|Front View: Closed||Rear View: Closed|
|Front View: Open for Rigging||Rear View: Open for Rigging|
I acquired my Rock Empire from Climbing Terekpl in 2012. I acquired another pair in 2017 as part of Bob Thrun’s collection.
The Rock Empire is 193 mm. tall, 87 mm. wide, 28 mm. thick, and weighs 212 g.
The shell is a tall irregular shaped stamping made from 4.1 mm. aluminum alloy sheet metal. A 14 mm. wide rope channel is formed in the upper portion of one side and a smaller cam channel lies opposite the first. A hole drilled through both sides of the cam channel accepts a 5.5 mm. rivet. The cam and cam spring are mounted on this rivet. The handle below the cam has a soft "rubbery" hand grip molded into place. The hand grip has a slight break to support the index finger. A 15.2 mm. sling attachment hole is punched below the handle opening, and an 12.0 by 9.9 mm. hole is punched below and outside the first. A 16.1 by 19.1 mm. oval hole punched through both sides of the rope channel provides an attachment point just above the cam. There is a punched cam stop that contacts the top of the cam. A stamped reinforcing rip extends from the bottom of the shell, up the front strap, behind the cam, and partly down the back strap.
The cam is a stainless steel casting with an open web. The cam radius increases from 38 to 57 mm. over an angle of 44°, giving a 28° cam angle. The cam has number of small conical teeth, all of which have their axes approximately aligned with the cam axle. The tooth pattern is (3)^3(1S1)^5(3)^2.
A plastic-covered spring-loaded manual safety tab is mounted on the bottom of the cam with a steel semi-tubular rivet. The normal action of the spring holds the safety against the cam. When the cam is opened, the shell interferes with the safety bar, thus preventing opening the cam. If the safety bar is moved away from the cam (opposing the spring), it will clear the shell and the cam will open. At full open the safety can be released and the spring will hold the safety against the back of the shell. This provides a means of locking the cam open.
The front of ascenders are printed with "ROPE," two up-pointing arrows
with "Ø8-12mm" between, "CE," "1019," a book-with-an-"i" icon, and "N06/10." Each side of the handgrip has the Rock Empire logo molded into it.
The Rock Empire is a member of the largest group of similar stamped-frame handled eccentric-cam ascenders in my collection. From a broad perspective, the following ascenders are closely related, with a number of differences (sometimes functionally significant) as indicated:
These are all well-made ascenders that perform much like the Petzl Ascension. All sharp edges have been removed. The attachment points are simple holes in the shell. In some cases, the user may wish to round the lower attachment holes with a Swiss file; even so, I would consider their small radius too sharp for directly attaching sling ropes. They are probably acceptably rounded for webbing (or could be made so with a file), but considering the proximity of the attachment points to the main rope, I would recommend using a small maillon for most attachments in order to reduce the risk of sling abrasion. The lower attachment hole could theoretically have the same safety problems as the one on Clog Version A.
I'm not sure the extra holes are needed at the base. Except for the Petzl Pompe, I've never found a real need for a second hole. Some people like them, and I might find them more appealing if they were large enough for a standard carabiner to fit through.
The doubled upper rope attachment hole is located very close to the main rope. A carabiner through the upper oval attachment hole will probably drag on the main line. The main purpose for this hole is when using the ascender as a safety on a fixed line. The axis of the oval hole is canted so that when trailing the ascender upward, the ascender pulls free of the rope, but it drags a bit if the used falls. I consider this practice dangerous and cannot recommend it. The single upper rope attachment hole, when used in conjunction with the frame side of the double hole, facilitates using the ascender as a chest ascender as shown in the Fixe Capitan instructions.
These ascenders have the same pit lip disadvantage as the Clog and other stamped frame ascenders, and there is no stamped reinforcing to help prevent bending.
Each has a rubber handle that is comfortable enough for my large hands, but I don't climb by gripping ascenders at their handle. I think it is better to simply grasp the ascender from above and lift the ascender in the traditional manner (unless, of course, you are one of those people who climbs Frog).
With the exception of those on the Kratos, the cams on these ascenders are very well made. Some have open-web cams and others are semi-open. The latter appears to be the later design. I don't think the difference is important. The area behind the cam face is sloped on some of these ("asymmetrical") and not sloped ("symmetrical") on others. Again, I don't think the difference is significant.
The asymmetrical cams have a (3)^3(2)(1S1)^4(3)^2 tooth pattern while the slot in the symmetrical cams is slightly longer (extending to between the top tooth pair), giving a (3)^3(1S1)^5(3)^2 tooth pattern. The Lixada, Version B and Kratos have their own tooth patterns. I don't find that these tooth pattern differences affect cam performance. I've heard that the teeth some of these cams wear quickly. I haven't put enough miles on any of these to make a proper comparison, but I would expect the chrome-plated cams on some other brands to last longer than unplated steel cams.
The price for any of these ascenders was much lower than that of American or European ascenders. One potential concern is that we don't have the experience with Chinese metallurgy and quality control that we have with American and European devices. Americans, Europeans, and Chinese all make some high-quality products and some low-quality products. I think that these ascenders are fine and most of them have legitimate CE markings. I would not hesitate to use any of these, but I would like more information and experience with Chinese ascenders before I'm willing to make a final judgement.
The safety is reasonably easy to use with one hand, but the cam drags on the shell, and since both have a frosted finish, it gives the ascender a gritty feel, but not to the extreme as for the Fixe Capitan. This is not a significant issue.