Grigri belay device belongs to the group of so called semi-automatic belay devices. The braking effect of the rope is in certain situations performed by a mechanism which the device has built in. In case of Grigri it is camming mechanism that moves when there is a strong pull on the rope leading from the device toward the climber and press the rope against the opposite metal surface. Pressed rope is thus prevented from moving. Blocking of the rope can belayer release by control trigger. Pull of the trigger swerves the cam and the rope is released to move. Belayer must hold dead part of the rope under the Grigri in his/her hand during the release of the trigger.
Grigri belay device is intended for belaying with single rope. Belaying with Grigri has character of static protection, i.e. dynamic absorption by slipping of the rope in the belay device is minimal to none. When arresting a fall of fall factor f = 1 with Grigri the impact force reaches a value from about 4 to 5.5 kN. Therefore, thanks to its properties is Grigri suitable for use on cultivated rocks with intermediate points of protection made of glue-in anchors or for the use on artificial walls. With Grigri can be belayed both leaders and seconding climbers (both “from the harness” and from the top rope belay), and of course with belay device is possible to rappel. Rappelling is possible only on one strand of the rope.
Semi-automatic feature gives the impression that Grigri can do a lot of work instead of us, namely that it will save us in case of momentary inattention of the belayer by ”self-blocking” of the rope. Thanks to this feature the Grigri is often perceived as a belay device suitable for beginners. You may not be mistaken more! The use of Grigri requires considerable amount of concentration and mastery of unusual hand manoeuvres. In order to get all the advantages of this belay device the belayer must be proficient in its use. Only in the hands of experts it is transformed into a powerful tool that delivers efficiency and comfort. On the contrary, in the hands of a beginner, who unexpectedly lays his/her hand on it, may cause disaster. We are warned by many serious accidents!
Rope blocking in Grigri is done by camming mechanism, which is deflected by pull of the rope and press the rope against the opposite metal surface of fixed part of the Grigri. When the load pass the camming mechanism will return by the action of the spring back to its original position and release the rope.
Rope insertion into the Grigri
To insert the rope you need to open the Grigri. Proper threading of the rope is marked with symbols that indicate where to lead each strand of rope. After insertion of the rope the Grigri needs to be closed. After closing you need to secure it with carabiner that serves for Grigri’s connection to the harness.
Video: When inserting the rope you need to carefully watch the symbols shown on the individual parts of the Grigri and ensure that the proper end of the rope is led to a climber as indicated. After closing of the Grigri you must use carabiner to secure the side plate against opening. With this carabiner you’ll connect Grigri to your harness.
Belaying with Grigri 1
For belaying with Grigri are used two methods of control. 1) classic old one, 2) modern new one.
1. Old method of control – This method of Grigri’s control was recommended by the manufacturer at the beginning of production of the belay device. Thumb grip on the rope away from the belay device is in principle similar to the old classic control of half hitch on HMS carabiner. But this grip does not correspond to a today’s habits we developed by using other belay devices (figure 8, tube style belay devices). For this uncommonness is this grip rather unpopular among climbers.
2. New method of control (Gaswerk) – Over time, users, and ultimately, the manufacturer, came to this control method, which follows the contemporary habits when handling the belay device. In this method is hand thumb in the standard direction toward the belay device.
Mistakes while belaying with Grigri 1
During belaying with Grigri we can make a lot of mistakes. Fundamental ones have always the same common denominator – loss or negligence of the dead rope’s part control (part that is not going to the climber and is under the belay device). You need to realise that although Grigri is semi-automatic belay device it still requires rope control, the same as any other belay devices. The reason why belayer stops to control the dead part of the rope is often caused by the fact, that during the rapid feeding of the rope to the climber (e.g. when taking the rope to clip it into the intermediate protection) is activated the cam mechanism and there will be a slight blocking of the rope, the rope is kind of stumble. Desperate belayer then in an effort to quickly release the rope and feed it to climber inadvertently grabs the cam mechanism and pushes it (thus releasing the rope) with the hand, that should be holding and control the dead part of the rope. If the climber falls at that moment, he/she will be virtually unprotected.
Another serious error is the failure to control the dead part of the rope parts during the lowering. If the cam mechanism is pushed by the trigger and the rope is released, the climber hanging on the rope will fall immediately. Unfortunately, the natural human reflexes during stress and shock make a man to clench the arms and fingers. Therefore under the stress we are no able to release the unblocking trigger in one or two seconds (or any time it takes to climber to fell down) and as a result the climber falls to the ground. When we are lowering another climber we have to without fail hold the dead part of the rope with our hand!
In 2010 started production of a new version of this belay device under the name Grigri 2. The belay device was primarily adapted for use with thinner single climbing ropes. Also, the belay device got a little bit smaller, and shape of the side plates undergone some changes to allow easier holding while using the so called newer belay method. Size of the side plate’s bent edge has increased to allow grabbing it with fingertips of the hand opposing the pressure of the thumb on the trigger. This reduces the risk of reflex grip of the trigger by hand (startled belayer clench his/her hand), which would lead to a free slip of the rope. This modification increased the operational safety of Grigri 2.
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