The Grigri Turns 30

The Petzl Grigri has reached its 30th birthday! Launched in 1991, this game-changing gadget has been through four iterations and many a daring adventure.

The Petzl Grigri has reached its 30th birthday! Launched in 1991, this game-changing gadget has been through four iterations and many a daring adventure. The Grigri’s success is owed to several unique features that make it a firm favourite both out on rock and in indoor climbing gyms like CityROCK. If you haven’t heard of the Grigri, it is a belay device, manufactured by Petzl, that offers an assisted-braking function. In other words, the device has a camming mechanism that pinches the rope in the event of a fall to assist the belayer in safely catching the climber. As with any device, understanding how it works and using it correctly is essential to its safety and effectiveness.   

“Grigri” is well established in the sport’s dictionary, but most climbers are unaware that the device’s name is derived from a Voodoo term (sometimes spelled “gri-gri”, “gregory” or “gerregery”) for a talisman or amulet that is carried to bring good luck and protect against evil. Rather fitting, don’t you think?

Many climbers hold a special connection with the mountains, some may even say a spiritual connection, particularly when fighting to conquer the mighty summit. Petzl offers a piece of gear akin to an ancient good-luck charm.

The concept design of the Grigri was a three-tiered process: 

  1. Identifying a gap in the market for beginner climbers who were new to belaying, and understanding the needs/wants of these individuals
  2. Finding efficient and effective ways to offer solutions 
  3. Ongoing evaluation, redesign and improvement of each model

For each of the four Grigri versions, Petzl prototyped and tested the device by sending it out for evaluation by product testers all over the world. Through this process, the product is refined until the desired resolution for the identified problem is achieved. 

The third tier of Petzl’s multifaceted product development process has given us the four Grigri models we know and love. Problems change, so do the solutions; continuous learning and the channeling of ideas towards innovative solutions are essential in addressing the ever-shifting needs of consumers. 

The effortless lock-off offered by the Grigri has secured it as a gem amongst climbers tackling long projecting sessions, as well as top-rope belayers and those enjoying a long day at the crag or gym. Furthermore, the design allows users to employ a belay technique very similar to that  used with traditional tube devices, making for a fairly easy transition. 

The Grigri +, released in 2017, has kept the Grigri’s shape and design, and integrated an ‘anti-panic’ mode. All Grigris require the user to pull back a lever to release the rope from the camming mechanism when lowering; if, in panic, the belayer pulls the handle too hard and abruptly, the mechanism once again engages and locks the rope (phew!). The build of the stainless steel friction plate affords the device a long life and reduces wear on ropes (particularly those of a 8.5-11mm diameter). The diagrams engraved on the Grigri / Grigri+ help the user to correctly feed the rope into the device, ensuring safe and uncomplicated belaying. 

A full collection of Grigris, left to right: Grigri 1, Grigri 2 (old), Grigri (current), Grigri +

Overall, the Grigri’s design offers a smooth, uncomplicated and intuitive belaying experience that protects the safety of both belayer and climber. This device contributes to the joy of climbing, offering belayers some extra confidence and back-up and allowing climbers to put their mental energy towards their battle against the rock. 

Climb safe, climb strong, and remember that assisted-braking is not code for “let go of the dead end”.