How to belay with a griGri

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.

Grigri markings
The engraved images help you get your GriGri attached to your rope in the proper orientation.
Loading a GriGri
The rope sits in the groove under the cover plate as shown.

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.

GriGri back
Notice the rope size is printed right on the back of the GriGri for easy reference. Now do you remember what diameter your rope is?

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.

Grigri Attachment
Attach the GriGri to your belay loop with a locking carabiner ensuring the brake side is pointing down

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.

GriGri taking slack
Pull down with both hands to take in slack

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.

GriGri feeding slack
Keep your brake hand on the rope while gently pulling up with the other hand

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.

GriGri feeding slack fast
With the cam blocked and the brake hand on the rope, pull up with the 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.

Locked off GriGri
Lock the GriGri by dropping the brake hand down below the device

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.

GriGri hands-free with GMO
Using a Munter Hitch and an overhand to go hands-free

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.

lowering with a GriGri
Lower a climber by slowly pulling up on the lever

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:

GriGri belaying from above
Belaying from above with a GriGri

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.

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