mechanism that tilts the mirrors.
Refreshingly this mechanism is accessible behind a plastic plate attached by two screws (a spare screw and screwdriver are provided in the protective case) so it is possible to clean the mirrors – perhaps even replace a broken component(?) It is great to see a manufacturer making a product user serviceable for a change. The protective case is a semi hardshell affair that does the job though part of the webbing loop on mine frayed badly – perhaps it got nicked but I don’t know how.
I’ve used the PitchSix belay glasses for a few months now and they work as well as any belay glasses I’ve used before with the added bonus of adjustability. They are a bit heavier and bulkier than normal belay glasses but this does not seem to affect them in use even on ‘sweaty’ days and I didn’t notice any slippage down my nose (which is what I had cynically expected) probably because they are a good fit and the non slip rubber on the arms does its job. Standing close in to the base of the most overhanging wall at the Big Depot in Leeds it was possible to see an impressive way up the route whilst still keeping a neutral neck position. This is steeper terrain than I would normally climb on outside (well at least since the early 90s and flailing around on Charles de Gaulle at Volx!) but at least gave an indication of the PitchSix’s steep route abilities. Being able to stand in the best position to belay, rather than where you can see the majority of the route unaided, is a significant safety factor for belay glasses in general. Too often you’ll notice people standing way out from the base of the crag to try and see their partner and risking being dragged off their feet by a big fall which may entail the additional hazard of a long fall as more rope is ‘payed out’. On more conventional outdoors terrain they worked equally well allowing you to adjust for a perfect field of view from steep slab to leaning wall. The adjustment mechanism was easily set and then remained that way and showed no signs of getting sloppy or loose over the test period. Compared to other belay glasses I’ve used they do feel quite bulky on your face but you soon get used to this – there are no functional issues with it.
So do you need adjustable belay glasses? Well for most of us it’s doubtful though there are no disadvantages beyond price. If you or your partner climbs on severely overhanging rock then they would be a definite advantage. They do allow you to fine tune your view however and if you wear prescription glasses you can don the PitchSix over them and still get an appropriate field of view. Price wise they come in at the higher end of the market but you are getting a quality product from a USA manufacturer who plants a tree for each pair sold so some good karma hopefully.
- Build quality
- User ‘serviceable’.
- Bulkier and heavier
- Frayed webing