The GRIGRI belay device: a concept that forever changed climbing
In 1991, Petzl offered climbers an all-new belay device, the GRIGRI. With its assisted-braking system, providing more confidence and comfort to both belayer and climber, the device quickly revealed itself to be ideal for leading, for working crux moves, for lowering, and for top roping. In 2015, the GRIGRI remains a key tool for sport and gym climbing. Enjoy reading a quick review of the different facets of this emblematic solution that demonstrates Petzl's incredible know-how.
July 22 2015
The birth of the GRIGRI...
"To reduce the risk of accidents, particularly on cliffs where people were learning to climb, instructors were looking for very specific belay tools that would allow them to simultaneously supervise multiple beginners, who were not always comfortable using the legendary HUIT figure eight rappel device.
In Crolles [France], boxes were filling up with prototypes. We were trying to figure out how to provide climbers with a belay device as trustworthy as a seatbelt. Paul [Petzl], Fernand [Petzl], Peter Popall, and Michel Suhubiette were working on a solution, with the help of the first engineer ever hired by the company, Alain Maurice.
Bringing together all of their great ideas would finally bear fruit. Paul, by playing around with the STOP, a self-braking descender made by his father ten years earlier, discovered that the device locked onto the rope during simulated falls. Fernand, on his end, remembered the SOLO, a device invented a few years earlier by Jean-Louis Rocourt to self-belay while climbing alone. They needed to use the strengths from each of these designs.
Little by little, the device took shape. Plastic was chosen for the handle, presenting a technical challenge but guaranteeing more comfortable handling by users. The team also needed to ensure that the rope would be properly threaded through the device: pictograms were engraved on the device explaining how to do so, and a pivoting plate covered it once in place. They even worked with a designer to make sure the object was finger-friendly.
Now all they needed to do was to find a name for this new 'belay device with assisted braking,' ready to be shipped by the end of 1991.
During a meeting, Michel Suhubiette showed up and asked, 'So, have you gotten anywhere with your grigri?' Mentioning the African good-luck charm made choosing a name easy for Paul. The GRIGRI was born."
Via the GRIGRI, learn more about how Petzl designs its products…
Conceptualizing and developing Petzl products is based on a continuous three-tiered process:
1. Identify the problem and understand its context,
2. Search for an efficent and effective solution,
3. Continue to evaluate and improve the resulting product.
The best concepts are selected and our project teams go to work, creating designs that can be made and tested.
Prototyping and testing
We create working prototypes based on the most successful designs. These are sent to product testers worldwide for evaluation, and then refined until the desired product is achieved.
Throughout the development process, a product is undergoes several performance, safety, and quality tests. Petzl has defined its own requirements and quality criteria that surpass industry standards.
The final product
After rigorous lab and field testing, the final product takes form, and the manufacturing process can begin.
No Petzl product is complete without our trademark technical information, which explains correct use and maintenance.
Through our global network of Petzl Technical Institutes and Partners, Petzl offers training to help our customers and end-users to better understand and use Petzl products.
Petzl products and solutions are never really finished. We work to continually learn, challenge our ideas, and innovate, so that we can adapt our tools to the ever-changing needs of our users.