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How to Self-Repel on a Single Line with a Grigri

How to Self-Repel on a Single Line with a Grigri

If you’ve been repelling and want to start upping your gear, then you may be interested in self-repelling with a Grigri on a single line.

Repelling with a Grigri on a single line allows you to repel longer distances than on a double line and is a relatively quick option for those canyoneering and don’t plan on climbing on the same system. In addition, the Grigri, like other auto-locking belay devices, allows you to control your speed easier without the need for a Prusik knot.

Warning: Always consult a professional before rappelling. This guide is only a recommendation and should be evaluated critically before use. By reading this guide, you understand that Send Edition is not responsible for anything that may happen.

What you need to self-repel 

In addition to the Grigri, you’re going to need safety gear and gear for the anchor system. This is what we recommend when you are planning to climb up and down the route after repelling down.

  1. Climbing/Repelling Rope
  2. Harness
  3. Helmet
  4. 1 Locking Carabiner
  5. 1 Grigri – (this works with other auto-locking belay devices but not all auto-locking devices are made equal – an alternative I’ve used is the Madrock LifeGuard)
  6. Pull-cord (the same length as the rope)
  7. Gear for an anchor system (see below)

What you need for an anchor system

The anchor system is based on what you have available on route, i.e. bolts or boulders or trees. Repelling off trees can be damaging for the tree so it’s ideal not to do that.

What you’ll need for making a retrievable anchor on a bolt

  1. Small Locking Carabiners (The carabiner can be used in case the bolt doesn’t have a belay loop. If that is the case, then the carabiner won’t be retrievable from the bottom of the repel)

Creating an anchor with bolts for rappelling

Before using the bolts to create the anchor system, ensure that the bolts are in good shape and are safe to use. To do this, review the bolts for signs of wear, tear or rusting. If visually they look ok, then check to make sure that it is securely in place by trying to twist or move it. If it seems sound, then you are good to use the following for the anchor system.

  1. If there isn’t a repel loop, then clip the locking carabiner into the bolt
  2. Run one end of the rope through the carabiner/repel loop

What you’ll need for creating an anchor with a tree or a large boulder

If bolts aren’t available, then you will need a large boulder or tree that you can wrap your sling around to anchor. Before doing so, make sure that the boulder or tree is secured in place and won’t move.

Using a tree for an anchor can hurt the tree, so use a boulder if possible.

  1. 1 sling – big enough to go around the boulder/tree
  2. 2 locking carabiners

How to create an anchor system on a boulder or tree

  1. Wrap the large sling around the boulder or tree – make sure that there isn’t a way for it to slip up or down or off in any way
  2. Clip a locking carabiner to both ends of the sling
  3. Run one end of the rope through the carabiners

Now that the anchors are in place, it’s time to rig the system to safely repel while also providing the option to recover the rope, and in the case of a boulder or tree system, retrieve the anchor as well.

Preparing the rope and anchor for repelling

The next step is to create a stopper of some kind on one end of the rope with a pull-cord attached to it. This will make it so that the rope doesn’t slip through the rappel loop, which would cause an uncontrollable fall to the ground. The pull-cord also provides a means to retrieve the rope after everyone has safely landed at the bottom of the rappel.

How to tie a figure 8

The figure 8 is commonly used for tying someone into a harness but it is also a great knot to combine two different ropes, such as the pull-cord and repelling rope. 

  1. Take a bite of climbing rope about an arms-length from the end of the rope with the short end of the rope facing your body
  2. Take the short end of the rope and wrap it around the back of your hand and back to the beginning position (by your body)
  3. Thread the end of the rope through the hole (from the bite)
  4. Pull the end through until there is a loose single rope figure eight
  5. Using the pull-cord, thread the rope through the figure eight following the way the climbing rope wraps around itself
  6. Once threaded through, pull it tight
  7. Do the 10 point check to make sure it’s right – 2 rope pieces at the bottom, 2 at the beginning of the knot, 2 in the middle, 2 at near the top of the knot and to above the knot
  8. Make sure there is at least a fist-width from the top of the knot and the end of the rope
  9. If there is a lot of excess rope at the end, tie it off in any kind of knot – stopper knots work great

Make sure that the knot side is on the side of the anchor that the pull-cord is on. When you pull on the repel rope, the figure 8 should prevent the rope from falling through.

How to set up the Grigri for self-repelling

Before even touching the Grigri, the loose end of the rope should have a stopper knot. This ensures that if the rope is too short, it won’t slip through the belay device and cause the person repelling to fall uncontrollably.

How To tie a Stopper knot on the other end of the rope

  1. Take a small bit of rope about an elbow’s distance from the end of the rope
  2. Wrap the loose end around the bite 1-2 times
  3. Fold the loop of the bite toward the wrapped pieces of rope
  4. Thread the end of the rope through each of the loops, including the folded bite
  5. Pull it tight – there should be a beautiful loopy knot at the end that is big enough to prevent the rope from slipping through any belay device

Once the stopper knot is in place, it is time to place the rope in the auto-locking belay device.

How to set up the Grigri

  1. Open the grigri by sliding the metal plate out
  2. Using the icons as your guide, place the end of the rope that leads to the figure eight at the anchor to the part of the device closest to the carabiner loophole. 
  3. Run the rope through to the other side of the device (following the divot from the grigri)
  4. Slide the grigri metal plate back into place
  5. Use a locking carabiner through the Grigri and through your belay device
  6. To check that you did it right, first make sure that the end of the rope the figure 8 is attached to is closest to your body and that the other end (with the stopper knot) is poking out away from your body and touches the ground
  7. Pull on the end of the rope that goes to the anchor (where the figure 8 is) – the device should lock and prevent the rope from running through the device

How to self-repel with a grigri

Now that the gear is all set-up, its time to actually lower yourself down the cliff side. 

Practice: Consider testing this out at home or at the base of the cliff before actually doing it off the side of the cliff to practice and make sure you understand how everything works.

How to lower yourself with a Grigri

Before lowering yourself, do another check with your Figure 8, the belay device, the anchor system as well as space below you to make sure it is safe for you to descend.

  1. Walk of the edge of the cliff with your back facing out. 
  2. When you are off the edge, lean back so that your feet are against the wall and you are in a sitting or standing horizontally (this is to ensure you don’t hit your face or get scrapped up on the wall while lowering)
  3. With the right hand on the brake end of the rope, place your left hand on the handle of the Grigri
  4. Lighty pull back the handle until the cam of the device lets off of the rope slightly and the rope slowly starts to go through the device
  5. The further back you pull the handle, the faster the rope will run through the system
  6. In an emergency, let go of the handle and place both hands on the break line pulling the brake end toward the back of your side or below your butt
  7. Keep lowering yourself till you reach the bottom.

Now that you are at the base of the cliff, it’s time to retrieve the rope.

How to recover the rope

After you’ve reached the base of the cliff, you can uninstall the grigri from the rope.

  1. There should be two strands of rope at the bottom – the climbing rope you just reppelled down and the pull-cord that you tied to the figure eight.
  2. Pull the pull-cord down toward the ground until the repel rope runs through the anchor and then falls to the ground
  3. Watch your head as the figure 8 and the rope can be heavy