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Petzl Microtraxion for top rope soloing
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By danielwhore
Dec 8, 2012

I recently picked up a Petzl Microtraxion to use for hauling light loads, and have also used it several times for top rope soloing [I walked to the top of a crag, fixed a line off the anchor, walked back down, then climbing the route from the bottom with the fixed line running through the Microtraxion to capture my progress]. I've heard from some people that you shouldn't use a 'toothed device' like this if you are going to fall on the rope, but I found that I could avoid taking a 'fall' onto it by just making sure the slack didn't build up while I climbed, and after getting about halfway up, the Microtraxion would slide up with me and slack wasn't an issue at all.. I also tied a few backup knots in the rope below me (I'd need two hands to tie a knot so sometimes I'd just sit down real quick and tie one, then keep climbing). When I did fall, the thing seemed to catch me just fine. Am I retarded for using this to toprope solo?? Obviously I'd never use one to lead solo.. I'd be curious to hear if anyone else uses the MicroTraxion this way. THANKS


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By doze
From Denver, CO
Dec 8, 2012
the monkey van

I haven't climbed on microtrax. These are my thoughts based on my experience with minitraxion.

Tie some small load to the rope to let it run smoothly in the beginning.

Whatever setup you are using make sure device is not cross-loaded. I'm not sure if it's still the case with microtrax, but there were a few accidents with minitraxion, when the rope bent one of the plates out and escaped from the caming unit.
I tie in with a cordolette to avoid cross-loading, hold the plates together and to eliminate the fall of twice the length of your biner: youtu.be/mAJPLOhv-fg

Make sure no loose clothing or slings is going to get jammed in the device while climbing.

Locking mechanism on microtrax makes me uncomfortable. It looks like it may be easy to dis-engage by accident while being pressed against your body. Maybe just paranoia, but I would keep an eye on it.
Also a number of very experienced people have forgotten to engage the device before starting to climb. You could mod minitrax by cutting off the lock with a jigsaw. Doesn't look like you can do it with microtrax.


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By Jay Eggleston
From Littleton
Dec 8, 2012
Berlin

I would use two, so one is a backup for the other.


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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Dec 8, 2012
Me on Supercrack

Probably more than you were asking for but, here goes anyway.

When I first started top rope soloing the first device I used was a Petzel mini-traxion (very similar to your micro-traxion). It worked OK but very soon (within a dozen pitches) I had severely damaged my rope. It's surprising how hard the fall can be just in the short amount it takes for the device to flip up in your belay loop. especially if you are near your top anchor. If you climb above your anchor, such as topping out on a cliff, you can even have a short factor 2 fall.

Another bad thing happened with my mini-traxion. I was climbing up a dirty crack route &, without my knowing it, some sand had fallen in my device filling the gaps between the teeth. I pumped out & let go expecting to be caught after a foot or so; Instead the device buzzed down the rope 8' before it caught, the resulting force peeled the mantle off my rope & tore a good portion of the white interior fibers. That was the last day I used the mini-traxion for self-belay.

My next attempt was to use the Petzel-microcender. It does not have teeth, but uses a camming action to press a grooved cam against the rope. It is much gentler on your rope. But this system has some drawbacks; #1 It still causes rope wear, makes your ropes very fuzzy wherever you fall on them. #2 After a fall or two, when your rope is a little stretched out, it will not hold the rope & you slowly creep down the rope. #3 switching to rappel, or to lower a bit to retry a crux is a PITA (so is the mini-traxion)

The next step in my top rope solo evolution was to use NO device. I simply tie alpine butterfly loops in my rope every 6' or so from the anchor to the ground. I have a short piece of Dynamic climbing rope tied to my harness with locking carabiners at both ends. As I climb I clip into the highest loop I can reach with the Lockers hanging from my harness. When I reach the next loop I unclip the lowest carabiner & move it to the top, I am connected to the climbing rope with at least one locking carabiner at all times (two most of time). I keep a knot free rope hanging down from the anchors along side the knotted one, this enables me to rap down anytime, or jug up if I'm beat. This system works great! True you do fall some, and you have to clip your "protection" rope as you go, but this is actually a good thing if you plan on leading in the future. You can also down climb with this technique, just unclip the loop before your locking 'biner comes tight & re-clip below. The biggest drawback with this system is if you fall on low angle (slab) rock, your rope can suffer some abrasion damage where the loops are tied. This led me to my final solution.

The Final step was to use everything in the proceeding paragraph and simply add a Trango Cinch to the knot free rope. I clip it to my belay loop with the lever to the right. This is contrary to manufacturers instructions but, while climbing the rope feeds much better this way & I find it easier to rappel with this configuration. Usually tying my approach shoes to the bottom of the Cinch line is enough to make it feed like a dream. The Cinch provides an immediate catch in case of a fall, in 99% of the cases it prevents your looped line from taking the load. You might be tempted to forgo the looped line & rely 100% on the Cinch, DON"T DO IT. One thing I've learned from several years of top rope soloing; sooner or later every device will fail. Weird things happen, carbiners get loaded funny, your feet get tangled in the rope & it doesn't feed, etc., etc. Plus it is way more fun, especially on overhanging terrain, to unclip the cinch & risk the whipper!

Fine points. 1)Make sure your top anchor is BOMBER. 2)Be very careful as you approach the anchor; the closer you get the higher the fall factor & above the anchor you can have a factor two fall. 3)Make sure you are proficient with climbing your rope several different ways. 4)Get in the habit of wearing a helmet, you could get pitched upside down & smack your head, then you're hanging out unconscious until someone happens by. 5)Tie into your anchor with a bowline on a bight, if you use an eight and fall on it can be a bear to untie. 6)Take it easy for a while, don't climb anything you're going to fall on until you have the system wired. I actually work my hardest projects this way but, it was about a year before I got that comfortable with it.

I have been meaning to write this up & post for scrutiny for a while. Thanks for the motivation!

Montana Death Belay
Montana Death Belay


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By danielwhore
Dec 8, 2012

MTKirk: WOW.. this idea is amazing - do you just have one "soloing" rope designated for this and leave a bunch of alpine butterfly loops tied in it all the time? I think I like this idea the best - it's a bit more adventurous in some ways but I guess you can limit the size of your possible falls by spacing the loops as close as you want.. Seems like it pretty much eliminates the wear&tear on the rope, as well as the chance a device could malfunction.

Thanks for the vid, as well, Doze! - Tying in the way that video shows definitely seems more snug than when I just clipped the microtrax to my belay loop using a carabiner.. awesome ideas!


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By Dana Bartlett
From CT
Dec 8, 2012

There are quite a few threads about this on Supertopo. Some of them have a lot of good information.


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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Dec 8, 2012
Me on Supercrack

danielwhore wrote:
MTKirk:do you just have one "soloing" rope designated for this and leave a bunch of alpine butterfly loops tied in it all the time? I think I like this idea the best - it's a bit more adventurous in some ways but I guess you can limit the size of your possible falls by spacing the loops as close as you want.. Seems like it pretty much eliminates the wear&tear on the rope, as well as the chance a device could malfunction. Thanks for the vid, as well, Doze! - Tying in the way that video shows definitely seems more snug than when I just clipped the microtrax to my belay loop using a carabiner.. awesome ideas!



Most of the time I use a burly 10.5mm rope. Any rope will do, but I fall on mine A LOT! so it has to hold up to some abuse. I don't keep the knots in the rope for more than a route or two. Often I tie the knots on the go for an added thrill! I've gotten pretty good at one handed alpine butterflies. You can always use clove hitches as well, I find them harder to get in the locking carabiners (I think it's a must to use lockers, it would be way to easy for standard gates to unclip themselves). Where I climb there aren't many sport or trad routes you can risk a fall on & this has been a great way for me to get used to falling. Gotta warn you though, falls are quite a bit more jarring than even a lead fall with a belayer. Work up the length gradually, and be especially careful when you don't have a lot of rope out. If you are working a route with a crux right near the top set the anchor at the base of the route, and redirect your rope through the top anchor.


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By JohnnyG
Dec 8, 2012

study this link. It's direct from Petzl.

www.petzl.com/us/outdoor/product-experience/self-belay-solo->>>


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By Dylan Weldin
From Austin, Texas
Dec 8, 2012
Summit of my first tower, the Rectory via Fine Jade

www.petzl.com/us/outdoor/product-experience/self-belay-solo->>>

Redundancy. Sharp Edges. Expensive French stuff... everything you ever wanted to know about rope soloing.

Based on my experience (tens of thousands of feet of loneliness) I would avoid using anything with teeth to arrest a fall. Fuzzes the ships outta your sheath.

(Sorry to double post the link; it is important)


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By bearbreeder
Dec 9, 2012

follow the petzl instructions and youll be fine .. weight the bottom with a paid of shoes ...

ive used both toothed and non toothed ... either works if you use it properly ... tommy caldwell uses a mini traxion for TR soloing big walls and he does more on that alone than likely anyone here ...

and dont use a shiny new $$$$ rope ... use an older beefy rope, or if you dont have one they cheapest 10-10.5mm beefy rope you can find

the 2 ascender system is best IMO for safety with 2 independent lines...


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By david doucette
Dec 9, 2012
Top of Intersection Rock, Joshua Tree NP.

seems to be a popular topic as i've been reading for a few hours tonight and posted earlier to an older thread. based on everything i've been reading, i'm going to try this setup as described on petzel's website using the micro traxtion as the primary and the mircocender as backup (petzel explains why on the page to use a microcender versus a second micro traxion). i'm going to try image two on this page. i like the idea of using two lines/one rope;

www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/self-belay-solo-climbing/solution1->>>


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By gary ohm
From Paso Robles
Dec 16, 2012

I'm going to stick with two mini-traxions on two separate lines. The first reason is that I HAVE the mini-traxions. I don't need to spend any more money.
I read the Petzl site talking about why they think you need to use two different devices. They say the devices need to be different so the same malfunction won't happen to you twice. Statistically speaking, I think this is REMOTE. If you have two of the same devices the checks will be easier because you do the exact same checks twice. If you have different devices you have doubled the checklists and, in my mind, doubled the chances of a malfunction.

I would like to find a reliable device, like the mini or micro, without teeth. I know the reality is that the teeth probably do way less damage than grinding over a sharp overhang, but I'm a tight-wad so I like to find ways to make my gear last as long as possible.

Maybe two soloists on separate lines.... Just thinking out loud...


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By RyanJames
Dec 16, 2012
Photo by Aaron Lavinsky

Two mini-traxions, one with a small loop of shoe lace hooked through it hooked to a sling around your shoulder/torso (keeps the mini-traxion from hanging too far down (like the one below it). Weight the bottom of the rope too.

I've used this set up only a few times, but I loved it, and it was easy. It seems like that is what some of the pros use too.


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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Dec 16, 2012
...

"5)Tie into your anchor with a bowline on a bight"...

Not the best advice, IMHO...


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By david doucette
Dec 16, 2012
Top of Intersection Rock, Joshua Tree NP.

i just received my toprope soloing gear including the microtraxion and microcender, it's awesome stuff. my advice since you have the microtraxion is to pick up the microcender for $65 bucks and do this system;

top rope solo setup petzl
top rope solo setup petzl


this is the exact system i am going to use and it looks bomber. i wouldn't use a new rope but i have a couple of older ropes that is perfect for this.


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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Dec 16, 2012
...

^^^

I run something SIMILAR to the above.

Shorter, harder routes I use, two "mini traxions", on TWO separate lines.


If I do longer routes, I go to using a single line, and two "mini's" on that line...


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By Optimistic
From New Paltz
Dec 16, 2012

This link
www.gearinstitute.com/getschooled/item/how-to-toprope-withou>>> has some good descriptions using two Mini-traxions, written by Matt Samet. I have not tested the method yet.

A lot of other threads agree with the chest harness approach he shows you here...shortens the fall a few feet.

One thing I'd do differently than Samet does is that I would use two ropes (or strands of the same rope). Not my idea, of course, lots of people seem to prefer this way. Added redundancy, and seems like the extra strand would facilitate rapping as well.

Some folks (including the Petzl website) have mentioned carrying a third ascender as well, in order to make sure you're able to unweight the backup ascender and set up a rap, even if you are hanging free. That may well be total overkill, but until I'm sure that I can get myself out of trouble I think I'll go with overkill...having to be rescued 12 feet off the ground because I'm trapped by my own toprope setup does not sound like a scenario I'd want to be part of, especially since I'd be reading about it on this site for several years after.


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By bearbreeder
Dec 16, 2012

David Horgan wrote:
Some folks (including the Petzl website) have mentioned carrying a third ascender as well, in order to make sure you're able to unweight the backup ascender and set up a rap, even if you are hanging free. That may well be total overkill, but until I'm sure that I can get myself out of trouble I think I'll go with overkill...having to be rescued 12 feet off the ground because I'm trapped by my own toprope setup does not sound like a scenario I'd want to be part of, especially since I'd be reading about it on this site for several years after.


total overkill ... just carry a sling and learn the kleimheist ....


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By Sergio Colombo
From Las Vegas
Dec 16, 2012

One thing I have learned from training with SAR, is that you always use a second rope as a backup. The likelihood of anything going wrong is reduced to almost zero. With two ropes you can virtually use any of the devices or methods mentioned above, you pick which one is best for you depending on the gear you own and skills. Reality is that cutting through two ropes at the same time is virtually impossible. The last thing to keep in mind is that your life is at risk when rope soloing. Use two ropes and concentrate on climbing.


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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Dec 16, 2012
...

"Some folks (including the Petzl website) have mentioned carrying a third ascender as well, in order to make sure you're able to unweight the backup ascender and set up a rap,"



A simple prusik works fine...


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By Optimistic
From New Paltz
Dec 16, 2012

Yep, for sure, doesn't have to be full-on ascender...

Total coincidence, just ran across this vid which happens to show the double Minitrax system in action, if folks wanted to see what that looks like, starting at about 1:02. In terms of the rope trauma being mentioned by other posters above...I guess obviously it does happen, but this guy seems to have logged quite a few miles (and looks like quite a few falls) with the Minitrax setup. As a bonus, the vid is mostly about crazy-hard crack climbing.


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By jim.dangle
Dec 16, 2012

I've looked into this too recently. There are indeed good discussions and info on supertopo and Steph Davis also has a helpful description on her blog.

Most people use the two traxion system and just use a single rope. That said, the method listed above with a knotted rope backing up a single traxion is the only system that has the potential to be truly redundant. In my experience, for the most part the traxion works fine and falling is akin to merely weighting the rope; the knotted back-up also provides a little comfort and clipping in isn't that much different from clipping bolts.

Some things worth noting about this knotted back up method:

1) For true redundancy consider separating the anchor points (I don't do this but it's worth mentioning).

2) Similarly, in order to preserve redundancy, make sure to always use two slings while clipping in so you are never unclipped from the back-up rope.

3) This system gets awkward when climbing cracks, which can cause the knots to become stuck. Equally routes that traverse can become awkward. In general having the two slings clipped to a knotted rope attached to your waist is a little cumbersome.

4) Although redundant there is a risk of high factor fall especially near the anchor points if the traxion were to fall and one fell onto a short stretch of the back-up rope. I think all the knots will absorb some of the force but it is worth being mindful of. The length and type of sling used also affect this.

5) Another drawback (if using one rope) is that rope length becomes a factor. Tying knots in one side of your rope will obviously shorten it so keep that in mind when you set up your rope (i.e. make the back up side longer if possible).

I think many will feel this set-up is overkill but it is worth knowing about.

Jim


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By Unassigned User
Jan 23, 2013

I use the Mini-Traxion on 1 strand of a top rope and a Petzl Ascention Ascender on a 2nd strand. This way I have redundancy on 2 entirely separate strands of rope from above. I also carry two 5mm Prussik cords on my harness and a rap device just in case I ever need to unweighed the rope and escape it. I also carry a couple slings over my shoulder for a emergency escape rig as well. I have found that this system works very well for me. I found this system to keep both of my hands free for climbing and a hell of a LOT easier and faster then messing around placing backup knots every so-many feet!


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By Brasky
Jan 23, 2013

I hitch a sling through my two hard point then clove hitch it to a locker. Then attach the micro trax to my belay loop with that locking biner. I still use a two strand system, with a chian reactor you eleiminate the need for two slings and still keep redundency, although with the second sling clove hitched to the trax it makes unweiting the device really easy. Throw on a prussik unclip the biner from your belay loop now you have a whole foot or so to play with depending on the length of your sling. Then throw on a rapel device right below the trax and when you use the prussik to stand up not only do you transfer the load to the repell device you also have a back up on the repel from weighting the rope. The whole time still attached to your second strand untill your all set up for a rap down. Topping out I found sometimes causes the knot i tied into the achor with to get jammed into the toothed cam which can eat up your rope right near the mid point which isnt the best thing to have happen regularly.


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By Unassigned User
Jan 23, 2013

Brasky wrote:
I hitch a sling through my two hard point then clove hitch it to a locker. Then attach the micro trax to my belay loop with that locking biner. I still use a two strand system, with a chian reactor you eleiminate the need for two slings and still keep redundency, although with the second sling clove hitched to the trax it makes unweiting the device really easy. Throw on a prussik unclip the biner from your belay loop now you have a whole foot or so to play with depending on the length of your sling. Then throw on a rapel device right below the trax and when you use the prussik to stand up not only do you transfer the load to the repell device you also have a back up on the repel from weighting the rope. The whole time still attached to your second strand untill your all set up for a rap down. Topping out I found sometimes causes the knot i tied into the achor with to get jammed into the toothed cam which can eat up your rope right near the mid point which isnt the best thing to have happen regularly.


Sounds complicated Brasky! Maybe it's just ME! Most times I need to SEE things rigged to 'get it!' LOL.


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By Sirius
From Oakland, CA
Jan 23, 2013
Moving through the crux lock - now that's micro beta for you, that is.

The system on display in the video that Doze posts is, imho, not up to stuff. Redundancy shouldn't be considered optional.

Also, look at the image at 1:10 in Doze's video and you'll see two long tails dangling from the knot in his cordalette. That's awful. Sources of info like that aren't doing anybody any favors.


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