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I have seen a handfull of methods and devices on the market:

But its not clear to me that any of the these devices do a better job than a simple ascender would do. Can anyone share any experiences or preferences for solo-top roping gear? (Note: I consider solo lead climbing an entirely different beast and am not asking about that here.)

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You should not use a toothed ascender as a fall can sever the rope. Additionally these devices are typically not usable for decent therefore additional equipment is required anyway.

Section 6 of this report has testing of fall-arrest devices:

Lyon Equipment Limited - Industrial rope access

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There is no definitive answer. To quote Petzl "It must be understood that all systems are flawed, because this means there is a risk, however minor."

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The Petzl mini/micro-traxion are what most people seem to use. Outdoor gear lab did a recent comparison with a few other devices.

I've also seen Gri-Gris used for that purpose, though it's obviously not recommended by the manufacturer.

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I use a Petzl shunt:

As noted by others, self-belay is always going to carry risks - the shunt has a smooth camming surface so is rope friendly, and hopefully with top-roping you are going to have very limited impact on a fall.

The shunt is used by a number of pro-climbers to help them when they are red-pointing hard sports climbs. Eg. Dave Macleod:

Or at 3m25s on Indian Face (see oddly helpful YouTube comments!):

Steve McClure:

Hope this is helpful!


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