The GriGri belay device made by Petzl can reduce your risk while climbing, but if you don’t use it properly, it can also lead to failure to catch a falling climber. GriGri mechanics are fairly simple. They work like car seatbelts – with a camming action that pinches the climbing rope in place.
Contrary to what you may have learned at the crag or down at the climbing gym, GriGris are not auto-locking or automatic belay devices. They are assisted braking devices. this means you cannot ever take your brake hand off the brake line.
Here’s a quick video I made if you’d rather watch to learn all the details rather than read, but the same content is in the video as is written below.
So that’s the tl;dr version. Read on for more detail.
How to attach a rope to the GriGri
Before you attach the GriGri to your harness, you need to connect it to the rope. To help us all out, the smart people at Petzl engraved the instructions for this directly on the GriGri body. One image shows a climber. The rope leading directly to the climber exits the device on this side. The other image shows a belayer’s hand. The belay line should exit from this side of the GriGri.
Be sure you’re using the right size rope for the GriGri (or whatever belay device) you’re using. If it’s too narrow it won’t lock and if it’s too fat, it won’t feed through smoothly. The current GriGri and GriGri + work with ropes from 8.5 to 11 mm. If you have an older model GriGri, it may not work with smaller diameter ropes so verify before use.
Once you get your GriGri on the rope, be sure to tie a stopper knot at the end of the rope to keep it from sliding through the belay device if your climber ascends too far.
How to attach a GriGri to your harness
Just like any other belay device, the GriGri is attached to your harness with a locking carabiner connected directly through your belay loop. The brake line should be on the bottom and the climber’s line should be on top. Be sure the carabiner is locked securely.
How to take in slack with a GriGri
Not much is different here than with a normal ATC device. Just pull the rope through the device keeping your brake hand securely on the brake line.
To learn additional tips and tricks for safe and effective belaying check out this article:
Belaying: Everything A Beginner Needs To Know – Don’t Let Go Of The Rope!
How to feed out slack with a GriGri
For slowly feeding out slack, you can pull up with your non-brake hand while keeping your brake hand on the brake line. You can’t pull too quickly or you’ll activate the cam mechanism and lock the GriGri.
When you need more rope quickly, like when your climber is clipping a bolt, you can temporarily block the camming action. Be careful to only do this in the prescribed manner or you risk error at a critical moment for your climber.
Place your index finger under the lip on the side of the GriGri keeping a secure grip on the brake line with your other three fingers.
Put your thumb over the device and push down on the black lever. This temporarily blocks the locking mechanism from engaging.
While the cam is blocked, you can pull slack out with your other hand.
How to lock off a GriGri
If a climber falls, the sudden pull on the rope will activate the camming mechanism and the device will lock, but since this is an assisted braking device, you still need to manually lock off the fall by dropping your brake hand straight down below the GriGri.
How to go hands-free with a GriGri
If you’re in need of going hands-free with a GriGri for some reason, you can tie a mule knot on the spine of the belay carabiner and then an overhand around the load strand or clip the loop of the mule with a carabiner
and it will lock securely so you can let go of the brake line. Using this method is preferred to tying an overhand in the brake line because this method allows you to return to belaying even in a weighted system.
How to lower with a GriGri
After getting the go-ahead from your climber, grip the brake strand with one hand and gradually pull back on the GriGri release lever. This will release the cam mechanism and the rope will slide through the GriGri. Pull the lever slowly until you reach a good pace. Avoid pulling too much and relying on your brake hand to slow the fall. Be sure the rope is moving over the rounded edge of the GriGri.
How to belay from above with a GriGri
A GriGri can be used like an ATC to belay from above. Petzl provides instructions to use a redirect attached to the anchor and to belay as normal with the GriGri attached directly to your harness as shown here:
You can also use the GriGri in guide mode by attaching it directly to the anchor, but you have to be certain the cam mechanism can’t get pushed against a rock or the rope and be disengaged. This requires a mostly free hanging anchor so use with caution!
So there you have it. If you want to learn more about the GriGri, I suggest you look directly to the manufacturer for instructions here.