Based on comments on this question. If the moving cam on a Gri-Gri is prevented from engaging (perhaps by a belayer firmly holding onto the device), can you still brake effectively?

By "brake effectively", I mean:

  • use the traditional brake position with your right hand pulling down on the rope
  • arrest a lead fall of a few meters by an average sized climber on dynamic rope, with a comfortable margin of safety
  • not just by letting the cam re-engage
  • Anecdotally: I was lead once belayed by someone who ran the rope through the Gri-Gri backwards. I didn't take any falls. When I sent, she lowered me comfortably as though using an ATC. Since then I've always suspected that a Gri-Gri, even in some failure mode, can always act like an ATC.
    – jhch
    Jul 23, 2019 at 16:27
  • I feel like a way to "test" this in a climbing gym would be to hold the lever open unlocking the cam. Then have someone fall from a ~5ft up. See if you can stop the fall without the cam engaging.
    – noah
    Jul 23, 2019 at 17:01
  • I don't have first hand experience here but I would say, no, at least not effectively. Consider that the inside of the Gri Gri is not a tight "S" shape (like that of an ATC in braking position) but rather a loose "S". Also, when the cam is down (not engaged) that is the actual lowering position for the device. So, while it does provide some friction, it will not be as much as an ATC. If you're going to use the device like this, I'd say use gloves at least! Jul 24, 2019 at 0:09
  • @jonathanbell I did try it once because I was curious. Your instinct reflects what I experienced: not enough friction.
    – Roflo
    Jul 24, 2019 at 12:45
  • 1
    I just did a test and as long as I correctly hold the rope with the remaining 3 fingers I was not even able to push the thumb down strongly enough when using my skinniest rope (8mm half rope, slightly used)
    – Manziel
    Jul 30, 2019 at 21:22

2 Answers 2


Technically speaking, no. For a Grigri to work, the cam must engage, so asking if it works when the cam does not, the answer is: no.

Can it be used to belay? Yes, but it will be more difficult on falls than an ATC.

The sharp angles of the rope going through an ATC provide the friction to ease controlling the rope. The strength required to stop a fall can be managed by the angle of the rope from the feeding side. The sharper the angle, the less strength is required to keep the rope from moving. The Grigri is smoothed around the edges. The rope cannot generate friction as easily and the smoothed 'corners' make it difficult to create a sharper angle that the carabiner normally would with an ATC setup.

The pulley system would still be in place so it would be easier than simply holding the free hanging rope, but it would not be as effective as an ATC.


From my experience, NO.

My only experience using a few different Gri-Gri devices was during my beginners course last year.
I have however used figure 8 belay devices for years at scouting and that's what I thought of when pulling back on the little levers.

You do NOT want to stop a big fall with that setup (learned from experience with small falls). Just to make it extra clear: I do not recommend using a figure 8 for belaying - do not belay using a figure 8!

Belaying with a broken, or fully pulled back Gri-Gri is most comparable to belaying with a single smooth rope going trough a figure 8 in the 'low friction rope position'

figure 8 in the 'low friction rope position'

Simply said, this is why i'm scared of Gri-Gri's.
In my opinion they take way too much work out of the belayers hands and will put way too much work back into their hands on complete failure or user error.


Looking at the rope routing trough a Gri-Gri it looks comparable as well. (The image of course shows a normally functioning and locked device but we're ignoring that here)

Rope routing trough a Gri-Gri

  • This doesn't really answer the question IMO. Only the first two sentences are about GriGris and do not discuss any test results or specific details. The rest is about figure 8's which are a completely different device.
    – Qudit
    Jul 25, 2019 at 21:15
  • Sorry, it's the best I could compare it to and had to explain that somewhat. I'm no expert, feel free to make a better answer with a more solid answer.
    – HTDutchy
    Jul 25, 2019 at 21:18
  • 1
    No worries. I just think your answer would be better if you could add more GriGri specific details. I didn't write an answer myself because I am not sure if a GriGri would catch if the cam is held open (and I hope I don't find out the hard way!).
    – Qudit
    Jul 25, 2019 at 21:57
  • 2
    I put the note about figure 8 not being good for belaying further ahead and added an explicit statement, that this does in fact not recommend, but advise against using figure 8 for belaying. In general I agree with Qudit comments: I also intuitively agree with your conclusion, but I think this answer lacks necessary support for that conclusion.
    – imsodin
    Jul 26, 2019 at 14:29
  • 1
    Perhaps the phrasing: 'Belaying on a broken GriGri feels very similar to belaying on a figure 8. Figure 8s are not recommended for belaying due to XYZ.' would be more easily interpreted? Jul 26, 2019 at 20:14

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