Twenty years ago Petzl introduced the original GriGri with this simple, tongue-in-cheek ad campaign:
For the best belay job you’ve ever had,
Ask for Grigri
GriGri has been giving amazing belay jobs for years now, and all my friends know it. For hang-dogging on climbing projects, multi-tasking on big wall aid climbs, or hanging from the anchor at a top-managed belay, the GriGri is my go-to belay device. It provides unmatched utility, comfort, and options for belaying. But the smooth, easy pleasure only Grigri can provide just got better. I’m talking, of course, about Petzl’s new assisted braking belay device, the GriGri 2. The design is 25% smaller than the original, 20% lighter, accepts a broader range of rope diameters (8.9mm – 11mm), and features a “progressive descent control lever”.
I picked up the new GriGri 2 about a month ago and have been putting it through rigorous testing. I have used it for several days of cragging, long multi-pitch climbs, ice climbing, and some single-rope rappelling. Through a wide range of rope diameters -skinny rope (9.2mm) to fat (10.2mm) – I’ve seen no significant difference in action. The GriGri 2 feels good in my hand. It still feels substantial and solid, yet is noticeably smaller and lighter than the original. I like how it feeds rope, how well the camming action works, and the release lever does seem to allow a more enjoyable lowering experience. I really wanted to find shortcomings – I looked for it to lock up easily while paying out slack to a lead climber, to lower too quickly on a skinny rope, and to find reasons why I should not replace my old GriGri, but I found no faults in the reborn device.
I have reviewed many internet discussions on the specific technical enhancements of the new GriGri 2. There are pictures and charts all over the web, but few posts introduce the GriGri 2 to people unfamiliar with its predecessor. Many people have not had a belay job from GriGri, and I think it is important to note that it does more than a simple top rope belay. Petzl takes great care with their written instructions, and I was impressed with what I found looking through the full GriGri 2 literature. (Download the pdf here.)
The usefulness of the GriGri depends largely upon education. There are some persistent misunderstandings in forums and gear reviews, and I want to dispel a few prevalent myths:
• Myth #1: One cannot rappel on a single strand of rope, and retrieve the rope afterward. The use of a knot block or carabiner block is a technique that requires presence of mind but no esoteric knowledge. Learn and practice how to use these tools and you can rappel on a single strand of rope with the GriGri. This is also a helpful technique when you need to get off of a route that is longer than half your rope. Extend your “pull line” with slings, cordelette, and whatever else you have (clothing, shoelaces, hair, etc) to get the extra length you need.
• Myth #2: The GriGri is too dangerous for trad climbing, because the camming device stops suddenly, creating a static brake. Admittedly, Petzl previously advertised the GriGri for use on UIAA certified bolted anchors only. This language is now absent, however, in the GriGri 2 instructions. When I spoke with the people at Petzl about this they told me, “A good anchor is a good anchor, period.” The fear of failure from a static load on a gear anchor, or top gear placement, from a GriGri 2, as opposed to the more dynamic braking of a tube device such as the ATC, is largely unfounded. Situations that demonstrate this failure are unique to contrived tests. Ultimately, a dynamic rope and attentive belayer are much more significant to this equation.
• Myth #3: Belaying with the GriGri encourages bad habits, and causes people to become lazy, inattentive belayers. Lets not blame equipment for people’s shortcomings. Being lazy makes you lazy.
I offer reasons why the GriGri 2 is a great tool, but only when used correctly. Like the original GriGri, a misunderstanding of the assisted-braking mechanism and user error may result in climber injury or death. I strongly encourage people to read and understand the proper uses of the device. Research these techniques, take a course, and practice on the ground where gravity is more forgiving of mistakes. The most dangerous part of climbing is it involves people. When used correctly, climbing equipment makes our lives easier and safer. The GriGri is a great example of this. What I first thought was a piece of gear fit only for sport cragging, has become an essential part of my climbing rack for everything from gym climbing to big walls.
The GriGri 2 is an amazing tool and has earned my stamp of approval. The design improvements are significant (lighter, smaller, works with more ropes, ease of lowering). My only criticism is that it has no “new” applications, and no “keeper cord” so that you can load or unload the rope without fear of dropping the device.
As we move towards lighter and faster climbing equipment, it is good to see Petzl has not compromised on quality, and has clearly put a lot of research and development into the GriGri 2. After 20 years, ol’ GriGri has manged to up the game, and deliver a belay job that will make your toes curl.
Look for my next review on clean-nose wire gate carabiners. The reigning champ, Wild Country’s Helium ‘biner vs the Petzl Ange and Black Diamond Hoodwire.
Feel free to comment with technical questions, anecdotes, and dirty jokes.
… and CLIMB ON!