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 By: Jens Larssen  | Date: 2008-05-19  | Category: Tips & Tricks    | (19) Comments  

GRIGRI - Belaying techniques by Karin Sterky

God's gift to sport climbers - a common opinion about Petzl's GRIGRI. However, you have probably heard about mystical accidents or incidents where the self-breaking mechanism did not work properly. Since 8a.nu consider the GRIGRI to be the safest belaying device for sport climbing we believe these accidents to be caused by improper handling and would like to share some thoughts about belaying techniques.

According to Petzl, your hands should always be on the rope, on both sides of the GRIGRI. However, even Petzl admits that this is difficult when feeding out rope quickly. To overcome the problem they recommend to "slide the hand holding the free end up the rope to the device and manually hold the cam open...".
Most climbers find the Petzl recommendation tricky to use. It is hard to put sufficient pressure on the cam to make the slacking fast enough and at the same time holding on to the free end of the rope. Instead, the climbing community has invented new methods that are not 100% safe.

Petzl Recommendation
Community & Normal Procedure
New Technique
The Petzl way to feed out rope rapidly. Not commonly used, probably since slacking is not fast enough or percieved as uncomfortable. Adjusted and common usage.
The hand has been moved further up to increase pressure on the cam and has thus left the free end of the rope and twisted the GriGri - Danger!

New technique:
Fast and comfortable
Free end of the rope secured
GRIGRI is in right angle

There are of course variations on the community and normal procedure exemplified above, but the fact is that most climbers let go of the free end of the rope, totally against all Petzl's recommendations and very dangerous. The new technique on the other hand, never let go of the free end of the rope and still makes it easy to put pressure on the cam. Both the fast slacking and the security is thus ensured. In addition, there is no risk of twisting the GRIGRI (see below).

RIGRI incidents is most likely due to one or a combination of the following factors:
1. The rope is too thin
Petzl recommends the diameter of the rope to be between 10 and 11 cm although 9,7 cm is accepted. Climbers using even thinner ropes, relying on the self-breaking mechanism, may be in great danger.

2. The GRIGRI is twisted
- turned around 90 degrees, the self-breaking mechanism is unable to lock properly.
The problem where the GRIGRI gets twisted is caused by having it incorrectly attached to the harness and/or by holding it in a wrong way. To work properly, the screw-carabiner holding the GRIGRI should be attached to the harness loop only. Incorrectly attached, the carabiner may hold the GRIGRI in an angle where the self-breaking function is unable to lock, even if the fingers are not touching the cam. This problem is accentured with a large screw-carabiner.

3. The belayer is not holding the free end of the rope
Most climbers have overconfidence in the self-breaking function. In order to ensure a fast and reliable slack they let go of the free end of the rope to be able to hold down the cam.

Finally, we would like to state that these thoughts are not from Petzl. Petzl has not approved the techniques described above and using them is at your own risk.