The Fall

Eventually, if you keep climbing, you'll fall. In fact, if you never fall at all, you're probably not pushing yourself very much in your climbing.

Never climb with the rope behind your legs :

in the event of a fall this guarantees a violent topple backwards which may result in the head being bashed against the rock.


There are basically two types of falls :

- those that you see coming, even if only for a millisecond,

- and those that you don't, like when a hold breaks or the rock just suddenly shrugs you off for no apparent reason.

  • The first kind gives you a moment to prepare yourself for falling, even sometimes to push off from the wall. That way you can position yourself so your head stays up, you can hold on to the rope, and your body is prepared to take the impact as the rope comes taut.
  • The "Surprise! " kind of fall is more dangerous, because your body is already falling by the time the brain gets the news (that's the surprising part). And since it's already old news, there's no question of reacting. This is why you should never be in a position where it's too dangerous to fall -- with the rope behind your legs, for example, or where a fall guarantees a big pendulum into an immovable object.

    See Understanding shock load






    Your rope companion may fall without damage to himself, but perhaps injuring you. The sudden shock of the fall risks propelling you violently into the cliff. Take particular care of overhangs!




Understanding Shock Load

 

Turning falls into flight...

It can happen. Concentrating, studying the holds, absorbed in the route, you get run out above your last piece. Suddenly your foot slips, a hold breaks off, you lose your balance and the hard pull of gravity asserts itself. You're falling.

There's the fear, the rush of adrenaline, and then mechanical phenomena intervene. Your security system brakes your fall and stabilizes you. For years we have played in the vertical world, seeking, like everyone else, both excitement and safety.

 















Some basic truths, simple math and common sense...

 

Maybe. But every fall creates an enormous amount of energy. We are, after all, relatively large creatures , and gravity is a formidable force - as any belayer who has caught a screamer can attest.

What's more, the shock load for the fall is transmitted all through your security system, and is nearly doubled at the anchor or pro on top. And every element in the chain has to sustain the shock without breaking if your fall is going to cause you nothing worse than scrapes and bruises.


Fall Factor Explained...

A lot of climbers don't really understand the fall factor concept; however, it's pretty simple, even if you hated math (this is math you can use in later life. In fact , you can use it to have a later life) Fall Factor is simply the length of the fall divided by the length of the rope from faller to belayer. The equation looks like this;

Fall Factor = Length of Fall
__________

Length of Rope

Fall Factor 2 is the maximum you should encounter in a typical climbing fall, since the height of a fall can't exceed two times the length of the rope. Normally, a Fall Factor 2 can only occur when a leader who has placed no protection falls past the belayer, or the anchor if it's a solo climb. As soon as protection is placed, the distance of the fall as a function of the rope length is lessened, and the Fall Factor drops below 2.

Your life depends on the stretch of the rope...

Shock load is the result of three factors;

The nature of the rope, 
the fall factor,
and the weight of the falling object. That is you.

Obviously, the only part of this equation that can reduce the force of a fall is the bungee-like stretch of the dynamic rope (unless, of course, you can lose weight really fast). Thus, climbing safety systems are designed around the shock-absorbing quality of dynamic rope. It cushions the fall, reducing the impact force and the chance of system failure. In fact, the dynamic rope is the one "given" in the whole system. It is designed to limit the force of one climber's weight (80 KG) in a worst-case fall (Fall Factor 2) to not more that 12 kN. Thus, the rest of the gear can be designed to work with this known maximum force.

More rope means more stretch to absorb a fall. Which explains why a Fall Factor 2 drop of 4 meters develops the same shock force - 9 kN - as one of 20 meters, assuming a dynamic rope is used that conforms to UIAA standards. What's happening is that the increasing length of the fall ( and the greater shock force that goes with it) is compensated by the greater length of the rope available to cushion its arrest.

 


Static rope doesn't stretch enough....

Static ropes - traditionally used mostly in caving  and rescue but now also used for sport rappelling and even in climbing gyms  - are designed to minimize stretch (cavers hate feeling like yo-yo's). So their ability to absorb shock is marginal, particularly along short lengths of rope. What's more, static ropes aren't as well defined by industry codes as dynamic ropes, so they vary in elasticity according to the manufacturer and the country of origin. They're often about as non-dynamic as a cable, and transmit virtually all the shock load to the safety system and the body. And in a climbing situation a very short fall can develop enough force to be critical.


Slings and runners are just like static rope...

Used for security, without a dynamic rope, runners are just as dangerous as static rope. As the diagram shows, a Fall Factor 2 develops enough shock load to risk failure of the runner, the harness , carbiners not to mention a lot of failure in the climber's skeletal system.

This is worth saying again:

fall of less than four feet on a static rope or sling can create enough shock force to cause serious injury or death.

Bearing in mind that the human body can only handle, for a brief instant , a shock force of 12 kN without risking serious injury, you don't want to go around absorbing 18 kN. And you should know that 18 kN is getting real close to, or over, the minimum limits set by the UIAA on all the gear in your safety system.

For purposes of comparison, here are the UIAA limits;

  • Anchors: 25 kN
  • Carabiners: 20 kN
  • Slings: 22 kN
  • Harnesses: 15 kN

Meanwhile up at the 'biner....

Physics isn't our friend in a fall. The same mechanical advantage we use in pulleys works against us when we're on the end of a rope. Because at the point where the rope returns, normally a carabiner, the force of the fall is increased by approximately 66% (it would be doubled except for the friction of the rope against the metal).

So, starting with our 9 kN maximum shock force with a dynamic rope, the force on the carabiner becomes 15 kN in a Fall Factor 1.9 fall. That's a lot. You better hope it's a good anchor or placement .

Now apply that same math to a static rope, The Factor 1.9 fall, with is normal shock force of 18 kN, becomes a shock force of 30 kN (multiply 18 kN by 1.66) In this case, you couldn't even count on a stout tree. And it wouldn't matter if the anchor held, because something else would undoubtedly fail.

GRIGRITesting and Functioning

 

Attention: Proper training is essential before use!

2. Testing:

A test should always be made before each use, to check that the rope is correctly installed an the the device is functioning properly.



3. Running of the rope:

use both hands simultaneously to run the rope through the device.

 

 

Locking, Unlocking, Braking:


The GRIGRI works when the rope (properly installed in the device) is given a sharp strong pull or snatch: it locks onto the rope.

Soft Unlock:
 

Unlocking (see diagrams) is effected by hand pressure on the mobile pivot point. When the locking is harder,(diagram 5) the articulated handle give the same effect with a levering action.

Hard Unlock:

A big fall may result in complete locking: to unlock in this instance, pull the handle strongly, while keeping a firm hold on the free rope in the other hand.

Note: any time you unlock the device, you must keep a firm hold on the free rope.

 

GRIGRIPrecautions

Attention: Proper training is essential before use!
Only the techniques of use shown in the diagrams not crossed out are authorised!

Precaution to take:

  • Always keep a hold on the free end of the rope.
  • Before each use, it is essential to check that the autolock cam moves freely, and that the spring action works without sticking. In case of doubt, return the GRIGRI to the PETZL distributor in your country to be checked.

Safety of the Belayer : danger


Pay attention to the security of the belayer:

  • He/she should always be tied to an anchor point which is low and close to the belayer, to prevent pulling him off-belay and bashing against the rock in the case of a leader fall.





 

Attention: the GRIGRI must be able to work at all times 
 
Make sure the GRIGRI can function freely at all times. Its function must not be impeded, either by an obstacle ( carabiner, for example) or by contact with the cliff. It will not lock itself if jammed into a crack. In all these cases it will not function as intended.


 


Attentionthe friction

Light falls and featherweight climbers:

  • Multiple friction points on a long run-out will limit the shock-force transmitted to the device


In a similar way, the weight of a light climber, or the load of a sliding fall, may delay or prevent the locking action of the GRIGRI




Paying out slack with a GRIGRI

When using the GRIGRI , paying out slack rapidly demands great attention and experience.

Note: The locking action of the GRIGRI places great load on the point of reversal of the rope direction (last point of protection). On crags which have been equipped for sport climbing the UIAA requires anchors to have a strength of 25 kN. In this case there is no problem. On the other hand the GRIGRI is not recommended for traditional gear climbing or on ice, where anchors may have strength less than the value recognised by the UIAA.

Inserting the Rope in aGRIGRI

  • Put the rope in the device as indicated in the diagram.
  • The rope must be installed as indicated by the drawing on the device.
  • Once the rope is correctly installed, close the device and clip a locking carabiner through both holes. 

    Attention: Proper training is essential before use!
    Only the techniques of use shown in the diagrams not crossed out are authorised!

Precaution to take:

  • Always keep a hold on the free end of the rope.
  • Before each use, it is essential to check that the autolock cam moves freely, and that the spring action works without sticking. In case of doubt, return the GRIGRI to the PETZL distributor in your country to be checked.


Proper Maintenance:

If necessary, wash in clean water to remove dirt or grit. A periodic drop of lubricating oil between the axle and moving capstan aids good function.

Do not put in contact with corrosive or aggressive materials.

 

 

 

Rappelling with a GRIGRI


Attention: Proper training is essential before use!
Only the techniques of use shown in the diagrams not crossed out are authorised!

The GRIGRI can be used as a descender for rappels up to 50m long. Longer descents are not advised due to risk of overheating the device. Inserting the rope is always done in the same way, following the engraved indications. The device is then closed, and secured with a locking carabiner. (do not forget to close the screw-gate!). A test must always be made before use to check that the rope is properly fitted, and that the device is working correctly.

1. Lowering off:

The second can lower a climber from a running belay without effort. The GRIGRI stays in place clipped to the harness as for belaying. Lowering is controlled by varying the tension in the free end of the rope with one hand, and by pulling or releasing the handle with the other, as required.

2. Braking:

The GRIGRI does not twist the rope provided the free end comes round and is not pulled out at the side of the device.

3. Extra Braking:

If extra braking is required, before starting the rappel, put the free end of the rope through the carabiner, making sure that the action of the rope will not unscrew the screwgate.



 



4. Descending the rope:

The speed of descent is regulated by varying the tension in the free end of the rope with the brake hand. Locking is obtained simply by letting go of the movable handle. Unlocking is obtained by pulling on it.

5. Never let go of the free end of the rope:

The GRIGRI is an autolock, but for maximum security, never let go of the free end of the rope during the descent.







 

Descending a single recoverable rope


  • To rappel on one rope and recover it afterwards, the technique shown in this diagram can be employed.






 

Belaying with a GRIGRI

Belaying the leader:

The second belayer should anchor himself securely, then fix the GRIGRI directly to his harness. Using both hands, he then runs the rope through the device.

It is not advisable to fix the GRIGRI directly to the belay point when lining a leader. A fall in this case could result in high loading of the anchor point. Better in this case to fix the GRIGRI to the belayers' harness in order to reduce the effect of the fall with his weight.




 

Belaying the Second:

In this case the length of the fall is much more limited. The GRIGRI can therefore be fixed directly to a good belay anchor point, or to the belayer's harness in order to reduce the effect of the fall with his weight.

Attention: Proper training is essential before use!
Only the techniques of use shown in the diagrams not crossed out are authorised!