Foot Ascenders Help Climbers Cruise Up Ropes with Ease
What is your favorite foot ascender? What really stands out to you about it? Do you like the fact that it’s super lightweight? Maybe you like its ability to lock onto your rope? Perhaps even its ability to not lock? Foot ascenders are super useful and in our industry, there are actually quite a few options for these awesome little camming units that help us cruise right up our ropes!
Foot ascenders are pretty simple in essence. They are a camming device that attaches to your boot and then attaches to the rope. As you take a step up the rope, the ascender glides friction-free up the rope, but as soon as you step down, the cam rocks backwards and the small teeth of the ascender bite into the rope (without damaging it). Now, as you put your weight onto that foot, you can easily step down and lift your body with it. When you take the next step, the process repeats until you get to where you want to go! Pretty cool, huh?
Locking Foot Ascenders
Some foot ascenders actually lock the rope into the body of the device to keep it securely attached. This is great when you are learning to use a foot ascender because your technique may not be the best, or when you are in a climbing competition where you can’t risk the rope coming out.
Do keep in mind that the locking mechanism will have to be unlatched in order to take the foot ascender off the rope. This requires the user to unweight their foot so the teeth of the ascender are no longer in the rope and then unlatch the lock. This can become cumbersome if you are working in a tree that requires a lot of climbing up and down. It’s also good to teach anyone that is using a foot ascender for the first time exactly how it locks and unlocks. I can’t even count the amount of people I’ve watched get trapped when they couldn’t unlock their foot ascender.
Non-Locking Foot Ascenders
Another style of foot ascender doesn’t have a lock; it’s simply a camming device within the body of the ascender. This can be a blessing and a curse. If you have good technique, you shouldn’t have any issues with the rope coming out of the foot ascender. If your technique isn’t quite as good…well, you might be hanging on the rope a couple times per ascent!
The advantage of a non-locking foot ascender becomes apparent when you get to your work. All you need to do is pull up and out on the rope under your climbing system and above the ascender, pretty much the same thing you would do if you were pulling slack out of your system, and the rope will pop right out of the ascender. This can make your work flow nice and smooth, but as stated above, it takes good technique for this to be beneficial. The CAMP TurboFoot is a great example of a non-locking foot ascender.
A Few We Recommend
Some foot ascenders, like the Petzl Pantin, are made to be super lightweight. They have designed the cam with cutouts to reduce even more weight. Not that this is a super needed feature of a device that is attached to your boot, which weighs way more than the ascender, but it is cool to see companies reducing weight to keep fatigue at a minimum. The Petzl Pantin is also a non-locking foot ascender, but both it and the CAMP TurboFoot can be locked with a small XSRE carabiner passed through the hole on the side of the foot ascender, this keeps the rope in place until the carabiner is removed.
There are plenty of options when it comes to foot ascenders and we highly recommend that you come into the shop and try some out. You can hang on one of our demo ropes and see exactly how each works and pick from there which one you think will best suit your climbing style. Foot ascenders are pretty much a must have in any climber’s gear kit! Make sure to get the right one for you!