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Ural Alp (Урал АлЬп) / USHBA Mountain Works
Universal Belay Device "Ya-ya"
(Универсальное Страхоьочное Устройство "Уа-уа")

Ural-Alp USHBA
Ural-Alp USHBA


USHBA Mountain Works was an American distributor for Ural Alp products.
I see no reason to keep their Ya-yas separate, and so I combined them on this page.


Front Rear
Front Rear
Top Bottom
Top Bottom
Front: Handle Extended Rear: Handle Extended
Front: Handle Extended Rear: Handle Extended
Front: Open for Rigging Rear: Open for Rigging
Front: Open for Rigging Rear: Open for Rigging

Technical Details

I acquired my Ural Alp (Урал АлЬп) Ya-ya from Artyom Babin (Артём Бабин) in 2021.

My Ural Alp Ya-ya is 95 mm. tall, 163 mm. wide, 35 mm. thick, and weighs 270 g.

Except for the following minor differences, my Ural-alp Ya-ya is essentially identical to my USHBA Ya-ya:

  1. My Ural-Alp Ya-ya has four small lightening holes on the lever vs. five larger ones on the USHBA.
  2. The Ural-Alp lever does not have an engine-turned finish that the USHBA one has.
  3. The markings are different.

The front plate is stamped with "RUSSIA" and "URAL-ALP" inside a round-cornered rectangle. The front of the back plate is stamped "PATENTED," the rear "KOZLOV DESIGNS."


The minor differences between my Ural-Alp and USHBA Ya-yas do not affect their performance to any significant degree.

USHBA Mountain Works

Front Rear
Front Rear
Front: Handle Extended Rear: Handle Extended
Front: Handle Extended Rear: Handle Extended
Open for Rigging
Open for Rigging

Technical Details

I acquired my USHBA Ya-ya from Ural Sport (Serguei Khramtsov’s eBay store) in October 2003.

My USHBA Ya-ya is 96 mm. tall, 160 mm. wide, 38 mm. thick, and weighs 278 g.

The Ya-ya is a complex device consisting of about 30 parts, more or less, mounted on an irregular back plate made from 2 mm titanium. The back plate has a 16 mm. clip-in eye at the lower right, and eight 12 mm. lightening holes. Three nickel-plated aluminum bollards are mounted on the front of the back plate at the left end, top left and bottom left corners. Each bollard is 10 mm. wide and has a U-shaped groove turned to a 10.9 mm minimum diameter. All three bollards are secured with a threaded nuts that are punched so that they will not loosen. The leftmost bollard has a projection on the rear side that engages the long slot in the control handle. Although all three bollards appear similar, the top and bottom ones are strongly attracted to a magnet while the left one is not.

There is an (nickel-plated aluminum?) anvil bolted in the middle of the back plate and pinned so that it cannot rotate. The bolt is a shoulder bolt that extends above the anvil, and has a groove to engage the slot in the front plate.

A pivoting lever is mounted at the upper right of the back plate. This lever is reminiscent of the lever on the Hogwauler. There is a "pulley" right end and a nose to squeeze the rope against the anvil at the other. The "pulley" is just a 7 mm. wide, 22 mm. diameter steel roller bearing mounted in a notch in the lever; however, the notch is cut at 45° to guide the rope. A weak spring acts to close the lever to grip the rope.

The pear-shaped front plate pivots on the same bolt as the lever. The front plate is 2 mm. engine-turned titanium with a 16 mm. eye that aligns with the eye in the back plate when the front plate is closed.

On the back of the Ya-Ya, behind the back plate, is an L-shaped lever mounted on the same bolt as the front lever and front plate. A small roller-bearing idler at the bend in the L-lever presses against the other roller bearing. This allows the L-lever to force the front lever open. A pin in the back plate limits the motion of the L-lever, which in turn limits how far the front lever can open. An extension arm pivots on a bolt at the far end of the L-lever. This arm folds behind the back plate when not in use, and a long slot engages the protrusion on the left bollard. A pin on the extension arm limits its extension so that it can control the L-lever. The L-lever has three lightening holes, the arm has five.

The back plate, front plate, and L-lever have an engine-turned finish. The front plate is stamped with "USHBA" and the USHBA icon. The front of the back plate is stamped "PATENTED," the rear "KOZLOV DESIGNS."


The Ya-ya is designed to be a multi-function device. Most multi-function devices are rather heavy and complicated (for example, look at the Tracson), while the Ya-ya manages to keep the weight within reasonable limits. I do not expect any multi-function device to perform as well as special-purpose devices, but the Ya-ya does reasonably well in most areas.

Some of the figures and instructions that come with the Ya-ya are confusing or misleading. Most of the errors are obvious if one takes the Ya-ya to the field. I made a few minor corrections in the following discussion.

RiggingBelay device

First and foremost, the Ya-Ya is a belay devices that is designed to compete with the Misc. Belay: Grigri. Figure 1 shows the normal belay position. The rope feeds naturally, but locks off if the belayee falls. The belayer can then use the handle to lower the fallen climber, although it is wise to use the bollards as shown in Figure 4 or 5. The handle is rather long, leading to rather sensitive control.


The Ya-ya can also be used as an ascender in the configuration shown in Figure 1. There is some lost motion that leads to inefficiency.

Self-belay device

The Ya-ya can also be used as a self-belay device in the configuration shown in Figure 1.

Take my advice:



RiggingThe Ya-ya can be used for rappelling by rigging it as shown in Figure 2 . In this configuration, the tension in the standing line acts to close the front lever, squeezing the rope between the lever’s nose and the anvil. This causes the Ya-Ya to act as an auto-stop descender. The rappeller can release the lever by pulling down on the control handle. Once again, the length of the handle gives rather sensitive control; however, the bollards provide extra friction that moderates this effect.

Rappelling works best if one’s seat maillon aligns up & down (a.k.a., vertically) rather than side-to-side (a.k.a., horizontally) so that one is facing the Ya-Ya’s front plate. Unfortunately, the open nature of the bollards provides a problem: the rope tends to slip off the bollards, especially if one lets their brake hand ride too high. Although the Ya-ya should lock off if the user has the presence of mind to release the lever, this is not the natural reaction. I do not like relying on autostop features for a variety of reasons, and tests show that most people do not let go of anything during crisis situations.

RiggingHauling pulley

Figure 5 shows how to use the Ya-ya as a hauling pulley. The load is on the left, and one hauls by pulling down on the right (most likely, with a handled ascender and a foot loop). The weight of the load forces the front lever closed, squeezing the rope between the lever’s nose and the anvil.

With thick ropes, the rope may run over the idler pulley. This does not do any harm.

Be careful to hang the Ya-ya so that the L-lever does not bump anything; otherwise, the front lever may release and drop the load.


Indirect lowering device

There are three ways to use the Ya-Ya as an indirect lowering device (i.e., lowering through a carabiner or pulley above the Ya-ya). Figure 4 shows the method used for heavy loads (up to 200 kg). The method shown in Figure 5 is for moderate loads (40-100 kg) Figure 6 shows the rigging for light loads (up to 40 kg). In all cases, be careful to keep the rope from coming off the bollards.


RiggingRiggingDirect lowering device

The Ya-ya can be used as a direct lowering device. Figure 7 shows the rigging for light loads, up to 40-kg. Figure 8 shows the rigging for heavier loads, from 40 to 200-kg. The load is on the left in both figures. The Ya-ya instructions show the load on the right in Figure 7; however, the lever will not lock under those conditions

Be careful when lowering heavy loads to ensure that the rope does not slip off of the bollards. Once again, I wish that the front plate on the Ya-ya was large enough to cover the rope path over these bollards.

Instructions Instructions