Belay devices for multipitch


Original Post
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Hey everyone,

So after all the nonsense with MRA threads dominating the forum, I thought it might be nice to have a bitter, angry thread about actual climbing and broach the subject about what people prefer to bring with them on trad climbs, particularly multi-pitch. When I first got into trad, most of my partners exclusively used tube-style devices and asked that I do so as well because assisted-breaking devices (Grigris) cause extra load to be placed on gear, thus increasing the likelihood of gear pulling and/or breaking. I've seen some data that support this, and anecdotally noticed that people were using Grigris on every single gear-pulling fall I've seen on Weekend Whipper (this could be a coincidence, but it's an interesting pattern). However, I've recently heard some fairly convincing arguments for using Grigris/etc, so I'm not sure where I stand. Arguments I've seen for Grigris:

1) They work "better" than ATCs in guide mode. This one's iffy, as Petzl even recommends against doing this and I generally find it disturbingly easy to disengage the cam, particularly with thinner ropes. Still, people do it.

2) They're more likely to hold a FF2 anchor fall and/or other severe fall. The relatively low incidence of FF2s make most belayers unaware of just how violent they can be, and recent tests have shown that most belayers are not prepared to catch direct falls onto the anchor and are likely to drop the leader in such scenarios using tube style devices. While this is a very low likelihood event, the consequences are clearly severe, and if you're climbing close to your limit or on poorly protected routes, this scenario becomes much more likely. So...what do you guys take with you and/or ask of your belayers?

sarcasm · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2010 · Points: 470

Don't complicate things. ATC Guide.

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

If I'm trad climbing, I tend to use a tube style device for the reason you mentioned. If I'm climbing choss I'll make a judgement call between the alpine smart and a tuber because of rockfall potential. If a factor 2 fall is even remotely a possibility I'll use a munter hitch so I don't have to brake with my arm at chest level.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

I don't care what device my partner uses and he/they don't care what I use. We just want each other to be attentive and proficient belayers. That's the most important trait, in my opinion.

For a single-rope climb, I use a Cinch; with twins, I use my recently-acquired DMM Pivot.

We don't worry about the extra impact on the upper piece from using an assisted-braking belay device (Cinch, Gri Gri, etc.) We leave those worries to the masses on Mountain Project to debate!

Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 925

If I'm not worried about hauling a ton of extraneous stuff, and it's all bolted belaya, I'll use the gri-gri and pack an atc too. Otherwise it's the atc (guide) all the way.

Had nothing to do with lowering the impact force (technique wins over device on that front, and that's hard to perform at a hanging belay regardless), and everything to do with surety of catch while I'm trying to drink water (or whatever) at the belay.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

Grigri 2 for lead belaying, guide plate for follower (or sometimes grigri for both)

My logic on it is:

1) I climb on skinny lines. There's been some testing done that shows a high factor fall would be difficult, if not impossible to catch on a plate. I also regularly climb with my wife, who weighs alot less than me, so she prefers a grigri.

2) the higher fall forces argument is kind of wishy washy to me. Either the gear is good and it doesn't matter or the gear might not hold, in which case the scenario could be that you'll need a grigri to catch a high factor fall. There's also no real way to know in the real world how much extra force is being put on the piece that catches you.

3) I don't know anyone but new climbers who uses a plate on multipitch (alpine backcountry excluded). Everyone I know who climbs trad (in particular hard trad) climbs with a locking assist device most of the time.

Edited to add: two weeks ago, I would have been hosed if I had not brought my grigri. We had a heinous rope pull, probably the worst I've ever had. Thought I was going to have to jug the lines. Put my grigri on the pull side and body hauled the pull- worked like a charm. That would have sucked to do with a plate.

Tradgic Yogurt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 55

Megajul. One device to rule them all.

Er, most. Ropes over 10mm get an indirect belay using an ATC and redirect off bolt/extra piece.

Rick Blair · · Denver · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 268
FrankPS wrote:e don't worry about the extra impact on the upper piece from using an assisted-braking belay device (Cinch, Gri Gri, etc.) We leave those worries to the masses on Mountain Project to debate!
The tests showing 50% increase in force does not sway you at all?
Matt Kuehl · · Las Vegas · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 1,540

But if an aid soloist falls off el cap after ripping a piece, does the grigri still catch them?

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

This has been around a fair amount by now---make of it what you will.

Grigri anchor loads

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Wow. Extra 2 kn is significant on small gear, and the rest of the results are not negligible. That's an interesting trend John Wilder. I find the opposite to be the case; I have yet to see a Grigri used for lead at the local trad area (Devil's Lake).

Bill M · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 321

Grigri for belaying, even in the alpine. 160 grams. about the weight of a #2 or #3 BD Cam.

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 483

My partner and I both use GriGris for belaying the leader and for belaying the second up. We both also carry MegaJuls, mainly for rope+tag rappels. Belaying a second on the anchor with a GriGri is so nice. We use the Beal Opera 8.5 or a Mammut Serenity 8.7 if we want a beefier rope.

Rob Warden...Space Lizard · · Between Zion, Vegas, LA, an... · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 115

I use a gri gri or the mega jewel for a long hike. I use skinny cord 9.1 almsot exclusively. The increase in load i think is negligable. Espechially on a rope with a low impact force rating. I climb trad on thin and bad gear and fall on it and it holds most of the time.
I took a 20ft or so fall on a purple c3 was caught by a grigri, and it didnt budge. I fell 3 more times before finding the seqaunace.
I have fallen on resonably shallow brass in zion, it held despite the grigri.

I echo john wilder here, Everbody who climbs hard trad uses the gri gri.

I also get hit with rocks. Its alot harder to lose control of a grigri than a tube if your helmets now in two chunks.

If its good enough for peter croft, karl kavarshy and rob pizem its good enough for me. Those guys go father and harder, whip bigger and are generally pushing limits on equipment to failure.

If rob isnt ripping micro pro out with a grigri belay on a 9.0mm rope, you will not

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530
Ted Pinson wrote:Wow. Extra 2 kn is significant on small gear, and the rest of the results are not negligible. That's an interesting trend John Wilder. I find the opposite to be the case; I have yet to see a Grigri used for lead at the local trad area (Devil's Lake).
Out west it's pretty normal to see grigris at trad crags.

Despite that chart, people aren't out there ripping gear left and right because they're using a grigri. Frankly, even if gear did rip, there's no way to know if it was marginal in the first place and would have held with a plate. As Rob said, Piz out climbs everyone in this forum on marginal gear and bad rock and I know he and his partners all use grigris.

The thing is, if the gear rips, the grigri suddenly becomes alot better device than a plate for a variety of reasons. It's debatable as to whether a grigri causes gear to rip (I can't say I've ever heard of a definitive case of it happening), but if the gear rips and suddenly a factor 2 fall is in play along with some rock fall, I'm firmly in the grigri camp.

For me, the pros of having a grigri on hand far outweigh the *possibility* of it being the reason that marginal gear pulls. Marginal gear is just that, marginal. As in, it would not surprise you if it did pull. But if it does and things get weird, I'd much rather have a locking assist device.
JK- · · SLC · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 58
Brian Scoggins wrote:If I'm not worried about hauling a ton of extraneous stuff, and it's all bolted belaya, I'll use the gri-gri and pack an atc too. Otherwise it's the atc (guide) all the way. Had nothing to do with lowering the impact force (technique wins over device on that front, and that's hard to perform at a hanging belay regardless), and everything to do with surety of catch while I'm trying to drink water (or whatever) at the belay.
I pretty much completely agree with this.
Peter Brown-Whale · · Randallstown, MD · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 20

I really like the cinch for belaying up a 2nd, almost zero effort to pull slack and it locks instantly. BTW this is the only thing I use the cinch for. We will carry gigi/ovo for the rappel. The leader usually gets belayed with a grigri. I would rather spend the energy carrying the heavier cinch than spend the energy pulling slack through something with a lot of friction.

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25

I would expect that the majority of gear is ripping due to poor placements.

Even then most whippers are still closer to FF0.3 than FF1. And off Rgold's chart that really means SFA difference with a gri-gri. Remember a FF1 means that after rope stretch the climber is now BELOW the anchored belayer!

Personally I'm not a fan of a gri-gri but I don't believe there is much to be concerned about the extra load on trad gear unless you are on marginal gear/rock. That said, if I'm climbin on sub 5kN RPs I'll happily accept a softer catch.

Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 925
Rick Blair wrote: The tests showing 50% increase in force does not sway you at all?
No, it doesn't. I'm more likely to get dropped from belayer error, or have a piece fail due to pilot error, than to have a correctly placed piece fail due to a correctly used gri-gri. Marginal gear is a whole other kettle of fish. When I start climbing above truly marginal gear, in a scenario where a fall is a reasonable possibilitu, then I'll reassess.
calebmmallory · · Seattle, N.Carolina, &Hong ... · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 405

DMM Pivot. ATC style but better.

Rick Blair · · Denver · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 268

I would assume that this test was done with an anchored GriGri to allow measurement, which would take dynamism ( belayer movement ) out of the test which would exaggerate the forces in the results.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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