Could anyone propose a sensible top rope soloing set up?
I'm sure there's a decent Dave Macleod video to watch this evening but would be interested to hear from the brains of UKC as well.
I tried a few setups. At first I used a pair of ascenders (WC Ropeman + Edelrid Spoc), first on twin ropes, then a single. It was too much faff for my liking, especially switching to rappel at the top, too many opportunities to screw up.
Settled on a Taz Lov3, bit pricey, but makes the whole process very simple and enjoyable. Climb, rappel, repeat. Using it on a 10mm dynamic rope. I tie a knot if I want it backed up.
Don't use a Shunt.
HIn reply to ChristianTyroll:
Petzl have information on their website. One on a single rope and one on two ropes.
I use an old simple Petzl ascender backed up with a Petzl micro traxion on a single rope.
Edit. That should read old basic ascender not simple.
I've been working new routes a lot this year.
Once the belay is in I fix a length of 10mm semi-static rope down the length of the route.
I use a Croll fixed to my harness with a maillon. Then I have a loop of non load bearing elastic criss-crossed over my shoulders which I clip into the top of the Croll at just below chest height to keep it upright so the rope flows through it smoothly.
As a back up I also have a shunt on a sling which I push up in front of me.
The only downside is it can be tricky to lower down a bit if I want to work the same move more than once.
I'm another fan of the TazLov3, its safe and makes working a route a breeze, and often easier than with someone belaying you.
I've tried other setups and none are even half as good, and all are less safe, particularly when needing to go back down.
Yann Camus runs a fb group for rope soloing. There’s one for lead and one TRS. You would need to send him a request.
It’s mostly Canadian/US, but that shouldn’t make any difference. A good place to discuss rigs, but note that not every poster there is expert/safe, so use your own judgment.
edit- link not working. Search for Yann Camus bliss climbing on fb and YT
You don't need to feed the Taz, it runs effortlessly up the rope, you can basically ignore it, and get on with the climb. It locks straight away as soon as you weight it, and raps nice and smooth back down, very similar to a gri gri. I can't think how you'd improve a TR solo setup, to be honest.
It's a bit heavy I guess, but think of it as reassuringly solid! At first I used it back up, but don't bother anymore, I think the extra devices just introduce more potential problems.
I am interested.
From what I can gather, the tax lov climbs like a shunt, little drag, no need to pull through and then lowers like a gri gri. This sounds ideal.
Do you back it up? If so, how?
Is there interlocking in the handle so that in a fall if the handle is snagged by clothing, rope or a panicked hand it does not release?
> Don't use a Shunt.
The Shunt has been used for this purpose for ages - more than 30 years, anyway. I will read the accident report which suncream has posted, but things are never simple, and, for any system, backups are always necessary (or at least, 'advisable.')
Using twin ropes (as I always do in this activity) then it's always possible to backup the Shunt against catastrophic failure by tying knots in the twin rope, and then clipping one of the two ropes using a long sling and a single krab.
There are no absolutely foolproof roped-soloing systems (either top-rope systems as being discussed here, or lead systems.) But then there are no absolutely foolproof climbing systems.
Think of the Taz like a grigri that self feeds. Its not possible for the handle to catch, it points the opposite way to a grigri, and requires very deliberate force to release.
I always back it up. I use a Micro-traxion on a short dynamic lanyard 30cm below. The lanyard is a big safety tool for lots of things when your by yourself.
> Using twin ropes (as I always do in this activity) then it's always possible to backup the Shunt against catastrophic failure by tying knots in the twin rope, and then clipping one of the two ropes using a long sling and a single krab.
Would this stop it from self feeding?
Another possible backup would be to run the rope through a maillon on you belay loop, then the backup knots will catch on this. Or trail a Micro traxion (as I do with my Taz).
I'm not that against the shunt, but like all things it needs backing up, and if I where buying new now, then there are better products available for you money.
I think tests have been done and the shunt will come off a rope at around 2kN (don't have the details) I have a friend who's shunt broke in a fall when the screwgate twisted and bent the shunt. Its advisable to connect it with an 8mm maillon.
Sure there are no foolproof systems, and statistically the Shunt is safe most of the time. I just wouldn't recommend a device that is known to catastrophically fail while TR soloing.
Better setups out there now!
The device itself rotates in order to engage the rope. There is a theoretical failure mode where somehow it gets snagged in a position where it can't rotate. Also, when rappelling, if you fully engage the lever, there is no friction on the rope, so you will drop really fast if you panic...unlike the GriGri that has a fair bit of drag.
I use it mostly for just doing laps on stuff within my capability, so I don't back it up, preferring to keep it simple. If I was working sections of harder routes and expecting to fall a lot, I'd back it up above potential impact points with maillon/knots.
If anyone in the peak area wants to try it out next time I'm out, you're welcome.
> Would this stop it from self feeding?
I've never had any problems using the system I've described.
Note, in the general context of this thread, that I've always used a shunt with twin ropes. I don't like the look of the shunt used with a single rope: the geometry looks wrong to me, and I can imagine oddities occurring.
When I worked in roped access we were trained to NEVER use a shunt with 2 ropes. it was considered unsafe as more likely to fail.
Petzl say this on their website FAQs:
''The SHUNT has been specifically designed as a back-up device for abseiling. It is not designed to withstand the shock load of a fall.''
Thank you everyone for all the replies. Think I'm going to treat myself to the Tax at some point.
> When I worked in roped access we were trained to NEVER use a shunt with 2 ropes. it was considered unsafe as more likely to fail.
That's an interesting comment. What's your exact reasoning?
> Petzl say this on their website FAQs:
> ''The SHUNT has been specifically designed as a back-up device for abseiling. It is not designed to withstand the shock load of a fall.''
Yes, I know that Petzl has never authorized the Shunt for use in top-rope soloing. Nevertheless, it has been used for that purpose by many people for a long time.
Be careful using the Taz without a backup. I've fallen to my backup knot once using it as I did a move that held it in the vertical position. You can reproduce this at home with a Taz, rope, and weight. If dropped in just the right position it can fail to lock.
I back up with a spoc now.
> That's an interesting comment. What's your exact reasoning?
It’s wasn’t my reasoning, it was company policy. It did seem counterintuitive, but we were told 2 strands made failure more likely. Presumably, Force distributed over 2x area of rope may not be sufficient in some circumstances to adequately compress either strand. I don’t know. There are some very knowledgeable roped acess trainers who read these forums who could explain better, I am sure.
In practice, a shunt has been a go-to self belay device for decades, I know (including by me, with a microtraxion on a separate strand). I think it’s important to remember that Petzl warn it can fail used in this way ie there may be much safer options.
I've read the description of the shunt failure accident on mountain project. The most plausible failure mode described was the shunt slipping until it hits a backup knot then the shunt is bent open. Looking at the pics posted the shunt didn't look distorted so I don't know that happened. The shunt was designed many years back when climbing ropes were typically 9mm (half) or 11mm (single), yes there were exceptions like Mammut Galaxy (weren't they great!) at 10ish but basically a single rope was 10 or 11mm. In all the posting I didn't see the diameter of the unfortunate climbers rope, I'd be amazed if it wasn't <10.
I personally remain happy using a shunt attached to the ab loop of my harness on a >=10mm rope but I feel the need for a second device (anything really..) and ideally that's on a second rope. Yes that might make me a wimp but hopefully a wimp with a long lifespan.
Totally agree with Mrjonathan that a shunt shouldn't be used on 2 ropes (unless it's protecting a retrievable abseil) because if a rope snaps above, then the broken rope in shunt can hold the shunt slipping on the remaining rope... and down you go (got that from working in access back in the day, also)
> Totally agree with Mrjonathan that a shunt shouldn't be used on 2 ropes (unless it's protecting a retrievable abseil) because if a rope snaps above, then the broken rope in shunt can hold the shunt slipping on the remaining rope... and down you go (got that from working in access back in the day, also)
If you're solo TRing and the rope breaks, I would be very glad of a second rope going through my shunt!
Edit: I appreciate it may be better to have 2 independent rope, each with their own independent arresting device. As noted in the accident thread, there's generally a trade-off between full safety (like this set-up) and usability.
It is worth noting that nothing is "shock loaded" when using the shunt for top rope soloing. You just sag onto the rope when you fall off. If you haven't weighted the rope properly and the shunt isn't sliding up the rope cleanly, then yes you are asking for trouble.
I'd recommend a setup with a static rope, much better for working routes. Currently using a taz lov3 which is great, but I've had a few slow catches on some steeper dry tooling routes that I'm yet to understand why.
> If you're solo TRing and the rope breaks, I would be very glad of a second rope going through my shunt!
The theory/belief is that this is a false sense on security, the broken rope prevents the shunt from grabbing the remaining rope so it's no better than a single rope.
Would be interesting to see that theory tested, see if that is actually true in real world scenarios
> Totally agree with Mrjonathan that a shunt shouldn't be used on 2 ropes (unless it's protecting a retrievable abseil) because if a rope snaps above, then the broken rope in shunt can hold the shunt slipping on the remaining rope... and down you go (got that from working in access back in the day, also)
Ok, I get that, thanks. A snapped rope would be a pretty exotic failure mode in the context I think - but it's possible.
> The theory/belief is that this is a false sense on security, the broken rope prevents the shunt from grabbing the remaining rope so it's no better than a single rope.
I'm pretty sure that used to be in the instruction leaflet that came with the shunt - it was designed for use with two strands as in a retrievable abseil, but two ropes anchored independently got a skull and crossbones. As I understand it the thinking behind that was that the extra security of the second rope was considered to be largely illusory because in the event that one rope was severed the unloaded strand still in the device would prevent it from properly engaging with the still anchored rope in the other side.
I just had a look at the 'technical notice' leaflet for the current Shunt on Petzl's website though and that warning is not there now, so it seems there are three possibilities:
The warning is still there about using ropes of different diameters though - both ropes are engaged by the same rigid cam so a fat rope in one side will prevent the device from grabbing a thin rope in the other. If using two ropes it is still essential that they're the same size.
Regarding the thing about shock load - a shock load is always a possibility in a situation of 'fall arrest'. (And the Shunt was always technically being mis-used as a back-up for roped access back in the day, but there were few alternatives back then. Maybe the Troll Rocker, that was about it. I'm not au-fait with what goes on in industrial roped access, but I presume nobody uses a Shunt any more?)
As an individual TR soloing for fun you have a perfect right to decide that you're able to reduce the shock load effectively to zero, or to reduce the chances of it being significant to an acceptable level and may well be absolutely right about that but I think it's essential to think about it with a good deal of humility. TR soloing is actually pretty risky, it's probably wiser to think of it as another kind of soloing than as another kind of top roping.
Yes, Yann Camus has a nice little intro vid where he talks about TRS as ‘risk management’ rather than safety.
Re shock loading the shunt, if it is being used on a cow’s tail rather than set up tight like you do with ascenders in an SRT system, it’s being used as a fall arrest, so there’s some shock load, however small it may appear.
A couple of weeks ago, for the first time I used a Petzl torse for TRSolo -- a type of chest harness attached to the back of climbing harness and is a bit like a pair of braces but lifts the top of a chest ascender or in my case a unicender (I was using to TRsolo) although it could have been many devices, it was a game changer, it kept the device tight and in place, no waggling about about my waist. Really recommend looking at the torse.
Incidentally the unicender was best device I've ever seen for this (can release under load and ab down again on same device) but it's only for semi static 11mm to 13mm so probably not one for everyone here. I used it on a 10.5mm semi, but that was "naughty" and at my own risk. I did have up to 30m to fall but felt quite confident with it.
> A couple of weeks ago, for the first time I used a Petzl torse for TRSolo -- a type of chest harness attached to the back of climbing harness and is a bit like a pair of braces but lifts the top of a chest ascender or in my case a unicender (I was using to TRsolo) although it could have been many devices, it was a game changer, it kept the device tight and in place, no waggling about about my waist. Really recommend looking at the torse.
I also recommend the Torse.
You can use a 120cm sling, but the Torse adjusts and gets everything where you need it, for only £20.
Just out of interest, what would it take for people decided that the shunt was unsuitable then? It seems there have been known issues with these for years and quite a few (seemingly) knowledgeable people seem to have a serious issue with the device. I'm certainly no expert myself, so pick away, but these are just the things I've heard about with them:
I know that there is no perfect setup but it doesn't exactly seem to be stacking up in favour of the thing? It seems the the best defence anyone ever gives of them is the old “I've been using it for years and I'm OK” (sample size 1!), and “they are safe as long as you know how to avoid the pitfalls”. Are there really advantages that outweigh all this? Or are some of these issues just so rare/mythical/avoidable? Maybe a similar list could be made of any other setup? Or maybe the test of time takes longer for all the newer devices? Clearly some very experienced, and influential pros do seem happy to use them, or at least they did... With popular YT vids being removed now though, that may no longer be the case... Do you need their level of expertise and experience to use them safely?
It isn't a sample size of 1 though.
There is a very good reason that the practice you refer to as top rope soloing is colloquially known as shunting. There is a large amount of unquantified data that use of a shunt is indeed safe in all but the most unusual of cases.
For many years the shunt has been the only/preferred option for this, were it as horrific as you make out, it would not be.
Backed up with a micro trax or similar below it, it is safe enough.
I am interested in the taz thing though more from a convenience point of view with the easy transition to abseil. This should be backed up also, perhaps with my old shunt?
Sometime around ‘86 I was doing laps on a route at St Govans, and for no tangible reason as a subconscious reaction to falling off, grabbed the gri gri. It was my third or fourth time up the route, so perfectly warmed up and relaxed and no reason to grab it. It took about 30 or 40 feet of falling for me to realise what was happening and let go. I stopped just above the knot and crab holding my rucksack which was weighting the rope, about 10 feet off the deck with rope stretch.
I think we always knew that the Shunt wasn’t completely robust for top rope solo, but were prepared to take the risk. In retrospect using it without backup on another rope is probably a step too far.
> There is a large amount of unquantified data that use of a shunt is indeed safe in all but the most unusual of cases.
I don’t think you are right here. Safe, properly speaking, means nothing untoward can happen. What you are referring to is that nothing untoward has happened and inferring that the device will not fail.
In countless instances using a shunt has had positive outcomes. That isn’t quite safe though.
I can see two things behind its popularity.
It was revolutionary when it came out and was widely adopted, successfully used and became the new standard.
It doesn’t have teeth, so it appears reassuringly kind and unlikely to damage the sheath compared to an ascender, microtrax etc
If you want safe , by your definition, no single device will provide it
There's no single device that is perfect for every person in every single situation. Does Yann Camus ever say anything is perfect, does Dave MacLeod ever say it's risk free. The shunt has some significant limitations, it has some great benefits too (in my case I've owned one for 25 years). I don't think a XXX device is bad YYY is good approach is going to help as the shunt can be OK in the right situation - including backup. If I had zero equipment and wanted to start TRSolo I would look around at other things than the shunt.
For me to protect myself descending a wooden ladderway in a mine shaft (ascending style devices aren't good for descent, asap not good on very muddy ropes) or a bit of scampering about rock climbs and many other scenarios the shunt is supremely multi purpose.
Jack of all trades but master of none. Let's stop knocking the shunt for not being a master of one situation... provided the significant limitations are known
Come on! The fact in has been referred to as "shunting" could be precisely because as you say, it was one of the only devices available at one time. We have plenty of other examples of this in climbing like all cams being dubbed "freinds" long after there were other brands. Jumar, ATC... None of this says a thing about their performance or comparison with other models. I'm not sure we should put much weight in to what could just essentially be familiar nicknames (or clever marketing). I'm not sure the more recent tendency to rebrand it as TRS is deliberate movement or not either but atleast it's less (mis?)leading and will encourage newcomers to research the options without bias.
I'm not really convinced any system has truly passed the test of time yet tbh because it's been a pretty niche thing until fairly recently. Have we really seen the sample sizes needed to draw conclusions when it may only be a small but vocal minority of climbers who ever dabble in the dark arts. I guess the appliance of devices in rope access gives us quite a bit of additional data though right? Is there enough similarty? Have many folks even tried a variety of systems to make comparisons, these devices are pricy after all. With manufacturers and organisations often unwilling to attach their names to the practice is there much rigorous testing of any of the systems? Are accidents investigated to the same degree as regular climbing? Asking because I genuinely don't know but am interested.
I do think though, that we should be a bit more objective than - lots of people have done it so it must be fine...
The largest data set lies with the shunt and reported accidents are rare. It may be that the other devices simply haven't been used enough to prove or disprove them against the shunt. The shunt has its limitations but I don't think it is as bad as you are making out and the "data" supports this. If it were so horrific, it would not still be marketed after 30 odd years.
TRS a term probably created by rival manufacturers to get a slice of petzls market share. Friends, cams. Gri Gri, abd, etc etc
Looks like another serious accident a couple days ago in the US with a Shunt being used for TR Solo. Initial reports are similar to the case a few weeks back, but we'll have to wait for the injured climber to recover and give their account.
Thank you everyone that's been following Trevor's accident and wondering about his recovery. We are still finding out information about his injuries and the road ahead, but he's expected to be up and walking once he's released from the ICU -- whenever that is, we don't know yet.
What Michael shared above regarding his fall is what we know; that it was an equipment failure with no apparent back-up while rope soloing. Climbers on sight verified his choices were not reckless ones, and said his incident seems to mirror the that of another climber's fall re- use of a Petzl Shunt. Trevor has not been able to verify this yet, but I'm sharing so others can take precautions. See link at bottom.
From New River Gorge Climbers fb group. The link is to the accident one linked earlier in the thread.
Sure in an ideal situation there shouldn't be any shock loading but it's not all that hard to imagine one where one is created. Here's a few of scenarios which I don't think are wildly beyond the bounds of possibility:
1) You've deviated the rope using a bit of trad gear, due to a wandering line or to keep the rope away from a hazardous feature like a crack it could jam in or an nasty edge it could rub on. For whatever reason, that bit of gear blows leaving you with slack in the system as you fall. The device (which ever one) gets shockloaded. Rope potentially compromised.
1a) Here's a situation that could make 1 more likely happen. The placement is uni-directional, say a nut. You've rigged it for a downward load like a regular lead runner because you haven't figured out yet that that it's actually going to be loaded perpendicular to the cliff (i.e. Outwards) rather than downwards when you load the rope beneath it in a TRS scenario. Loading the rope causes the nut to pop out in a similar way to how it's common for intermediate runners to lift out in a lead fall.
2) You're using device X which auto feeds nicely but then decided to back that up with device Y, which doesn't auto feed well but is handy for getting down without much faff (like say a gri gri) and you rig that on the same line under device X. Device Y prevents device X from auto feeding anymore and you've unwittingly created a really dangerous system where you can create slack while climbing and take dynamic falls onto device X which potentially compromises your rope.
3) Something interferes with your device (loose rock, bit of bark, hair, beard, clothing, tail end of sling, elastic etc) and prevents it from engaging so it slips. It either re-engages mid-fall, or hits a backup knot. Shockload. Rope and/or device potentially compromised.
I think this one of the reasons why many choose to keep the redundancy in the system by having their back up device on its own separate rope strand decreasing the possibility of ending up dangling on a single compromised rope (the stuff of nightmares!), or worse, if something goes wrong.
I use a relatively simple system after splitting my 50 m rope at the top with bunnies ears, I climb on the left rope first pushing up my ascender as high as I can and then pull up my gri gri on the right rope.
It is not a perfect set up, but I consider it is backed up and safe although I have not taken a big fall on it really as stay in my comfort zone and don't push it too hard (HVS) for me. It can be a pain pulling up the gri gri, but it is no big deal, although I do have to weight the bottom of my left rope, normally a rucksack or similar.
I use an Edelrid dynamic lanyard for my ascender.
Unlike other systems, the benefit of this is when you get to the top, you just take off the ascender and lower yourself with the gri gri which is already in the system.
I tried a few different ways and did not like the faff of a micro traxion with a self made harness. This is ok for me climbing simple stuff in a quarry. Hope this helps.
> I'm pretty sure that used to be in the instruction leaflet that came with the shunt - it was designed for use with two strands as in a retrievable abseil, but two ropes anchored independently got a skull and crossbones. As I understand it the thinking behind that was that the extra security of the second rope was considered to be largely illusory because in the event that one rope was severed the unloaded strand still in the device would prevent it from properly engaging with the still anchored rope in the other side.
> I just had a look at the 'technical notice' leaflet for the current Shunt on Petzl's website though and that warning is not there now, so it seems there are three possibilities:
> It used to be a problem but the current version of the Shunt is somehow different to the Mk1 and it no longer is.
> It was a theoretical problem and further research has demonstrated that in practice it's ok.
> I'm mis-remembering (and/or misunderstanding) and it never was a problem in the first place.>
To be honest I can't see how it couldn't be a potential problem. When you weight a rope you are effectively reducing the diameter by stretching the length. Once a rope is severed it is no longer weighted and thus the diameter will be more than the non-severed rope. In a similar way to your referenced avoidance of using ropes with differing diameters, it seems highly likely that the severed rope will jam the device before it can lock on the weighted rope.
> To be honest I can't see how it couldn't be a potential problem. When you weight a rope you are effectively reducing the diameter by stretching the length.
I would say one way it might turn out not to be a problem is if in practice the rope only becomes stretched when it is actually weighted, and at that point the user's weight hanging on the device is enough to compress both strands of rope sufficiently to get a solid grip on the weighted one regardless of the fact that only one strand is actually being 'stretched'.
I really don't know either way, but for what it's worth personally if I were going to use two separate ropes for redundancy I'd want two separate devices too.
> A new video from Yann Camus illustrates a possible failure mode of the shunt:
Yes that failure mode looks credible doesn't it? I'd never thought of the device flipping upside down like that. The achilles heel of the shunt seems to be the aluminium body which will deform at relatively low loads and allow the rope to escape. Somebody upthread mentioned the Lyon Equipment report which identified this weakness some years ago. Here's the link again:
> If you want safe , by your definition, no single device will provide it
Indeed, that is Petzl’s view.
- It must be understood that all systems are flawed, because this means there is a risk, however minor.
However, this all rather misses the point, which is the degree to which you may consider a system to be safe/unsafe. You appear to be defending the assertion I replied to which described the shunt as ‘safe’.
It is far from being safe, as the unfortunate accidents referenced here show. It is vulnerable to failure in several ways and suggesting it is so unlikely to fail that it may be termed ‘safe’ risks putting people in danger.
I am not saying it must never be used, I am saying keep yourself as safe as you can through properly understanding the risks of the system in use.
Good video, and does seem a likely mechanism through which the accident upthread occurred. I can't say I've ever seen/noticed that configuration of shunt/rope when using it so it has probably never happened with me, but great to be aware of how dangerous it could be. Whether it's any more likely to happen than e.g. the rope catching the lever on a gri-gri, I'm not sure.
The issue with the shunt on a twin rope system comes about because of varying and different rope diameters (even when using the same rope doubled over).
Imagine the situaion when you fall onto twin ropes of the same diameter. The loaded rope gets thinner and the un-loaded rope is fatter. The unloaded rope holds the cam mechanism open and prevents it from fully grabbing.
It will work as expected most of the time, but "most of the time" is not reliable enough.
> Imagine the situaion when you fall onto twin ropes of the same diameter. The loaded rope gets thinner and the un-loaded rope is fatter. The unloaded rope holds the cam mechanism open and prevents it from fully grabbing.>
The above suggests that once your weight comes onto both ropes (i.e. once the slack in the non-loaded rope is taken in) you'll be fine as you'll be hanging on both.
But since the main reason to use two ropes could be in case of sharp edges affecting one strand, the risk of that strand severing and jamming up the device for good kind of nullifies any benefit of the approach.
Kinda interested in doing some TR solo too, because it's not always easy to get partners to climb with.
One thing I don't understand is the level of redundancy that people seem to prefer for rope soloing, over just normal belay-climber climbing. Can someone explain, because it all seems like way more faff than is needed to me.
I've been looking around, and even reading this thread, you see people recommending two ropes, two fall arrest devices, two carabiners, backup knots every 10 feet, etc..
But with belayed sport climbing we accept loads of single points of failure. The belay loop? Single point of failure. One rope? Single point of failure. One belay device? Single point of failure. One carabiner? Single point of failure. And of course, our belayer, whose momentary lack of concentration can be catastrophic.
What am I missing?
To me it seems it'd be fine to just use a grigri (the common rope solo mod seems easy to do) or a Taz and then a backup knot once you're about 15 feet up.
In the incredibly unlikely event that the grigri gets jammed open, you're going for a scary ride but ultimately you won't hit the deck.
Good post. Top-rope soloing can definitely feel scary at times, and I think this is probably justified rather than an irrational response. A lot of it comes from worries over the same section of rope repeatedly wearing on an edge a long way above you. Yes, it may be possible to rig it so that you've got a sling going over the top to a screwgate with the whole length of the rope barely touching the rock, or take care of the main dangers with rope protectors, but it's also not uncommon to go past many slight edges as the cliff gradually steepens and it's just not practical to cover them all. In MacLeod's (very good) video on shunting he demonstrates the usefulness of redirects with clove hitches which does help a bit with nagging worries.
The potential problems with devices slipping or getting configured weirdly with the rope seem to me easier to manage by comparison with regular checks, though very steep or 3D ground seems more risky from this point of view than standard wall climbing.
That's the method I use. Taz + a backup knot on a 10mm dynamic rope attached to static rigging rope with rope protectors on the edge.
In my mind the biggest actual risk in TR solo is no buddy checks, so the simpler the better for me. Nice thing about TR...only you need to be happy with your setup!
Severing one of the strands is a worst case scenario, for sure.
But there are often factors present that, even in the event of both strands remaining intact, make equal weighting unlikely. Also, once the device starts to slide, the distance of the slippage becomes quite unpredictable.
Grigri with some strategic knots in rope and the correct setup to avoid cross loading carabineer is fine, but it doesn't easily/smoothly slide up a rope as you climb like e.g. micro traxion.
So although Grigri can be safe (and makes descending easy), the debate for the "best" method will continue
> Does anyone know why Dave removed his shunting video from YouTube? Had a lot of views, and seemed to explain the risks/shortcomings of using a shunt well.
Has Dave commented anywhere on removing his video? Not seen any commentary on his insta or anything.
I can appreciate the reasons for removal given the widely publicised shunt incidents, but he caveats all the setups in the video as just being his own method etc.
Anyway, it was a super cool film, the POV angle of him dangling over oblivion and swinging in to place his cams was a pretty unique perspective, particularly given how calmly he's talking through everything. Shame it's gone.
The answer to your question(s) is quite multifaceted and possibly quite difficult to sum up in a forum post of a length anyone will read but I'll attempt an answer for you and no doubt others will pitch in.
> In contrast only a very small % of climbers experiment with TRS and it has been a very niche thing until fairly recently (for example when I first dabbled 15 years ago, up to that point, I'd only ever seen 1 person doing it and never heard of the practice until that point, and info out there was very limited)
I don't think it's any more or less 'niche' now than it was thirty years ago.
There's quite a bit more about it on Petzl's website than there used to be too.
(And the following link might also answer the OP's question as to whether anyone can propose a sensible system.)
(Scroll down and there are ten pages dedicated to TR soloing using various Petzl devices.)
On this page they list various devices with possible failure modes.
"The probability of experiencing these malfunctions is very low, but not negligible, and it only takes once..."
They also make it plain that they don't consider the Shunt, the new version of the Basic or the Tibloc (dur!) to be appropriate. (Though they are less emphatic about it with the Shunt than the other two.)
They don't mention the Croll, which seems like a bit of an omission, but it has the same issue as the new Basic compared to the old version: the body at the top of the Ascension and the original Basic wraps around the rope and by clipping an oval carabiner through both holes it's possible to enclose the rope completely and make it captive in the device above the cam.
Petzl say it's necessary to do that to use either ascender safely for self-belay, but it isn't possible with the new version of the Basic or the Croll, so you have to rely on the cam itself to keep the rope in place. (Which may not be reliable esp. if some slack builds up in the rope or the device becomes inverted somehow.)
I assume that's also what they mean when they warn about "risk of improper attachment of the device" with the original Basic - the user clipping in to the bottom hole instead of enclosing the rope by clipping in through the top two holes, and using it like a Croll.
> One thing I don't understand is the level of redundancy that people seem to prefer for rope soloing, over just normal belay-climber climbing. Can someone explain, because it all seems like way more faff than is needed to me.
> I've been looking around, and even reading this thread, you see people recommending two ropes, two fall arrest devices, two carabiners, backup knots every 10 feet, etc..
> But with belayed sport climbing we accept loads of single points of failure. The belay loop? Single point of failure. One rope? Single point of failure. One belay device? Single point of failure. One carabiner? Single point of failure. And of course, our belayer, whose momentary lack of concentration can be catastrophic.
> What am I missing?
When you're belaying another person your hands are on the rope and the device, your eyes are on the climber and the system and your brain is working out what your climber is doing/going to do next.
When you're solo climbing both your hands are on the rock 99% of the time and you're eyes are looking at holds and your brain is working moves out so it's good to not have to concentrate on whether your system is going to fail or not. With a back-up I feel I can do that.
I've tried solo climbing pulling a rope through a gri-gri every move and it just doesn't work for me.
> I don't think it's any more or less 'niche' now than it was thirty years ago.
Agree... we just didn't talk about it on forums 30 years ago
Nor did we worry about the optimal device, we just wondered if we could cobble anything together out of existing kit that just might work. The choice was usually shunt a petzl handled jammer or a bit of prussik cord in the bottom of the bag that we weren't quite sure about - but too mean to throw it away
> 300K+ views on the most popular YT vids (now removed) might suggest otherwise, or at least that there is growing interest.
There wasn't such a thing as YouTube thirty years ago. But people have been top-rope soloing for a very long time.
Not quite sure what your point is. There's clearly more frequent posts on here. I've personally seen far more folk doing it out on the crags. We see a lot more of it now on pro vids too working routes etc.
I'll save you the trouble of getting the ruler out Rob, yours is clearly twice as long as mine. Make sure you don't mistake it for your rope and attach your shunt to it!
> I can appreciate the reasons for removal given the widely publicised shunt incidents, but he caveats all the setups in the video as just being his own method etc.
But that was before anyone knew it could be possible for the shunt to detach itself from the rope. I imagine it was a shock to him also, particularly considering the type of very steep climbing he does where getting a dodgy configuration of shunt and rope seems more likely.
> Anyway, it was a super cool film, the POV angle of him dangling over oblivion and swinging in to place his cams was a pretty unique perspective, particularly given how calmly he's talking through everything. Shame it's gone.
Agreed. Great film with a lot of very useful info on it.
Basically a shunt with knots in the rope below if working the same section again and again (which he is inclined to do). To descend short sections he switches to a different device, gri-gri if I recall correctly. He uses redirects to get in position but also to isolate the weighted line so that the rope isn't repeatedly wearing on edges a long way above him. He does this through clipping into the redirect (e.g. a cam) with a clove hitch with a small amount of slack in the rope above it so the main belay is still providing a back-up.
Perhaps from a different perspective surely in most cases a fall in TRS is at least hugely less risky than a fall in unroped soloing, which almost always results in a ground fall. The failure modes of devices are generally avoidable with knowledge, and sensible use of backup knots with a dynamic rope should minimise the risk and stop the climber decking. Use of two ropes, one semistatic and the other dynamic ,should save the day even if one rope is severed.
While abseiling may have similar risks I think it's accepted that the majority of abseiling accidents are down to human error of some sort: ie preventable. TRS risks too are largely preventable. In fact I imagine a leader fall while trad climbing is often much more dangerous, with a likelihood of going some distance especially if protection is poor vs a likelihood of virtually instant arrest in TRS.
Ive been using the same system for years without any issues. But I am aware of the risks and always make sure to push the rope away from me when falling onto the line.
I also always use a 10.5mm static line rather than a dynamic rope.
Think I agree with pretty much all your points. I think I'd add though that an accident using an unsuitable or unrecommended setup could itself constitute a human error in the same way as preventable abseil accidents if it was a an known issue that you failed to avoid. But yeah with reliable redundancy in the system the chances of complete failure is extremely unlikely and hopefully worst case is you just need a new rope. All really depends on the specifics though doesn't it.
30 years ago I did a lot of top rope soloing in some scary places. I used a single 11mm rope running through a Croll type device,the one without the handle. This was fastened between my normal harness and a chest harness so was flat against my chest and with a weighted rope it slid up quite easily without my attention. There was never any slack up rope so any fall or slip would only put stretch on the rope.
I just tested this myself with my shunt which is in great condition. started with a old 9mm rope (I don't shunt on a 9mm but its a rope I don't mind trashing) it fails with only a little more than bodyweight. With a 10mm rope which is what I actually use it takes a significant bounce on the device but it does fail in a very repeatable manner.
Interestingly if you run 2 ropes through the device this failure mode is impossible as one of the ropes will be blocked from entering the device by the biner. still I'll be ditching the shunt for TRS now.
Its hard to get the shunt in a position to trigger that failure mode but if it ends up inverted like that then a significant enough jolt will remove it from the rope guaranteed.
Probably difficult to say, but were you able to tell if the rope forced the aluminium body of the shunt to spring open and allow the rope to escape, or did the rope get squashed and pull out without any deflection of the shunt body. I suspect it's a combination of the two effects, but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
Although you'd probably need a high speed camera to see exactly what's happening!
It appears no permeant deformation occurred. There may be some plastic deformation. But its trying to open up the device directly under the steel reinforcing strap so I could see the aluminium flexing till it presses against the steel properly.
Interestingly when the device is held in an inverted position the cam arm holds open and effectively makes this gap bigger as most of the cam arm then sits inside the body of the device leaving only a small nub which the rope snags on. the rope also pushes the cam right over to make the gap bigger.
photo just prior to failure on the 9mm rope: (hopefully the link works).
I've got to wonder if petzl knew about this failure mode and that's why it was no longer recommended for TRS back in the day. if so I feel like it wouldn't have harmed their reputation to just come out and be honest about why the device is unsuitable. particularly when it had a reputation of being the go to device.
I expect the other known situation where it can detach (the one where it slides and hits a knot closely below it, referenced in the 2001 HSE doc upthread) was enough for them not to recommend it along with all the other failure modes.
> I've got to wonder if petzl knew about this failure mode and that's why it was no longer recommended for TRS back in the day.
Was it ever recommended as such? I could be wrong but don't think it was, if so it's not like they used to recommend it and then just quietly withdrew that without explaining why.
I thought it was adopted (certainly as a back-up device to be used on a separate rope for SRT/roped access if not actual TRS) just because there was no real alternative back then. At least not until the Troll Rocker came out.
> Was it ever recommended as such? I could be wrong but don't think it was
> I thought it was adopted (certainly as a back-up device to be used on a separate rope for SRT/roped access
Yes, exactly. As far as I recall it has only ever been marketed as back up for descending which can be used as an ascender. Never as a fall arrest.
Thanks. That photo is quite an eye opener and shows how easy it is to get a gap big enough to cause concern. Quite a contrast to the shunt in its normal orientation where the gaps don't look anywhere large enough to release the rope.
The aluminium body flexing is one of the factors contributing to the size of the gap. I think it is probably the major one. There are other factors, you mention the cam moving over, for example.
The S-Tec Duck is worth considering as an alternative to the shunt. It is made of steel and therefore stiffer which makes it less likely to release the rope when loaded unusually.
If I remember correctly it was actually designed as a rappel back-up device (this was before gri gris). Positioned below the rappel device and used in the same way that people often use a piece of cord nowadays. Unlike for tr solo, it actually worked reasonably well for this purpose.
That still is it's primary purpose, for use above or below a fig-8 or belay device. (Originally even without a descender, or a harness, in a classic abseil.) That's why it's designed to take two strands of rope.
I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner, but it just dawned on me to have a look to see if Gary Storrick's catalogue of his amazing collection of ascenders, descenders and various gizmos is still online. It is, and he's got a new domain name:
Specifically for the Shunt, here's a bit of history. Instruction leaflets have got longer and include more disclaimers than they did back in the late '70s! It's news to me, but it seems they did originally suggest it being used for a top rope belay (not self-belay) - which seems like a terrible idea.
(Can anyone explain exactly what's going on in the bottom left hand corner there?)
For SRT and safer abseiling on a single strand of rope (but hopeless as a belay device), the Stop goes back well before the Grigri. Almost as far back as the Shunt.
Why’s everyone talking about the shunt? Way back when, it was a reasonable device for working a route. These days there are lots of options for TRS, the shunt is never on the list. Virtually no one that does much TRS advocates the shunt.
Micro-traxion has been the go to for a while although I think the Taz Lov is now considered a better option (Because you can go down easily on it). Use static or dynamic as per the manufactures instructions (static is nice since you don’t sag so much). Use a backup (at least 1). 2 ropes are safer but more faff. With 1 rope, rebelay and use (a lot sometimes) of edge protection. Cross loading is a real danger. Backup knots (or some sort of backup) are not optional. Check Yann Campus’ TRS page on Facebook or his BlissClimbing page for lots of interesting and useful info. It’s all out there. Take people’s advice with a pinch of salt. Just because you’ve successfully used a system for 15 years and you’re not dead doesn’t make it the best system