/ Regional variations of GRI-GRI usage

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Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
Since moving to Bristol I have noticed that it is the 'norm' to use GRI-GRIs with novices in walls and at the crag. This is not 'best practice' and is rarely done at the main climbing centres (i.e. Peak District, North Wales, Lakes). Whilst it is always fun to debate whether this is a good thing (it is not) I am more interested in people's experience depending on their location. Do you live in the areas mentioned above and use Gri-Gris with novices (am I wrong) or is there a trend across the country that maybe started in the South West (or, I suspect the South East) that has yet to take off up north.
TonyB - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

Gri-Gris with novices are common in several parts of the world.
AlanLittle - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

> This is not 'best practice'

In whose opinion? I'm not clear what you are implying with the scare quotes.

Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to TonyB:

I am more curious about uk regional variations. For example it is not common to see this in Sheffield but everyone does it in Bristol
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to AlanLittle:

Didn't mean to scare you Alan. Merely making the distinction that this is not my opinion but the accepted practice in certain areas. Also I think Petzl advise a Gri-gri is not a suitable belay device for novices but that is obviously tempered by appropriate supervision etc etc
wbo - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:
Way is it not popular in Sheffield. They're almiost the norm in the sport areal I've been to
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to wbo:

Very popular amongst climbers no doubt. Do these sport areas have a lot of supervised novice groups and if so are they using the gri-gri?
winhill - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

what age are the novices?

it could be something to do with NICAS which requires the introduction of three belay devices, so kids who would never have been shown a gri-gri previously now use them regularly.

plus southerners have more ATGNI.
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to winhill:

All ages. And yes, good point about NICAS but that should be the same nationally. Besides, once a climber is progressing through the scheme they are hardly a novice regardless of age.
Didn't get the 'ATGNI'. New to forums
AlanLittle - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

My son had climbing classes at school in Bavaria aged ten. The kids were allowed to belay each other using assisted locking devices. Smarts in this case, not Grigris.

I was fine with this. Would have been less comfortable with ten year olds belaying each other with ATCs, even with a backup belayer on the brake rope.

Grigris are the de facto standard for sport climbing and sport climbing is what most beginners will be doing most of the time these days, so I don't see it as a problem if that's what they learn.

jon on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:
> (...) that it is the 'norm' to use GRI-GRIs with novices in walls and at the crag. This is not 'best practice'

Absolutely. That explains why the bottom of crags all over France are littered with dead novices.
Post edited at 20:33
winhill - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to AlanLittle:

> My son had climbing classes at school in Bavaria aged ten. The kids were allowed to belay each other using assisted locking devices. Smarts in this case, not Grigris.

> I was fine with this. Would have been less comfortable with ten year olds belaying each other with ATCs, even with a backup belayer on the brake rope.

Do you mean they had no-one tailing the rope because they had assisted braking devices?

Why would that be better than an ATC with an instructor tailing the rope?

> Grigris are the de facto standard for sport climbing and sport climbing is what most beginners will be doing most of the time these days, so I don't see it as a problem if that's what they learn.

I know experienced belayers who have given up on the gri-gri due to problems feeding the rope to leaders, it doesn't seem like a good device for learning to belay lead climbers.
puppythedog on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

I agree I would rather see novices with assisted braking devices than not. Since I moved to the south east from not far from Op's new location, I was surprised at how many of the local climbers don't use assisted braking devices but pleased to see the new youngsters on NICAS even in the low levels 1 and 2 are using Gri Gris.
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to jon:

I'm not suggesting that Gri-gris are not safe. As far as I am aware best practice encompasses a range of factors such as ease of use, teaching progression, uncomplicated rescuing etc. There are better assisted braking devices out there though and I am surprised at given the gri-gri's well known problems (and now the gri-gri 2 peccadillos) that these are not used instead. The Eddy for example is used in ropes courses.
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to puppythedog:

Interesting point of view.. Does it seem the norm in the SE for novices to be taught on standard plates do you think?
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to AlanLittle:

I think most beginners start on a top rope. I can see difficulties teaching novices sport climbing lead belaying.
jon on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

> I'm not suggesting that Gri-gris are not safe. (...) and I am surprised at given the gri-gri's well known problems (and now the gri-gri 2 peccadillos)

Bit of a contradiction there, Danny.
puppythedog on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

Not sure, the ones I have met seemed mostly to have learned in a club trained by other climbers not instructors so any bad practice is simply taught to the next generation.
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to winhill:

I also know experienced climbers who leave the gri-gri at home (me for one) except when much hanging about is anticipated. I have also seen several falls with a gri-gri and always in experienced hands but to be fair this doesn't say much as accidents tend to happen to experienced climbers. Comes with the territory
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to jon:

Perhaps but once the quirks are known then obviously they become less of a problem. I use a gri-gri and consider it safe. I am less inclined to point out every single thing I know about them to a novice so tend to issue a standard plate
AlH - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

Personally I prefer to introduce novices who may go on to be 'climbers' to a plate type belay device sooner rather than later. Its versatile (works for sport and trad) and the 'standard' UK belay device they will become familiar with.
I've nothing against gri-gris, I own several of them. However over many years working in climbing walls I've noticed a bit of 'gri-gri' reliance from supervisors/instructors giving them to novices. When they give a gri-gri to a beginner there seems to be a subconscious assumption that it is safer but I've first and second hand experience of plenty of accidents when lowering and when novices have depressed the cam by holding the body of the gri-gri when pulling a thick wall rope through it (preventing it locking up in the event of a fall). Note: i'm not saying one is safer or less safe than the other (both will fail to arrest a climber if used incorrectly). Just that in my experience of working for and with a number of UK walls that its easy for staff to be lulled into a (IMHO false) sense of security when their groups are using grigris. If steps are taken to continuously overcome this and remind staff of the weaknesses in the device thats fine but it needs to be actively included in the training and mindset of those supervising. I feel that the same people giving their novices plates tend to reman more focussed on good quality belaying and appropriate methods of backing the belayer up as there is no suggestion of any 'automatic' braking in a non assisted braking device.
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to puppythedog:

This does happen. And there is a higher incidence of accidents with clubs than activity centres (OK, not supported by any evidence)
Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to AlH:

Summed up nicely. I am in agreement with all that. However I am still curious about the regional thing. What is your location (roughly) and have you noticed a trend. You are saying walls are over reliant on the gri-gri
AlanLittle - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to winhill:

> Why would that be better than an ATC with an instructor tailing the rope?

School group. Would have needed five instructors.

> I know experienced belayers who have given up on the gri-gri due to problems feeding the rope to leaders, it doesn't seem like a good device for learning to belay lead climbers.

I would have serious doubts about anybody who couldn't learn this in a single session. The thumb trick for feeding rope quickly is trivially simple and only really needed with fuzzy crappy wall ropes. I had no problem adapting to a Grigri after thirty years of sticht plates and ATCs.

And given the choice I'd sooner be short-roped than dropped.
AlanLittle - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

> The Eddy for example is used in ropes courses.

Weighs a ton doesn't it? I live in Bavaria where Edelrid are based and have never, ever seen a climber using one.

Danny Brown - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to AlanLittle:

To be fair it doesn't sound like you're a novice so not really my point. And again, Bavaria is spreading my geographical interest a tad further than I was expecting.
winhill - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to AlanLittle:

> School group. Would have needed five instructors.

So worse but more convenient?

AlH - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

I'm in Scotland but thinking of several walls spread from North of England northwards. Sometimes it comes down to the TA's preferences.
andrewmcleod - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:
At my local walls they use Gri-gris in pairs (one pulling in, one holding the brake rope) and only do the taking in, not the lowering down. This is just for larger groups of non-climbing novices e.g. school clubs, charity climbs etc. Only the instructors operate the cam handle since this is the only bit where correct use is absolutely required (whereas correct use is required for all actions with a plate-type device).

There is a girl guides-type group who turn up occasionally. Every time I watch them, I am bl**dy glad they are on gri-gris... human error is far more common than equipment failure after all, even with experienced people!

AFAIK neither wall I visit hires out or teaches the use of their grigris (unless you ask I guess); they are only for groups who are not being taught to belay. Are you referring to the situation above (non-climbing novices using grigris) or people being taught to belay only with a grigri?

You do seem to have a bias against gri-gris, which are after all the standard gear for sport climbing. Used correctly, they are safer, as is any other assisted braking device. Used incorrectly, any device is not safe. Used badly (e.g. hand off dead rope, letting go completely) gri-gris will generally still function. Yes, you can drop people lowering them if you are careless, but this is easily avoidable.

PS this is two walls in Devon :P
Post edited at 22:29
Jon_Warner - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

> This is not 'best practice'... it is always fun to debate whether this is a good thing (it is not)

Really?? Is this based on evidence or your opinion? Since we're going off anecdotes, I have seen 2 people hit the floor from height in indoor walls (once in Bristol, once in the Peak District) both were novice error losing control of ATCs.

Anyway, to answer your question I've lived in Coventry, Derby and Bristol and not particularly noticed a regional variation.
AlanLittle - on 03 Jul 2014
In reply to winhill:

> So worse but more convenient?

No. Do you honestly think my son would have been in the class if I had been in any way unhappy about the safety practices?

What do you think is "worse" about kids being taught to be responsible and attentive, with a reasonably failsafe device as backup? With an adult as a backup belayer they wouldn't be experiencing responsibility.
Northwestface - on 03 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

"well known problems"? Don't know of any problems with the Gri Gri and we've been using them for over 15 years with novices in a bottom rope situation.
Danny Brown - on 03 Jul 2014
In reply to Northwestface:

I don't think I'm in the minority when I say that the gri-gri requires a different technique to operate. Also that it requires extra instruction as advised by Petzl - indeed they issue special posters for climbing walls explaining how to do it. I, like you don't have any problems with it but I'm not talking about me. I am wondering about regional variations which so far has revealed exactly nowt.
Danny Brown - on 03 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

Any more on regional preferences? Can't help but be buoyed by the interest on this subject but mildly dismayed about the lack of gri-gri beta. My new post is: what problems do people find with using a gri-gri? For the record - I like gri-gri. Great bits of kit but wouldn't give one to a novice or 'bell-ring' if given a choice. I have and will probably continue to do so as I work with many people and companies but would rather not.
There. I've said it
AlH - on 03 Jul 2014
In reply to Northwestface:

http://www.outdoor-learning.org/Portals/0/IOL%20Documents/AALSLogEntries/2006_2008/200611%20Grief%20...

http://www.outdoor-learning.org/Portals/0/IOL%20Documents/Horizons%20Documents/Horizons%20pdf%20arch...

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=30&cad=rja&am...

Not all the problems related in particular in the last article are specific to Grig-ris but they can all effect Gri-Gri use. Note I'm in no way suggesting you should stop what you are doing and you may well have an excellent training system in place that helps your staff supervise novices with these devices perfectly well. However in my own experience the issues of: lowering when asked not to or without a hand on the dead rope, squeezing the device when pulling the rope through (preventing the cam operating n the event of a fall), slack building up on the live side of the gri-gri and assuming that the device will lock up when it may fail to do so with a light climber/slowly applied load (especially with new slick rope) are all things supervisors need to remain constantly aware of.
Danny Brown - on 03 Jul 2014
In reply to AlH:

Let's not forget the gri-gri 2's unique 'stay locked' feature where the live rope can get caught behind (to the left) of the cam
AlH - on 03 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

Euch. Gri-gri 2. I can barely fit 3 fingers onto the lever. I've been stockpiling gri-gri 1s because I dislike the 2 so much.
wbo - on 03 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:
Of those three linked articles 2 and 3 describe typical errors, and you could substiute sticht plate for gri-gri in any of them. Even the first is not saying much more than that they're not foolproof.

I live, climb in norway, and an awful lot of people use gri-gris. Novices are typically taught with them as well as that may well be what they'll use in the future. Surely the situation is that all of these things can be used or abused, and any best practice would be more meaningful if it focussed on correct use rather than a particular device
Post edited at 21:35
andrewmcleod - on 04 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

> Great bits of kit but wouldn't give one to a novice or 'bell-ring' if given a choice.

Very important to be clear exactly what you mean here - are you referring to 'people being trained in the ways of climbing' e.g. people on climbing inductions, being taught to belay or do you mean 'people who are not being taught to climb' e.g. groups on 'experience' days, taster sessions where no instruction is being given, as these two groups are obviously completely different. In the case of the latter, no consideration needs to be made of what devices the people are being taught to use/not taught to use as they aren't being taught anything (beyond enough to get them through the day) and the aim is not to make them competent independent belayers.
needvert on 05 Jul 2014
Would be nice if there was a comprehensive study done into belay devices, otherwise we're all mostly just engaging in conjecture.

I mostly use an ATC or a munter, though when it came to leading where I thought I'd likely fall, had a very novice belayer and was leading for a long time, I gave them a grigri.

I half suspect munter is the safest option.
MaranaF - on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to needvert:

> mostly just engaging in conjecture.

As I havent seen a single fact referenced in this thread it is all conjecture.

My conjecture is... GriGri's are great for setting up rescue systems, lifting and the like. They are also good lazy belay devices for single pitch, single rope, sports climbing.

However, they dont teach the user anything about belaying and are very often misused. Users are often not attentive to the climber and frankly I hate leading when the belayer is using a GriGri.
wurzelinzummerset on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to MaranaF:

I usually conclude that when someone states grigris encourage lazy belaying that they've not actually spent anytime using one, although as you're French that would seem unlikely. I actually find it encourages a belayer to be more attentive as you need to be able to react quickly to the climber pulling up slack to clip. If you don't, the thing locks up, and you'll get a load of abuse directed down at you. Personally if I'm leading on a single rope I prefer to be belayed with a grigri, because I know that if the belayer gets hit by a rock, slips up on mud, or gets knocked into at a busy climbing wall, then I'll still be safe. Although these might seem unlikely events, when sport climbing you do spend a lot of time relying completely on your partner's control of the rope to prevent serious injury, and an incident has to happen only once when you're being lowered, or after a fall, to have life-changing, or ending, consequences.
timjones - on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to MaranaF:

> However, they dont teach the user anything about belaying and are very often misused. Users are often not attentive to the climber and frankly I hate leading when the belayer is using a GriGri.

They should teach the user about belaying because the technique used should be no different from any other non locking belay device!
MaranaF - on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to wurzelinzummerset:

I have used the GriGri a lot but mainly for access work when climbing alone. I prefer the ID backed up with an ASAP but the GriGri comes in useful sometimes when tensioning a safety line. I am in fact English but live in the French Alpes most of the time.

We have hundreds of single pitch sports routes here and yes, a lot of French family's out climbing will use a GriGri but most serious climbers and people doing multi pitch climbs will not be using them as they will be climbing with twin ropes.

Your points re the belayer having an accident are relevant but an attentive belayer should be dodging the rocks Im throwing at them!

Bon Continuation!
timjones - on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to wurzelinzummerset:

> I usually conclude that when someone states grigris encourage lazy belaying that they've not actually spent anytime using one, although as you're French that would seem unlikely. I actually find it encourages a belayer to be more attentive as you need to be able to react quickly to the climber pulling up slack to clip. If you don't, the thing locks up, and you'll get a load of abuse directed down at you. Personally if I'm leading on a single rope I prefer to be belayed with a grigri, because I know that if the belayer gets hit by a rock, slips up on mud, or gets knocked into at a busy climbing wall, then I'll still be safe. Although these might seem unlikely events, when sport climbing you do spend a lot of time relying completely on your partner's control of the rope to prevent serious injury, and an incident has to happen only once when you're being lowered, or after a fall, to have life-changing, or ending, consequences.

If you have any reason to believe thyour belated will drop you if they slip,on mud or get "knocked into" at a climbing wall you need a better be layer rather than a grigri. Gadgets should not be relied on to cover simple incompetence.

MaranaF - on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to timjones:

Yes they should but Grigri users are [in my opinion] lazy. A GriGri is not certified safe to auto lock unattended [use an ID if you want that feature] but many belayers will take their hands off the brake, something that cant be risked on other types of belay devices.

Its just an opinion....
wurzelinzummerset on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to timjones:

And if you believe your belayer will still be holding the rope all the time, every time, whatever happens, then you're just kidding yourself. Some actions are involuntary, that could include letting go of the rope under certain circumstances. Like I said, it's unlikely, but I like to stack the odds in my favour.
jezb1 - on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to MaranaF:

Rope access guys won't use a GriGri, they're not rated are they? Rig or ID for that sort of stuff.
MaranaF - on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to jezb1:

isnt that what I said?
FactorXXX - on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to jezb1:

Rope access guys won't use a GriGri, they're not rated are they? Rig or ID for that sort of stuff.

Route Setters do and to all intents and purposes, it's one of the same.
MaranaF - on 05 Jul 2014
timjones - on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to wurzelinzummerset:

> And if you believe your belayer will still be holding the rope all the time, every time, whatever happens, then you're just kidding yourself. Some actions are involuntary, that could include letting go of the rope under certain circumstances. Like I said, it's unlikely, but I like to stack the odds in my favour.

A good belayer with experience of being on both ends of the rope will hold onto that rope as long as they are conscious. You also have to ask yourself whether you're happy to use a grigri on the more adventurous trad climbing hwere the risks are highest.
wurzelinzummerset on 05 Jul 2014
In reply to timjones:

But that's obviously not true. I can think of several occasions when rock has come off sport routes at Cheddar or Portland where if it had hit me the the damage to bone, muscle, nerves or tendons would have meant holding on may have been impossible. I'll reiterate that the chances of this are slim, but if you do a lot of sport climbing you'll by necessity spend plenty of time dangling on the rope, even more so if working routes, and so if you can easily take measures to reduce this risk, then why not do so? If you want an analogy, then think of a prusik when abseiling. The chances are that in a lifetime of climbing you'll never actually rely on the thing, but most people still put one on as a safety back-up.

As for using a grigri when trad climbing, I usually don't as I use half ropes. And I don't believe that the risks are necessarily higher when trad climbing if you climb within your capabilities, and make sensible judgements as to what routes you tackle -- although they can be if you want them to.

I'll add that I generally accept being belayed with an ATC or grigri when sport climbing, it's just that I prefer the grigri, especially if it's not a regular climbing partner (my regular partners are experienced, reliable belayers). If I'm belaying others on sport routes I generally always use a grigri.
Danny Brown - on 06 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

Route setters do tend to use gri-gri backed up with shunts but rope access guys stopped this a long time ago preferring ids/rigs with asaps. As a climber I like gri-gris and have no issue with this; when teaching leading outdoors I may use a gri-gri to ascend behind my punter - not advocated by Petzl but nonetheless I wouldnt teach novices how to use one and I try not to 'bell-ring'. If I do then it will be with and Italian/munter.
steveliput - on 07 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

I was in California with work and the wall I went bouldering at only had gri-gri for top roping. They had one attached to every rope and you could not use your own device at all

Whatever the opinion on gri-gri this is an extreme variation
Northwestface - on 07 Jul 2014
In reply to AlH:

Is this reply to me? I don't see how my comment about "well known problems" is anyway connected. Perhaps well known problems with people is what i should have said. There are no more problems with the gri gri over friction devices in the hands of novices.
AlH - on 07 Jul 2014
In reply to Northwestface:

Yes it was intended to be in response to your comment. All i attempted to do was list some issues that have arisen with novice users and gri-gris. As I also said in the post there are plenty of things you can do to offset these problems and I agree that there are issues with friction based devices too.
andrewmcleod - on 07 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

> ...I wouldnt teach novices how to use one

Does any wall or any guide in the country when teaching new climbers to belay - with the aim of making them competent belayers - start with the use of a Gri-Gri?
andrewmcleod - on 07 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

That all said, there is some rather exciting gri-gri usage in this video...
http://www.epictv.com/media/podcast/this-61-year-old-climber-shows-you-his-newest-projectits-a-514b-...
Bob_the_Builder - on 08 Jul 2014
In reply to steveliput:

Where was this? I'm living in Los Angeles at the moment and I've been to 3 gyms like that. As far as I can tell it is an insurance thing. The insurance companies presumably don't understand the subtleties of different devices and demanded a standard from which a risk assessment could be formed.
ads.ukclimbing.com
needvert on 08 Jul 2014
In reply to MaranaF:

> However, they dont teach the user anything about belaying and ...

You can learn an awful lot about belaying when using a grigri. Paying out slack, taking in, giving softer catches, lowering, spotting before the first piece of pro, where to stand. In fact aside from double or twin rope related skills, I don't think there's all that much that can't be learnt using one.
Danny Brown - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

That is, in essence the motivation behind my original query and it seems, in the South West at least, the answer is yes.
andrewmcleod - on 11 Jul 2014
In reply to Danny Brown:

> That is, in essence the motivation behind my original query and it seems, in the South West at least, the answer is yes.

I am extremely confused as to how you have reached this conclusion? Which walls are you referring to?

I have never seen a new climber being taught to belay with a gri-gri as a first device. I have only seen them used for groups where they are NOT being taught to belay and have only been shown how to use them to take in rope, NOT to lower - they require constant supervision.

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