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How to Self Repel With a Grigri

How to Self Repel With a Grigri

Climbing top-rope often starts with setting up the anchors at the top and then either hiking down to the base, or an often preferred way, repelling down. I’ve been using the Grigri to do this and realized that I could share my experience with you so you can try it to.

The Grigri is a great way to control the speed of your descent when repelling. The safest way to use the Grigri for self-repelling or lowering it is by using a double line with one side of the rope tied into your harness and the other set up like a typical belay system. With this technique, your rope will need to be double the length of the repel.

There are ways to self-repel and lower yourself using one line, but Petzl, the Grigri manufacture recommends using double rope for safety.

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 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. Gear for an anchor system (see below)

What you need for an anchor system

Most of the time, people who want to rappel in the safest way possible will have two main options for an anchor system. One of those options requires you to have access to bolts and the other option requires you to have a boulder or tree that you can use for the anchoring system.

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

  1. 1 Sling
  2. 5 locking carabiners 

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. Clip the sling into one of the bolts using a locking carabiner. The carabiner’s gate should be facing away from the other bolt
  2. Clip the other side of the sling to the other bolt with a locking carabiner. Like the first carabiner, the gate should be facing away from the other bolt/carabiner.
  3. Tie a figure eight on a bite in the middle of the sling
  4. Take two more locking carabiners and clip them onto separate strands of the bite on the figure eight with the gates facing away from each other. 
  5. Thread the rope through the two carabiners on the bite.
  6. Place a third carabiner between the two carabiners that the rope is running through (this is optional as it doesn’t add extra safety but will help your rope last longer)
  7. Make sure that each carabiner is oriented so that the screw part is screwing down toward the ground (let gravity help you stay extra safe).

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. 2 slings – one big enough to go around the boulder/tree
  2. 5 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 the second sling into one side of the sling using a locking carabiner. The carabiner’s gate should be facing away from the other end of the sling
  3. Clip the other side of the second sling to the other end of the large sling with a locking carabiner. Like the first carabiner, the gate should be facing away from the other bolt/carabiner.
  4. Tie a figure eight on a bite in the middle of the sling
  5. Take two more locking carabiners and clip them onto separate strands of the bite on the figure eight with the gates facing away from each other. 
  6. Thread the rope through the two carabiners on the bite.
  7. Place a third carabiner between the two carabiners that the rope is running through (this is optional as it doesn’t add extra safety but will help your rope last longer)
  8. Make sure that each carabiner is oriented so that the screw part is screwing down toward the ground (let gravity help you stay extra safe).

Preparing to rappel down

Once the person descending is properly in their harness (and helmet) and the anchor system is built, it’s time to tie the climber into the rope. 

How to tie a figure 8

The figure 8 is the best knot to use to tie a person’s harness into the rope. It gets tighter with more force placed on it but it is still possible to untie when done instead of cutting a person off the rope. 

  1. Take a bite of 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 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. Thread the end of the rope through the harness
  6. Using the end of the rope, following thread the rope through the figure eight following the other end of the rope
  7. Once threaded through, pull it tight
  8. 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
  9. Make sure there is at least a fist-width from the top of the knot and the end of the rope
  10. If there is a lot of excess rope at the end, tie it off in any kind of knot – stopper knots work great

With the person tied into one end of the rope, it’s time for the self-belay/lowering system. 

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 matches the end of the rope that you are tied into to the part of the device closest to the carabiner loophole then run the rope through to the other side of the device (following the divot from the grigri)
  3. Slide the grigri metal plate back into place
  4. Use a locking carabiner through the Grigri and through your belay device
  5. To check that you did it right, first make sure that the end of the rope the repeller is attached to is closest to your body and that the other end is poking out away from your body
  6. Pull on the end of the rope that you are tied into – the device should lock and prevent the rope from running through the device

Once everyone is ready to repel, it’s time to lower/ actually repel.

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.

At this point, you are at the base of the cliff and the top-rope anchor system is ready to handle your climbing. However, if you have a friend that still needs to get down, then you may want to untie the Figure 8 from your harness and send that end back up to your friend at the top of the climb. 

Now that you are at the bottom of the climb, it is safer for you to lower your friend instead of having them self-repell. If you aren’t sure how to do that, please practice with a professional. Though this article may also help you with that “What is the safest way to rappel?