On 25-26th January UKC were invited to the launch of the forthcoming Petzl GRIGRI+, which is due to hit the shops in April this year. Here is a preview of what we thought, ahead of our more in depth Assisted Braking Device Comparison Review that will be published later this year.
So first off, it’s worth making clear that the GRIGRI+ isn’t a direct replacement for the GRIGRI 2, as both will be available side by side in shops - it’s just that the GRIGRI+ has a number of features that set it apart. Realistically it’s unlikely that many GRIGRI 2 owners will flock out to buy the GRIGRI+, but if you’re an owner of the original GRIGRI (like me) and haven’t yet upgraded, trying out the GRIGRI+ may make you think twice; however, there’s definitely a few things that might be of interest - here’s the breakdown.
Whilst the Anti-Panic function may be something that causes the seasoned red-pointer to yawn, it will undoubtedly be of interest to the novice climber, or - put another way - to someone who frequently climbs with novice climbers. In terms of functionality, the anti-panic kicks in when you pull back the lever too far whilst lowering (something that may sound quite obvious…). It therefore encourages smooth and controlled lowering, as well as meaning that your climbing partner is less likely to drop you or lower you so fast that you hear the sonic boom en route. Once engaged, it can be unlocked either by being released to the front, from where you can begin lowering again, or - in the circumstance of your climbing partner having already been lowered to the ground - overridden by pulling the lever all the way back. Whilst the word ‘anti-panic safety function’ and ‘override’ seem quite risky combined in the same sentence, it is something that really has to be forced - thus not a major flaw. In fact, it neatly gets around the issue picked up on in our Matik review (see here), whereby paying out slack becomes almost impossible when the climber is on a partially weighted rope.
In addition to the Anti-Panic function outlined above, the other benefit for novice climbers is the addition of the top rope mode. The difference of this mode compared to the normal 'lead' mode is that there's a substantial amount more grab in the system. Originally I was quite cynical of this added functionality for more general purpose use, as I wasn't 100% sure it was necessary or beneficial, but after putting it through its pace both throughout the event and subsequent use it has definitely had its uses, not only for novices but also for more experienced climbers. The reason for this was that there is actually quite a practical application whilst training 4x4s (if you don't know what that means, google it...) and endurance, as taking in the rope was much more efficient - particularly when your partner was climbing quickly!
The modes can be adjusted by an easy to use dial on the front and locked, if desired. Realistically I can see the lock being useful for novices and instructors, but less so for more experienced climbers who will most likley use it in lead mode for around 80% of the time, then top-rope mode for the other 20%.
Over the years a great many manufacturers, Petzl included, have strived to make their equipment lighter and lighter, smaller and smaller. The plus side is that everything weighs a fraction of what it used to, which is great; the downside is that - in the case of some products - it has made them harder to use. I certainly found this to be the case with the transition from the original GRIGRI to the GRIGRI 2, where its smaller size seemed to have a detrimental impact on the functionality and it was more fiddly to use as a result.
Interestingly the GRIGRI+ has an increased size and to my mind that addresses the issue outlined above by making it sit in the hand much better, and thus feel much more natural to use. The handle has also been increased in size, making the lowering process that bit more controllable than before. There are other more fine features that are incredibly subtle, such as the catch for your forefinger around the rim of the device (see pic) to encourage a correct hand position whilst holding the device and paying out slack.
Following on from the anti panic and lowering benefits, as well as the increased size and handling, there is also a new and improved camming mechanism within the GRIGRI+, meaning that you get much more sensitivity whilst lowering. It’s no longer just 0 and 1, on and off - there’s actually quite a lot now to help regulate speed of descent.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the GRIGRI+ accepts a greater range of ropes than its predecessor: a useful range of 8.5-11mm (versus the GRIGRI 2's 8.9-11mm).
For those out there that have owned and used either the original GRIGRI or the GRIGRI 2 a lot, you will no doubt be aware of the wear that inevitably occurs along where the dead rope enters the device. Petzl have now got around this through use of a stainless steel wear plate, as opposed to folded alloy, neatly folded over the entry point. This low-bulk solution neatly gets around the problem of wear.
That’s probably enough for now, but we’ll be saying more about the GRIGRI+ and a great many other assisted braking devices in the next few months - so watch this space!
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