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Another Accident due to mis-use of the Gri-gri


Original Post
John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 612

I just spoke with an eye-witness to this accident, which happened only 6 hours ago.

A very experienced climber was being belayed by his daughter using a Gri-gri. I don't know how old the daughter is, but he had her anchored so I'd guess 15-years-old or less. She ended up with rope-burns on both hands.

The climber fell about 50 feet and hit the deck. He has multiple broken bones in his arms and legs, possible pelvis fracture and possible internal injuries.

THIS TYPE OF ACCIDENT IS HAPPENING FAR TOO OFTEN.

The Gri-gri is an excellent tool which makes people complacent but like any tool, it is not foolproof. You must keep one hand on the brake-strand, and more importantly, KEEP YOUR OTHER HAND OFF THE CLIMBER'S STRAND.

Grabbing the climbers-strand will prevent the Gri-gri from locking.

I see a lot of people using a Gri-gri with bad habits. I see new belayers being inadequately trained. So many people assume it will lock every time regardless of the belayer's actions.

If you have bad habits, fix them. If you train someone else, train them to keep their left hand OFF the climbers rope except when feeding, and then to use only a few fingers to feed; never wrap your hand around it.

Trust me, you do not want to be on EITHER end of the rope when this happens!

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,510
Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,510
Dave Schultz wrote: Or: A) Dont fall if your belayer can't belay and/or is new. B) Teach your belayer to belay you, then still don't fall. C) Only fall with someone who knows how to belay. If you know how to belay with a tube device you will be fine, the Gri-Gri functions on the same brake hand principle ...
True, but you can't control A, B, or C but you can control which device they use.
Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 945
Tradoholic wrote:Buy one of these and stop worrying: mammut.ch/en/productDetail/… edelrid.de/en/Edelrid/Sport…
So my options are:
choose to climb with people who know what they are doing
or
Buy another device and continue to operate under the erroneous belief that its the device, and not the user, that causes these accidents.

The single, unassailable thing to take away from all of these accidents (with gri-gris, cinchs, smart alpines, VRCs, Mega-Juls, etc) is that no device is idiot-proof, and the most important single cause of belay accidents is some idiot like yourself promoting any device as idiot-proof.
csproul · · Davis, CA · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 325
Tradoholic wrote: True, but you can't control A, B, or C but you can control which device they use.
Nonsense...you CAN control who belays you. Don't climb with a belayer that is not competent to catch you, and if you do, treat it as a solo and deal with the consequences if you do fall.
Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,510
Brian Scoggins wrote: So my options are: choose to climb with people who know what they are doing or Buy another device and continue to operate under the erroneous belief that its the device, and not the user, that causes these accidents. The single, unassailable thing to take away from all of these accidents (with gri-gris, cinchs, smart alpines, VRCs, Mega-Juls, etc) is that no device is idiot-proof, and the most important single cause of belay accidents is some idiot like yourself promoting any device as idiot-proof.
You can't always tell right off the bat if someone knows what they are doing and even seasoned pros make mistakes. The devices I suggest have a much less likelihood of being mis-used. They are not idiot proof but I guarantee that they are better than the Gri.
Bob Pinckney · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 10

Learn how to body belay properly 1st.
Then learn how to use gadgets.

20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,346

Snapped this photo at Clear Creek awhile back:



I knew there would be a perfect opportunity for this photo on M Proj some day. That day has come.
20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,346
Dave Schultz wrote: LOL. Did you say anything, or just let darwin work his thing ...
Yea, he told me he has been climbing for 45 years. I was like hell, I have only been climbing for 11, so I guess I'll let you do your thing. ;)
Emil Briggs · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 105
John Byrnes wrote: Grabbing the climbers-strand will prevent the Gri-gri from locking. I see a lot of people using a Gri-gri with bad habits. I see new belayers being inadequately trained. So many people assume it will lock every time regardless of the belayer's actions. If you have bad habits, fix them. If you train someone else, train them to keep their left hand OFF the climbers rope except when feeding, and then to use only a few fingers to feed; never wrap your hand around it. Trust me, you do not want to be on EITHER end of the rope when this happens!
That sucks. Best wishes for the climber and his daughter who must have some major guilt issues from this. Hits close to home since my 15 year old daughter belays me (with an ATC and has caught me many times).

I don't use a Grigri so I'm wondering how much friction you get when it doesn't lock if the brake hand is held like you would with an ATC?
Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,510
20 kN wrote: Yea, he told me he has been climbing for 45 years. I was like hell, I have only been climbing for 11, so I guess I'll let you do your thing. ;)
Most of the time this style of belay works. When the Gri came out everyone did this. If the belayer is always paying attention it's fine but we all know that's not always the case.

BTW, I can say with confidence that the Jule and the Smart are almost idiot proof, seriously, it is HARD to screw it up. The main difference is that the Gri unlocks with a contraction motion, a common panic response, these devices unlock with an expansion motion, the opposite.
Dr. Long Arm · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 15

Seriously, what's the obsession with the GriGri?

Where I climb, I'm usually the odd man out using a Reverso. Almost everyone I see climbing uses a GriGri, and I almost always at one point or another see people using improper and dangerous belay techniques (brake hand off the rope, etc). I rarely see ATC/Reverso users exhibit such techniques.

In my mind, the GriGri is safer than a tube style device in one situation - rockfall. If a climber pulls something off and knocks out his belayer and then takes a fall, obviously a GriGri would be helpful in that situation and would probably catch the fall.

Other than that, the GriGri is harder to use and encourages bad/dangerous technique (and can't be used as a rappel device other than on a single strand). I simply just don't see the advantages of using one, other than for specific routes with more rockfall hazard than usual. And even in that case, I'd still prefer something like a Jul or a Smart.

I don't know what the figures are, but I sure hear about a lot more belaying accidents with GriGris than I do with tube style devices.

I have no problem being belayed with a GriGri if that's what my partner wants/prefers and they know what they are doing, and I will belay with one safely if I am at a gym that requires one (which is funny, because again, I hear about way more Grigri accidents than any other device), but a well-trained, attentive belayer using an ATC/Reverso will always be my preference.

20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,346

Anyway, more to the topic, I have never been in agreement with the whole "this belay device is the safest" argument. Sure, under some conditions the GriGri is safer than the ATC, no doubt. But there are no absolutes. The truth is the safest belay device is the one the user is most comfortable and experienced using. Trying to force an ATC user to use a GriGri because you think the GriGri is safer is not wise. Often I hear people say they believe noobs should be using GriGris because the belay device is safer. I disagree. Everyone should learn how to belay on an ATC so they understand and experience the extremely important premise that you must never let go of the brake hand or you will lose control of the belay. The GriGri does not lead one to that conclusion easily because it locks.

Top Rope Hero · · Was Estes Park, now homeless · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 1,140

SPEAKING of bad habits that need fixing...

So? Yah. Learnin’ good technique and shit is important alright. But at the risk of breaking rule #1 and coming off like a douche…I honestly don’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about, Byrnes. Now, usually, I’m that guy who just let’s the little things go—easy as the wind like that.

But you’re making some big (mis)claims about some big stuff here. You sure you know what you’re talking about?

Myself, I have climbed for more than 20 years. Used both versions of the grigri for more than a dozen of those—still do. Even taught climbing at an AMGA-certified outfit in Estes Park for a number of years. I’ve belayed in Rifle, in the Red, in Kalymnos, in the Blue Mountains of Australia and the badass tufas of Thailand and beyond. I’ve caught dozens and dozens of climbers for hundreds and hundreds of falls…

…and I have never ever EVER once heard ANYONE yap about keeping any hand off of any climber’s strand.

Thing the first: There’s nothing inherent about the design of the grigri that I can see that would make it paramount to “never wrap your hand” around the climber’s strand. Even if I applied the Kung Fu death grip, I don’t even remotely see how that would prevent the grigri from functioning properly. You privy to some secret knowledge the rest of us lack access to?

Thing the second: Wrapping your hand around the climber’s strand is exactly how you feed rope. I don’t know what this dainty, daffodil, “few fingers to feed” bullshit technique you’re talking about is. Maybe you’re climbing with dental floss? But the 9.1mm Beal Jokers I’ve been using for the last six years have always required a firm, opposable-thumb-like gripping with the left hand after that virginal sheen has worn off.

Thing the third, and the clincher: Your blind, ALL-CAPS insistence on keeping “the other hand off the climber’s strand” stands in direct opposition to the manufacturer’s own recommendations.

HEY LOOK! A VIDEO!

youtube.com/watch?v=cxqMTwx…

Despite all your exclamation points and bold print, Petzl itself says you’re just flat, dead wrong about this weird, don’t-touch-the-climber’s-strand thingy. Every single belayer in this video—even that nobody Chris Sharma guy!—uses a straight-up, no bullshit, no apologies left-hand-wrapped-around-the-climber’s-strand grip.

Dude. What the fuck. Has team Petzl and crew had it wrong all along?

Or are you just talking out of your ass about shit you don’t have a clue about?

I’m saying…yah…it’s REAL important to spread the good word and to lend that helping hand when you see newbie brothers and sisters entering the sport. It’s important to pass on good knowledge. But you’ve got to have good knowledge in the first place.

I don’t know you personally, John Byrnes, Administrator from Fort Collins, but I think before you go spouting off on a public forum like some grand authority on how to use any piece of life-saving equipment, maybe you should get some real training on that equipment first.

Or maybe just read the damn instructions that come with it. Call me crazy…

20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,346
Top Rope Hero wrote:…and I have never ever EVER once heard ANYONE yap about keeping any hand off of any climber’s strand.
I think his reasoning is that if you are pulling down on the climber strand (that is, toward you as a belayer) then it can cause a new belayer to instinctively and inadvertently try to catch the fall by letting go of the GriGri brake strand and instead trying to simply "grab" the rope without the assist of the belay device. But that's just my hyphosis based on what he reported.

Anyway, the problem here is not really keeping the hand off the climber strand, the real problem is inexperience. It sounds like the belayer just dident really know what she was doing. I keep my hand on the climber strand and brake strand all the time. Left hand on the climber strand, right on the brake strand, just as the video shows.

It's a critical step in belaying and it addresses a few concerns. First, it enables me to instantly feed slack for those times where the climber is pumped as shit and cannot wait all day for me. It also ensures that I hold the device in the optimal position, loaded correctly along the carabiner, as opposed to the carabiner getting loaded over the gate (which you see often with ATCs). Last, I pull up and out on the climber strand so that the GriGri is locked before the climber falls. That ensures that when the rope is loaded, not only do I have a firm grasp on the brake strand but the GriGri is already locked upon loading (as opposed to locking once the load is applied).

So that's how I do things, and I have caught well over 1000 lead falls using this style. I cant think of a safer option.
tenpins · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 30
idahomike wrote:Seriously, what's the obsession with the GriGri?
American obsession with 'the best' and/or 'fool proof'. Folks who profess 'this way is the best' tell me they are really one trick ponies. I have a full bag of tricks
evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 320

Yes, enough Gri-bashing. The device is wonderfully safe, and is useful in all aspects of climbing (particularly hard sport, where yarding up a rope is common after falls).

If you cruise along at 5.6 and are well within your means, a hip belay will suffice. But for the rest of us, taking a session or two to actually learn how to use a Gri-Gri (and I recommend you do this in a gym), will help you to understand that it's actually very user friendly. As always, read the instructions! For all the "I don't use a Gri-Gri to lead belay" folks, you simply haven't taken the time to learn. If you do, you'll find it's easier to feed slack than using an ATC, and it absolutely can be done safely when following the manufacturer's instructions. If I'm going for it, kick off a block and clock my belayer in the head, at least one of us is making it out of this. Not so for an ATC.

Although I don't endorse the tone of Top Rope Hero, his points are valid. Yes, you absolutely must grab the climber's strand of the rope to feed slack, just as you would with an ATC.

Let's face it, the vast majority of accidents are human, not device error. John, you spoke to the eye witness, but did not see this incident yourself. Can you absolutely say that this strange "climber strand hand" technique was to blame? The most common incident I've heard is that the belay inadvertently slams open the cam during a fall.

Dr. Long Arm · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 15
evan h wrote:The device is wonderfully safe, and is useful in all aspects of climbing (particularly hard sport, where yarding up a rope is common after falls).
Why is a GriGri more useful than an ATC in this situation?

evan h wrote: you'll find it's easier to feed slack than using an ATC
Never heard this one before. Why/how is it easier to feed slack than an ATC?
evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 320
idahomike wrote: Why is a GriGri more useful than an ATC in this situation? Never heard this one before. Why/how is it easier to feed slack than an ATC?
When someone falls and they're yarding back up rope, no progress is lost due to the camming device. If I'm belaying with an ATC and the climber is falling a lot and pulling back up the rope, you're constantly battling with the small amount of slip as you pull the rope back in. This is my main gripe with being belayed with an ATC in this kind of situation. If I'm pulling back up the rope and want to be at a specific spot, I can always feel myself slipping back down 6 or so inches. It's trivial to those not interested in project-style sport climbing.

To your other point, it's only when feeding lots of slack quickly (i.e. during a clip). I find that using an ATC requires a two-handed, jerky kind of movement to throw out a few arm's worth of slack. With a Gri-gri, I keep my brake hand where it is (on the rope!), while simultaneously pressing the cam with my thumb (see "new technique" in the video posted). The only motion is on the climber's side of the rope. Again, it's fairly trivial stuff, but I do think it's easier.
philip bone · · sonora · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 0

To get rope burns on both hands it may have been fed backwards. We use Gri- Gri's mostly on steep sport, where dogging is apt to be common; sometimes as a backup in single rope situations. When introducing the device to a beginner open it and show them how it locks. Different rope diameters are a variable to consider. Give the lead rope a sharp yank to demonstrate, make that a part of your safety check. Don't expect too much from beginners. Practice' in controlled environments, with a variety of devices.

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 612
Top Rope Hero wrote:SPEAKING of bad habits that need fixing... So? Yah. Learnin’ good technique and shit is important alright. But at the risk of breaking rule #1 and coming off like a douche…I honestly don’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about, Byrnes. Now, usually, I’m that guy who just let’s the little things go—easy as the wind like that. But you’re making some big (mis)claims about some big stuff here. You sure you know what you’re talking about? Myself, I have climbed for more than 20 years. Used both versions of the grigri for more than a dozen of those—still do. Even taught climbing at an AMGA-certified outfit in Estes Park for a number of years. I’ve belayed in Rifle, in the Red, in Kalymnos, in the Blue Mountains of Australia and the badass tufas of Thailand and beyond. I’ve caught dozens and dozens of climbers for hundreds and hundreds of falls… …and I have never ever EVER once heard ANYONE yap about keeping any hand off of any climber’s strand. Thing the first: There’s nothing inherent about the design of the grigri that I can see that would make it paramount to “never wrap your hand” around the climber’s strand. Even if I applied the Kung Fu death grip, I don’t even remotely see how that would prevent the grigri from functioning properly.
Ego-centric people like you are why I posted this. You think you know it all...

You don't believe me? Go test it, instead of digging up decades-old videos that don't show the failure mode.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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