It seemed reasonable enough. We’d arrived late the night before and didn’t feel like getting an early start, so here we were leaving the car at 11:30 to climb a thousand foot route, as a party of three, in March. Thankfully the approach was short by Red Rocks standards, a quick thirty-five minutes to the base of the wall. As the first multipitch route of the season, there was some rust to work out getting our systems dialed in again, but soon we were moving along at a good clip.
To help speed things up, and avoid spending the first day of our trip trying to find a steep descent gully in the dark, we were belaying both seconds at the same time. This tends to cut down on the time, but adds to the cluster at each belay, as you have two ropes to deal with. The Reverso works OK for this, but sometimes it’s hard to manage both ropes so close to each other, so I’d brought along our new GRIGRI2, and had one climber on each device. It was rope management heaven!
Unlike some folks, I was never one to ditch the old GRIGRI on long routes because it was too big or heavy, as the benefits always outweighed the slight weight increase. If we were working on a difficult multipitch line, I wanted the extra safety margin provided by the device, and an extra eight ounces dangling off my harness wasn’t going to be the reason I didn’t send. (How sad if that was the case!) But now Petzl has taken away any excuse you might have had, making it 20% lighter and 25% smaller, and I expect we’ll start seeing more of these on multipitch climbs.
Speaking of excuses, there are many out there who shied away from climbing on skinnier ropes because they knew it wasn’t “approved” to work with the old Grig. Well, I love climbing on skinny cords, as I (want – strikethrough) need every advantage I can get when trying hard! The Trango Cinch filled the void somewhat, but when a friend gave us a sweet Sterling 9.2mm, it languished in storage, as even in the Cinch it was a bit unwieldy to lower with. Thankfully, this has all changed, as we’ve been using a variety of cords from 9.2mm to 10.5mm, and found that the GRIGRI2 really shines on the small diameters. The cam instantly locks down in the event of a fall, giving all the assurance you need to go for it on your next project.
The lower is also incredibly smooth, even on the 9.2mm, opening up a whole new world to those who had been avoiding the smaller ropes. At the upper end of the spectrum, we found thicker cords to be a pain in the ass and would revert to using the old GRIGRI for them. The new cam is just too good and anything 10.5mm and up just doesn’t feed nearly as well, especially if you use the new approved belaying method from Petzl. As an aside, this style takes some getting used to, but with the smaller ropes was pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
One thing that’s been talked up in various magazine reviews I’ve read is how well it lowers compared to the old one, and I have to say that at first I was not impressed. I’ve been using GRIGRI’s for the last ten years, so I’m pretty used to how they perform, and this new one is a totally different beast. However, after having it for a solid month now, I have to say I too am a believer. On the old Grig, you used more of your brake hand to control the descent, but with the GRIGRI2 you use the lever more, which gives much more fine tuned control. If you get one of these and at first it feels off, stay with it, in the end you’ll find it truly is a smoother ride.
There’s not much negative to say, but one odd thing we noticed was that sometimes the rope can get caught behind the cam, which at first was a bit concerning. Our fears were put to rest however with a quick glance at the instructions, which highlight this scenario, and say it’s been proven to have no known detrimental effect on the rope or holding power of the device.
We topped out the route with an hour of daylight left, which was just enough to get us down the descent and back to our packs before the perpetual twilight of night time in Vegas set in. The rest of the week was filled with long climbs in the beautiful canyons of Red Rocks, and the GRIGRI2 was a trusty companion on every route.
BJ Sbarra lives and plays in the Roaring Fork Valley of Western Colorado, and runs the website SplitterChoss.com. He coaches a youth climbing team with his wife, Tracy, and can often be found dangling from the end of a skinny rope at one of the many local choss crags.