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New Gri Gri belay technique vs. Old
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By SCherry
From San Diego, CA
Oct 3, 2011
Trying to onsight 12a at Holcomb Valley Pinnacles.
I've been using the Gri Gri for over 10 years. Had a gym employee tell me yesterday that the "old style" belay technique was wrong.

Petzl used to have video's and posters on its site approving both the new and old style techniques. I called Petzl. They said they now can only recommend the new style technique.

It seems to me that in either version you are holding the cam open to pay out slack when the leader is clipping. Defeating the cam when someone falls is the problem. In the new style technique they claim your hand never leaves the brake end of the rope but you're still letting the rope slide through your brake hand and only barely holding on with a couple fingers. In my opinion with either method if you hold open the cam and your leader falls they will deck.

Interesting that I never caught Petzl releasing a statement that said the old technique was no good anymore?

I'm curious how many of you who have use the Gri Gri for a long time have adopted the new technique?

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By slim
Administrator
Oct 3, 2011
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
i guess i've always used the 'new' technique. basically the base of my hand "bumps" the grigri and kind of keeps the cam from engaging while i pull the rope through with my non-brake hand. this allows me to keep my brake hand on the rope the entire time.

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By D@n
From Boulder, CO
Oct 3, 2011
Head full of lead. Photo by Frosty Weller
Dude, Using the 'old' technique, you've caught some of my most spectacular whippers and I've caught many of yours (remember breaking a hold, falling upside down, and stamping the sheath pattern on your melon?) using that same grigri technique.

My personal opinion is that the old technique is safe and reliable.

However, I also believe that the new technique is somewhat of an improvement as you don't take your brake hand fully off the brake strand. Therefore, I switched to the new technique about a year ago after some heated debate here on mp.com.

Climbing in Rifle this fall I noticed that the majority (4 out of 5?) of the climbers used the old technique. What I didn't notice was stacks of bodies piling up in front of the Arsenal from climbers dropped by belayers using the old technique..

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. So.. if you're super comfortable with the old technique I'd much rather you use that than short-rope the $hit out of me on my redpoint burn.

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By SCherry
From San Diego, CA
Oct 3, 2011
Trying to onsight 12a at Holcomb Valley Pinnacles.
@Slim - have you seen the video for the new technique? They want you to use your index finger from your brake hand on the little lip at the top right side of the device. It really feels weird to me and when I've tried it I can't pay out slack very well.

@D@N - the old technique has never failed me, but I was curious how many climbers are using it in the real world (if you can call the Arsenal that)? The main point is to avoid holding the cam open. Some gumby gym employee was telling me I didn't know how to use the gri gri. That annoyed me but then I called Petzl and they confirmed the old style is not recommended by them anymore.

Its interesting to me that Petzl didn't issue a statement about the old technique being not approved anymore?

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By Finn the Human
From The Land of Ooo
Oct 3, 2011
Mathematical!
I use the new form when I belay with my GriGri, but I usually just use my ATC.

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By slim
Administrator
Oct 3, 2011
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
SCherry wrote:
@Slim - have you seen the video for the new technique? They want you to use your index finger from your brake hand on the little lip at the top right side of the device. It really feels weird to me and when I've tried it I can't pay out slack very well. @D@N - the old technique has never failed me, but I was curious how many climbers are using it in the real world (if you can call the Arsenal that)? The main point is to avoid holding the cam open. Some gumby gym employee was telling me I didn't know how to use the gri gri. That annoyed me but then I called Petzl and they confirmed the old style is not recommended by them anymore. Its interesting to me that Petzl didn't issue a statement about the old technique being not approved anymore?


oops, i guess i use the 'classic' technique, kind of. instead of letting go with my hand and grabbing the entire grigri and squeezing the cam from opening i do something pretty different. my hand stays completely on the rope while the butt of my hand bumps against the lever.

i have tried the new way and didn't like it. it feels really unnatural and kinks the shit out of the rope.

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By David Harding
From Albuquerque, NM
Oct 3, 2011
I had used the old technique for a decade as well, but am always proactive about improving my and others' safety skills. I bought the new Gri-Gri just because it was easier to learn the new technique (and because it works better on skinny ropes), but now the new technique is just as easy using the older fatter-rope Gri-Gri. I've caught whippers using both new and old techniques and strongly believe that the new one (where your brake hand NEVER temporarily "lets go" of the brake hand) is much safer and less likely to result in a climber decking merely because it's more natural for newer belayers to react to a fall by merely holding tighter on the brake hand, rather than mistakenly grabbing the device itself tighter (as might be the case if the leader fell while rope was being payed out, or the belayer was dangerously leaving their brake hand off the rope and just gripping the device, as in the old rope pay out technique).

Regarding Petzl's official blessing of belay techniques using their equipment, it's got to be a tough balance for manufacturers of climbing safety equipment, given how litigious our society has become. But even though I think experienced users of the old technique can safely belay others, I think it would be safer overall for the climbing community of we would all be better role models for the newer climbers and Gri-Gri belayers by practicing and learning the new technique, especially when it's really not that difficult and with some practice will become as natural as the old technique was for you!

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By sfotex
From Sandy, UT
Oct 3, 2011
I use the new technique except I put my pointer finger under the body of the gri-gri instead of using the 'lip' (and my thumb goes behind the cam on the gri-gri body) . I like it this way because I can keep the same hand position all the time when lead belaying and only have to move my thumb over the cam for feeding out slack fast - but I've found on most thin ropes I don't even have to disengage the cam when feeding slack most of the time when I hold the gri-gri this way. I understand the rational with using the lip, but after belaying with an ATC for 15 years and never dropping anyone, I feel the tradeoff with not having to shuffle my hands is worth it. (and I keep 3 fingers around the rope as Petzl advises...)

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By K. Le Douche
Oct 3, 2011
Detox Mountain, Jackson Falls, IL
SCherry wrote:
Its interesting to me that Petzl didn't issue a statement about the old technique being not approved anymore?


I think they just started endorsing the newer method in their literature, as apposed to actually releasing anything saying the old method wasn't recommended anymore. If you look at all the "instructions" (those cartoon thinks that come with everything they make) Petzl has put out about using the Gri Gri for the last six or seven years, it all shows the newer method.

Personally, I find the newer method to be more comfortable and easy to learn. It just takes a little practice if you're not used to it. My suggestion is to try the new method, learn it, and then it's another trick in your bag...if for nothing other than not being hassled at the gym.

Also, I've seen 3 people get decked by belayers using the old method (not suggesting you're gonna deck someone), but never using the new method. Just saying.

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By slim
Administrator
Oct 3, 2011
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
one of the main reasons i don't use the new method is that i belay with my left hand on the device and my right hand pulling out the slack. my left shoulder is cooked and doing it the other way around is pretty rough on it. with the new way, you have to do it with the right hand on the device. if you do it with your left hand, the rope runs over the top of the lever and could hold it down at the wrong time.

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By SCherry
From San Diego, CA
Oct 3, 2011
Trying to onsight 12a at Holcomb Valley Pinnacles.
My takeaway and the main point to consider is; I don't care what method you use if you don't take your hand off the cam when the leader falls he/she is going to deck. Leaving your palm or a couple of fingers on the brake end while holding the cam open isn't going to solve the problem.

@Slim - they supposedly have another new style option for lefties but its even dumber than the way for righties.

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By Bob Dobalina
Oct 3, 2011
I like the new method. It's closer to the way I'm used to holding an ATC style belay device.
The old way feels WAY odd to me.... like holding onto your bike's grips underhand or something!
Thumbs out/palms up? WTF?

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By slim
Administrator
Oct 3, 2011
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
SCherry wrote:
@Slim - they supposedly have another new style option for lefties but its even dumber than the way for righties.


yeah, that's what i'm afraid of. probably some contorted 6th degree yoga black belt stuff. do you belay left handed? i think i know you, but i can't remember which hand you belay with. i used to belay with the grigri basically 'upside down', similar to how you set it up to rope solo with. this kind of kinks the rope though (similar to the new method).

the way i do it now, my brake hand isn't really palm up or palm down. my hand is oriented as if i were going to shake a person's hand. this makes it pretty neutral and comfortable.

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By Jason Halladay
Administrator
From Los Alamos, NM
Oct 3, 2011
Climbing at the Belvedere crag near Nago with a great view of the northern end of Lake Garda and the town of Torbole sul Garda below. June 2013.
I'm a convert to the "new" method. I started using the new method a couple years ago when I first read about it after using the old method since I started using a Grigri. I found the new method more comfortable and practicable (as well as appearing to be safer.) I really do believe the new method is safer, for me, in that much more of my hand is on the brake strand and I can lock off faster and more efficiently this way. And, like sfotex said above, I've also used my pointer finger under the body of the Grigri instead of on the curved lip. I have big hands and this works well too.

Also, I find with the Grigri2 the new method works much better for giving slack than the old method. Maybe the smaller size of the device or perhaps because my Grigri2 just isn't as "broken in" yet.

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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Oct 3, 2011
Stabby
SCherry wrote:
My takeaway and the main point to consider is; I don't care what method you use if you don't take your hand off the cam when the leader falls he/she is going to deck. Leaving your palm or a couple of fingers on the brake end while holding the cam open isn't going to solve the problem.

I've been doing the "new" method for many years now. Bottom line is if you're holding the cam down you are not doing it right. I explained it once here like 3 years ago, so here goes again.
Right index finger (sorry slim) curled up against the lip thing, rest of the right hand fingers curled around the brake side of the rope. Critical point here: the R thumb hovers over the cam, not on it.
If while you're yarding out rope for a clip the cam engages, you bump it back with the thumb. All the thumb does is keep the cam from levering up, and you always have a brake hand on the rope. Since the thumb 'floats' above the cam, it doesn't prevent the quick thrust of catching a fall. When its done right its like an atc with brake assist.

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By Raquel ROCKY Robles
From Encinitas, CA
Oct 3, 2011
On my way down from ECM! Enjoying Life :)

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By SCherry
From San Diego, CA
Oct 3, 2011
Trying to onsight 12a at Holcomb Valley Pinnacles.
@Mike Lane

If you watch the video or look at the poster Petzl puts out they would instruct you to put your thumb on the cam (and hold it down) in order to facilitate giving out slack quickly for clipping.

I have been practicing the new technique and seems what Jason and others I have spoken to have said about the Gri Gri 2 is logical...that its set up to use this new technique much better than the old model.

When I have tried the new technique (mind you only on the old Gri Gri),its pretty hard not to short rope your leader unless you actually hold down the cam when feeding slack for a clip.

My point stands...ground falls from belaying with a Gri Gri happen when you defeat the cam by either holding it open or grabbing onto the leaders' end of the rope. Doesn't matter what technique you use.

With the new style technique that 2-3 finger grip on the brake end of the rope is not going to prevent this.

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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Oct 3, 2011
Stabby
@ SCherry-
OK, I saw the part of the video where they show that. I remember and am referring to an older video for the Gri Gri 1, which shows the technique I was referring to. If you have a Gri Gri 1, try my way. Like I said, you kind of thump the cam back with your thumb when yarding out fast chunks of rope. The cam is not held down. It works just fine; if not for you only b/c you haven't spent enough time practicing it.

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By slim
Administrator
Oct 4, 2011
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
so it seems like the video recommends holding the cam down as an alternative to ... holding the cam down? just using a different finger/method of holding it down? it's pretty tough to feed out big clipping slack without bumping or holding the cam, unless you are belaying with a pretty big loop of slack.

i don't disagree with the 'new' method, as it allows you to have more of your hand on the brake side the entire time.

one thing i noticed in the video is the belayers holding onto the climber's end of the rope during a fall.

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By Elijah Flenner
Oct 4, 2011
This is my take on the new method, and why I think it is better. With the old method, I see most people completely take their hand off the rope and hold down the cam. While it is possible to hold down the cam with a couple of finger on the rope, this does not seem to be the standard method. In any case, moving the hand so that it is able to grab more of the rope is useful to get a good grip on the rope.

With the new method, the cam is being held down only with the thumb, and the rest of the hand is still holding the rope. When a climber falls, the motion to lock them off is the same as with an atc, which is the device I learned to lead belay with. The motion is just to grab the rope and no moving of the hand to get it in the proper place is required.

The old method worked for many for many years, thus it is hard to consider it "bad". However, I have yet to see a valid argument as to why the old method is better than the new method, but I do see that the new method has advantages. Why not stack the odds in your partners favor and learn this new method?

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By SCherry
From San Diego, CA
Oct 4, 2011
Trying to onsight 12a at Holcomb Valley Pinnacles.
I was and am in no way saying the old method is better. It seems like a personal preference to me.

I have practiced the new method quite a bit and it just feels weird to me. I also find it harder to feed out clipping slack, but perhaps time and a purchase of a Gri Gri 2 will help.

My main point was that I was surprised to hear that Petzl is now saying they only recommend and approve the new technique. And in either technique their is room for user error. Its not like the new technique is some revolution in safety. You still hold the cam open (thus defeating it) to give clipping slack.

I still see way more people belaying with the old style. Maybe that will change as more people switch to the new Gri Gri?

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By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From Phoenix, AZ
Oct 4, 2011
Belay
The new method seems to be better for people with smaller hands. My girlfriend has a much easier time feeding out slack on an old Grigri by using the new method versus the old one.

Of course, switching to the new Grigri makes it even better.

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By Jason Halladay
Administrator
From Los Alamos, NM
Oct 4, 2011
Climbing at the Belvedere crag near Nago with a great view of the northern end of Lake Garda and the town of Torbole sul Garda below. June 2013.
SCherry wrote:
I also find it harder to feed out clipping slack, but perhaps time and a purchase of a Gri Gri 2 will help.


I should clarify my earlier statement of, I find with the Grigri2 the new method works much better for giving slack than the old method. Maybe the smaller size of the device or perhaps because my Grigri2 just isn't as "broken in" yet.

That is to say, the Grigri2 seems to encourage the new method because the original method is more of a pain to feed slack on the Grigri2. The new method works great with the original Grigri for giving out slack. To me it even feels better giving out slack with the original Grigri and the new method.

If it feels difficult to feed out slack with the new method on the original Grigri, it's not likely to feel any better or smoother with the Grigri2.

What's that abbreviation? Oh yeah, YMMV!

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By md3
May 10, 2013
Curious if this is an issue. I have been using the old method since gri gris first came out and I recognized their utility, but I realized the other day that everyone else is using the new method, and per recieved comment, that the old method just looks wrong to people who are familiar with the new method. I am switching so as not to cause anyone any grief, but I really never thought the old method created any risk - especially if you had a lot of previous experience with slot devices and reacting properly (sliding your hand out on the brake side) when needed catch a fall.

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By Phill T
May 11, 2013
even though you are disengaging the cam with the new method, the way the rope curls through your hand, along with your grip on it, makes it damn hard to keep the cam disengaged in a fall. Its just your thumb on it, and the added friction of the rope going over the curved part and through you hand is surprisingly enough to maintain control over it in the event of a fall when you are feeding slack. Try taking a controlled fall and having the belayer actively disengage the cam with only their thumb. Obviously back it up (knot, extra person holding the break strand etc), but it works surprisingly well.

The old method is perfectly safe as long as the belayer is paying 100% attention (like they should be). even if they DO blow a clip and fall while you are feeding slack your hand automatically shoots back to the break hand and you let go of the grigri. The deckings obviously happen when there isnt absolute vigilance; the belayer is looking at dem titties over yonder while feeding slack.

  • I've never spent significant time with the old grigri, but handling/feeding slack with the new one is a piece of cake after a few minutes getting used to it.

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By Dan Austin
From San Francisco, CA
May 11, 2013
Do people using the new method keep big loops of slack out on the brake side of the rope (not on the climber side)? It seems like unless I do this, it's hard to quickly pay out slack using the new method, as the rope sort of gets pinched between my brake hand and the device. I could also see how this could definitely kink up the rope.

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