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Grab on Tight! Talking about Rope Grabs

Grab on Tight! Talking about Rope Grabs

Having a work-positioning lanyard is a must in our industry. They help us stabilize prior to making a cut, as well as keeping us close to a spar when blowing down some chunks. Regardless if you practice utilizing your lanyard prior to cutting or not, we need our rope adjustment system to engage instantly. Rope grabs come in many forms from prussic-based systems to mechanical-based systems.


Prussic-Based Systems

This happens to be my favorite to use, except when it comes to removing conifers! That is one of the things I despise most. The sap will absolutely destroy your prussic and you’ll be fighting to break it loose throughout the entire climb.  You’d think I learned my lesson by now and would start to carry a backup lanyard specifically set for these trees, but I can be stubborn. A prussic paired with a Hitchclimber, a medium-to-long lanyard, and you have got yourself a clean mini MRS system. Could I get a way and do this with a mechanical rope grab? Sure, but it is not streamlined. Depending on what hitch you tie, could dictate how fast your system engages and disengages; same as an actual hitch based climbing system. It is recommended that a hitch cord paired with a rope be at least 2mm under the climbing/lanyard rope diameter.


Mechanical Rope Grabs

If you don’t want to deal with sappy prussiks and sore shoulders, a mechanical rope grab might be what you’re looking for. But which one? Do you want one that is compatible with wire core, replaceable pieces, or one that is made to work while on a budget? These are the questions you might be asking yourself when it comes down to finding the right one. This process can have you spinning in circles. Most, if not all rope adjusters, have smooth or grooved cams. This means there are not sharp teeth to damage the sheath of your lanyard, so you can cross that concern off the list. In the at-height industry, there are quite a few rope adjusters. This section is intended to help reduce the stress and hopefully point you in the right direction!


So Which Style is Better?

Again, this is a loaded question! This will vary from person to person. If I tell you that a specific rope grab is the “chit” and you take that info back to your climber friend, there is a chance they may say, “nah that’s straight up hot garbage”! Well, that’ll be because your climber friend has found something they trust, have been using for a hot minute, and it’s tried and true system for them. This doesn’t mean you should shy away from that shiny mechanical that has captivated you. If anything, dare to try a new system. Who knows, it might be your favorite!



How to Ball on a Budget!

I can agree with this right here. Sometimes keeping it simple works but the device may differ slightly than those at a higher value. Until then, these options will still work great, unless you want to stick with a 6-coil prussic as your adjuster…whoof! Something as simple as Climb Right’s rope grabs or ISC Wales rope grab will work effectively, and they don’t require too much to get them setup on your lanyard. Both devices are midline, but they require tools to get them on and off the rope (depending on which model is chosen). Read the descriptions prior to adding these to your cart as there are different versions of the same model, and by that I’m referring to rope specifications. I have found both versions to be slightly difficult to release (give slack) while loaded. As the system bites down, you must collapse the top of the device towards the you in order to release and because there is no handle underneath to aid in the de-press process it became my only negative about this style adjuster.

Petzl makes a similar version to these with their Micrograb. It has that little aid I was referring to when I mentioned releasing under tension. This did make a slight difference but certainly didn’t remedy the issue. Still, when it came to balling on a budget and having something way easier to clean than a sapped out prussic, these are baller options.


Premium Rope Grab Devices

These are the MAC DADDIES of all the lanyard adjusters, but are these premium rope grabs worth it? I’ll begin with the Petzl Zillon.

This device is like a miniature Zig Zag. For those that have used a Zig Zag before, you can likely imagine how smooth this device is! This adjuster comes with its own rope, and can be set to work in MRS and SRS lanyard configurations. If you are needing to replace the rope, I would recommend reading the technical specs and getting very specific. The pulley on the Zillon will ensure you a smooth slack tending action and releasing while loaded is like something out of a dream. It’s that smooth! The drawback on this device is the rope. If you like having open ended lanyards that you finish with a termination knot; then you’ll encounter no problem here. But climbers who like the clean termination of a sewn eye, you're out of luck. There are ways to overcome this predicament, like having an experienced professional splice the rope you’ve chosen as your lanyard.


The A.R.T. Positioner WITH a swivel, is the Big Kahuna! Clean setup, compact, midline, replaceable parts, what’s more to ask!? Let’s break that down a bit. This magnificent rope grab has all replaceable parts, so this means you can keep rolling with the same device for a long time. This rope grab is compatible with wire core, with rope cover, if the right clutch is being utilized. To add to this; just because a wire core lanyard has wire in it, it doesn’t make it impervious to a chainsaw. Exercise with caution as you would with your main suspension system. This device is available in two different styles: swivel and no swivel. I truly recommend running the swivel. The swivel allows the Positioner to correctly align the rope, eliminating those piggly wigglies that can form from rope twist. Even though there is no pulley here, drawing in slack is effortless and releasing under load is even smoother than the Zillon. However, I HIGHLY recommend practicing the release action on the ground. This is coming from experience! When I first used this device, I was unaware of how FAST this device releases, and if you aren’t aware of this…more than likely you will pucker up! Unlike the Zillon, this one is midline attachable. The only catch, it comes with the added steps of disassembling and reassembling. Lucky for you we have a video that will simplify this process, which we will include!


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