Skip to content

Great Debates: methods of lead belaying with a Petzl Gri-Gri

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
2 min read

One of my blogger friends who predominantly climbs indoors recently posted a blog entry about lead belaying with a Petzl Gri-Gri… there’s an embedded video (with a bunch of guys in test outfits – funny) showing three methods (two good, one bad) of lead belaying with a Petzl Gri-Gri. The discussion that follows highlights that there are definitely regional differences in how we all do things and in what we consider “acceptable” or “safe.” I’m amazed at what some people consider “safe”…

Here’s his post, and ensuing discussion, about the three ways to post with a Gri-Gri. The discussion is lively (even if it’s mostly already been had on various threads on and other online forums) but the video itself is worth watching…

Personally, I belay with thumb out (like 1) but then flip and use my thumb to hold down the cam while I feed out for clipping. I’m going to try #2 the next time I climb, since it is slightly more elegant than what I’m doing now.

I strongly prefer the Gri-Gri to an ATC while belaying — I actually short rope my climbing partners less on a Gri-Gri using my 1/2 method than with an ATC (I’m not kidding). I climbed my first season belaying on a Gri-Gri using thumb-out and trying to feed like an ATC… during out Joshua Tree winter trip two years ago, I was belaying Shawn on a route and painfully shortroped him at every clip… I was almost in tears I was so frustrated… Shawn was incredibly patient given the circumstances, and given the seven or so hysterically laughing climbing partners on the ground doing nothing to help me. Jason finally showed me the method I use now, much to my relief (and the relief of my climbing partners, who were probably about ready to vote me off the island).

Anyway – I really don’t see much to debate. Best practice to my eye and training is to use the approaches 1 or 2 shown in the video. A lot of folks commenting on the post are indicating that they use #3 and plan to keep using #3 (where their brake hand actually comes off the rope to “unlock” the device to feed out rope)… ok, that’s fine — I just hope that they only climb with partners who identify that belaying style and properly assess and are comfortable with the risks associated with it. Belaying properly, using the thumb-out style #1, or the thumb-in style #2 shown in the video is *no more difficult* than the third brake-hand-off style, but are, perhaps, exponentially safer. Especially as ropes get thinner (with some of my partners’ thin ropes, I can actually lead belay on the Gri-Gri as if it were an ATC, by just pushing the rope through the device the way you would with an ATC) I would imagine that we’re going to hear more about accidents involving brake-hand-off belaying. Be careful out there…


Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.