Ascenders popping off Ropes


Original Post
Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

My opinion is that a correctly attached ascender WILL NOT pop off a rope, and that on diagonal pitches, a biner clipped into the rope on the bottom of the ascender (into the biner you've clipped into the ascender via your daisy) is far more effective and fast. I've been able to force an ascender off a tightly strung horizontal rope but it took a lot of work and I ended up having to pull the ascender down from it's top, a totally unnatural position.

So, I'm asking, what do people who clip a biner into the top of the ascender when ascending a vertical rope think they are safeguarding, what do they think is going to happen?

People all have stories of ascenders popping off ropes but I believe that 95% of the time it was human error and the gate was not fully closed.

(I'm totally rabble rousing here, I have a beef with people who create unnatural or severely rare situations and then run around and get all worked up figuring out ways to protect against them.)

Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,610
Mark Hudon wrote:.... but I believe that 95% of the time it was human error and the gate was not fully closed.
Hey Mark, what's the other 5%? I think it is 100% human error.. I can not figure out how to make it pop off unless i load it incorrectly? Yeah, loaded traverses you must be careful, but still....
Too wet on the walls even for you?
(Another Northern California boy, wistfully thinking back on the last 4 years of drought....and dry winters, and great times in the valley in January. Sigh)
Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

I was being generous!

Yeah, I'm in Baja learning to kit sail. I'll be back that way in the early spring and then again in the fall. I have big plans for this year.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

I could be misunderstanding this but I thought the biner clipped to the top was to keep it aligned with the rope so it's easier to slide up in the line.

teece303 · · Highlands Ranch, CO · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 598

I'm a jugging newbie for sure, but I've always thought, just looking at my ascenders, that if they came off the rope, you put them *on* the rope incorrectly to begin with.

Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 5,382

The problem is 100% of humans make errors. So in thinking about ascender use, you need to ask what is the mistake most likely to be made?

Billcoe · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 655

I'm wondering if it might simply be a carry over from an earlier edition of the Ascention that perhaps didn't hold so well on traverses? Petzl put that upper hole there intentionally, and the instructions they provide say that you can either put a biner in there and/or clip the bottom one. (they show both at the same time) I'm with Mark and usually clip the bottom biner, but I'll say that I still get nervous at times and make sure I back tie to the rope if jugging a traverse. I know folks who only use the jug/grigri which works supurb for traverses and lower outs.

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 70

I had one pop off while cleaning the great roof, so I know it happens. I don't think a carabiner through the top would have made any difference.

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 200

100% human error but it can still be catastrophic when it happens. I have had the bottom ascender pop off twice, both times I was kinda helping move it along by releasing tension on the teeth of the cam, slid up and off the rope. I use a grigri on traverses and for all other jugging I usually just throw a biner on the top hole of the top ascender, not the bottom one, nothing attached to that biner it simply captures the rope and make me feel better since I am prone to human error.

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

David, Are absolutely, 100%, swear on the Bible certain the cam was fully locked before the ascender popped off the rope?
Were you moving the ascender when it popped off?

Eli, how much easier could sliding an ascender up a vertical rope be? How could clipping a biner there make it easier?

Just about every ascender I've ever seen had a place to clip a biner to its top. I always thought it was for weighting the ascender when it is hanging upside down being used in the classic hauling situation.

Teece303, that is exactly my feeling and sort of point of this thread.

I REALLY want to see someone pop a correctly locked ascender off a rope. I'm not willing to pay money to see it but I'll donate a pound of coffee!

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 200

No idea why the prussik in this picture but I throw a biner in there on my top ascender, not a locking, usually a Photon or whatever is handy.

Biner through ascender top hole.

BTW , picture lifted from Rock and Ice

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

IMHO, the ONLY reason and situation for a biner anywhere on an ascender is on a traverse (non icy, rock climbing situations only).

The drawing Kevin posted is completely useless. (Again, my opinion)

Also, let me state that no one should ever allow anyone else to dictate their level of safety. If you think they I'm full of it and dangerous and you firmly believe that biners on ascenders are safer, then by all means you should use them.

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 200

Mark, the biner on the top hole makes me "feel" safer and is not a dangerous practice. I've seen many others do the same for the same reasons. I wonder why ascender makers put the hole there? Can't be just for using it for hauling when used upside down.

Jugging and rappelling are two of my least favorite parts of doing walls, I have always hated it. I would rather be on a tough lead any day of the week.

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

Yup, Kevin, it's useless in vertical rope situations but it doesn't really cost you anything in terms of time and is not dangerous. Max has a level of safety differrent than mine but he's quick about it and I'm fine with it. We all have big wall quirks that don't really do anything but we all do them simply because they make us feel better.

Moof · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 25

Obligatory link (not me, thankfully):

supertopo.com/tr/Crisis-in-...

""Almost there" I thought. Just a routine move around the piece and then I could relax at the anchor. Taylor had short-fixed about 20 feet above the anchor, and I could see him watching me try to clear the cam. I’ve re-lived this moment thousands of time in my head, and I’m sure I’ll continue to re-live it the rest of my life. I reached for my top jumar - grabbed the trigger - and started falling. And then fell further, and further, and further. Immediately I knew something was terribly wrong. At first I thought maybe the #4 blew, but that would cause me to pendulum a little out, not start a free fall. Or maybe the anchor blew. Or maybe..."

I'm OK with just 2 ascenders on a free hanging line, but once you are passing pieces, or torqueing on things funny bad shit can happen. It may not have happened to you yet, but it has to enough folks to scare the crap out of me. So I tend to keep backup knots close by, and mostly have a biner through the top hole of the lower ascender. I am slow, but it works for me.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456
Mark Hudon wrote:Eli, how much easier could sliding an ascender up a vertical rope be? How could clipping a biner there make it easier?
I've only ever used an ascender once (that's probably the culprit) but I found it much more difficult than my mini trax to slide up the rope (which was a fixed line that has had over a year of UV exposure and was very stiff and frozen, also could be the culprit). My partner told me to clip a biner through the top hole and doing so appeared to help keep the fixed line parallel to the ascender which significantly increased the ease at which it would slide up the rope.

FWIW I was using the mini-trax as the top/foot prusik and the ascender as the bottom/waist pruisk.
Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,470

I've owned several rope ascending systems for caving and have jugged untold numbers of rope drops. However, one day in a small cave in Austin I was using a rope walker system with two ascenders connected by a small bungie cord going through a pulley on the chest harness and one of them popped off mid step. I wasnt far off the ground and was weighting the other ascender, so I put the second one back on and continued. This was on a free standing rope that was completely clean and vertical, not even touching the walls. So I can confirm the damn things can pop off.

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 70
Mark Hudon wrote:David, Are absolutely, 100%, swear on the Bible certain the cam was fully locked before the ascender popped off the rope? Were you moving the ascender when it popped off?
Not a clue. I assume I just loaded it wrong as it is a traverse.
Chris Watkins · · Jackson, Ohio · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 5

The prusik is a bit bulky for me. I like to use a bener with tiblock on the top ascender when traversing. It provides added security with smooth action at min weight.

Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,470

An incredibly easy way to counter the notorious popping-off ascender is to also employ one that must be assembled on the rope, like a Gibbs, Microscender, or the like. Rather than spring-loaded safeties that can pop open with inertia and unforeseen movements (the probable cause of this popping stuff) they have shells and pins that one assembles onto the rope, making it virtually impossible to just pop off. They require more futzing with, obviously.

So, hey, do that.

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 70
Stich wrote:An incredibly easy way to counter the notorious popping-off ascender is to also employ one that must be assembled on the rope, like a Gibbs, Microscender, or the like. Rather than spring-loaded safeties that can pop open with inertia and unforeseen movements (the probable cause of this popping stuff) they have shells and pins that one assembles onto the rope, making it virtually impossible to just pop off. They require more futzing with, obviously. So, hey, do that.
I'm not sure that would work for aid climbing as one it taking the top ascender off regularly. And for low angle stuff a pair of handled ascenders is I guess quicker.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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