Should we buy Gri Gris?

Question:

I am a teacher that comes to High Adventure with a group from the North East of England on our annual GCSE assessment week. We (the school) are building a small climbing wall, I noticed when we came to High Adventure that in you indoor climbing wall, on the high ropes course and out on the crag you use Petzl Gri Gris. Can you let me know why these were your belay device of choice and if you were buying them again would you go for the same again?

Answer:

I will assume that as you have been to High Adventure Outdoor Education Centre on a GCSE week that I will not need to explain everything from absolute basics but I will keep it very simple in case any of your SMT need to understand it (no sarcasm intended!)

If you read around the subject of the Petzl Gri Gri you will find varying accounts failure. This failure invariable turns out to be user error. The problem, if you wish to call it that, with the Gri Gri is that it requires a user who has understood it’s limitations and intended use. Ignorant users see it as a failsafe that will protect them no matter what they do, it’s basically a machine with one significant moving part, not Gandalf!

An example of common user error that has occured, in well documented accidents, results from the user pulling back the lever before the climber has put their full weight into the system before lowering. This can lead to the climber falling a considerable distance before the user can, if at all, make good their error. Another would be the user not holding the dead rope and simply pulling back the handle to its full extent and allowing the clinber to plumit!

Both these examples are common user error, we own over 100 Gri Gris and we have never had one fail in any way. High Adventure overcomes the user error issues by properly training all our staff and only allowing our staff to do the lowering during any session involving Gri Gris.

There are similar products on the market but you would need to research those yourself as I can only comment on what is tried and tested over the years at High Adventure. One product that I have used and would buy if we were to replace our belay devices is the Edelrid Eddy. It is very similar to the Gri Gri but if you pull the lever to it’s maximum it locks off again so that you have a ‘sweet spot’ in the middle which stops people pulling the lever in panic and fully releasing the brake as would happen in the Gri Gri.

Hope this helps

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