My surly buddy, future inlaw, and renowned podcasting juggernaut Chris Kalous, who wears around his old-school trad-climbing pedigree like a prize badge, used my new Petzl Grigri+ once (1 time) to belay me and then went out the very next day to buy his own.
Of course, he was upgrading from an old, original Grigri, whose cam was caked in ages of sediment and whose rivet hung as loosely any of the 1930s-era mank you’d find in the Dolomites. But still … his enthusiasm for the latest update to what is arguably the most widely used assisted-braking belay device in the world—and certainly my own personal favorite—speaks to some of the exciting new features in this latest offering from Petzl.
For many tasks, the Grigri+ operates exactly the same as the still-great Grigri2, yet a few nifty upgrades to the device give it an edge with better safety and greater longevity. Those improvements, however, have also made the Grigri+ heavier than its predecessor, although not by much.
The most notable new feature is the “anti-panic” lever, which intends to prevent a situation in which a belayer, while lowering a climber, pulls back on the lever too hard and lowers the climber out of control and/or drops the climber. In such a situation in which one “panics” and pulls back on the lever as if it were broken slot machine, the internal cam pivots and locks back down on the rope. Thank sweet baby Jesus! Crisis averted! In order to release the cam again, simply let go of the lever, recite a calming mantra to yourself, take a deep breath and/or a sip of herbal tea, and then slowly pull back on the lever again and continue to lower. Namaste.
Other new features include the addition of steel to high-wear areas. There is new a steel edge for lowering, and a steel stopper on the climber-side of the Grigri. The steel accounts for much of the increase in weight in the Grigri+ over the 2, but its addition is really smart and much appreciated, particularly if you’re a person who has burned through other Grigris by gouging out the device’s aluminum lowering edge.
Props to Petzl for having the confidence to buck the trend of introducing increasingly hyper-light equipment each and every season simply for the sake of claiming a lightweight superlative, and instead beefing up the device for performance and safety purposes.
Finally, another interesting addition is the ability to switch between lead-belay mode and toprope-belay mode via a switch located on the backside of the device. This switch adjusts the cam’s tension and makes it slightly easier to feed slack in lead-belay mode, and provides slightly more rope bite in toprope-belay mode.
How It Performs
Feeding slack to a lead climber, and even belaying in a top-rope situation, is virtually identical to the Grigri 2 from a performance perspective—which is great. I noticed no real difference in performance between either device when executing these two tasks.
In terms of the switch on the back of the device, I must admit that I don’t ever use the toprope-belay mode. I keep the device in lead-belay since that is what I most often do. I didn’t notice a significant difference between the two modes anyway, to be honest.
I did notice a huge improvement in performance when lowering a partner off of a route, however. With the GriGri+, I feel as if I have a significant increase in control. The action of the lever has improved and become much smoother over the Grigri2. There’s a lot more give with the lever, which helps prevent the dreaded speed drop. Now I feel more confident lowering my partner, with or without a belay glove.
And that confidence goes both ways. When I’m on the other side of the GriGri+, I feel safer in knowing that my partner is going to lower me smoothly without any of those occasional surprise hiccups in which you get dropped three feet for seemingly no reason.
I was initially concerned that the anti-panic function would engage too easily, and would thus make it an annoyance, like social media, that you just have to deal with. I was happy to discover this was not the case. Although the feature engages every now and then while I’m lowering, for the most part, it’s a non-issue.
The GriGri+ gets my vote for providing the most control in lowering your partner when compared to every other assisted-breaking device on the market that I’ve tried. Nothing that I’ve tested is as smooth or confidence inspiring. And with the new steel plates, I am positive that I’ll be using this device for years to come.
If you already own a relatively new Grigri2, there’s no real rush to run out and buy a GriGri+. The Grigri 2 is still a fantastic and totally safe belay device. However, I would absolutely consider making the GriGri+ the next one you get because it’s even more fantastic and safer by a significant degree.
And if you’re like my buddy Kalous, and are using an original Grigri or, worse, anything else, then you should definitely add a Grigri+ to your kit.