Petzl Tibloc


For fewer than twenty bucks and less than a tenth of a pound (39 grams!), the Petzl Tibloc is a small but essential addition to any climber or aggressive hiker’s survival gear (note that I emphasize survival gear, as opposed to basic climbing gear).

Picture this: you’ve fallen in a crevasse and need to get back up the rope. Or for an example closer to home, perhaps you’ve rappelled past the correct Friday’s Folly ledge on the Third Flatiron, and you find yourself almost at the end of your rope with thirty meters of void still looming below you. What do you do? How do you get back up that rope?

Most people could not pull their own weight (plus pack, harness, and rack) up a rope for ten feet (about ten pull-ups on a slick rope), much less the ten meters that may be required. Okay, no problem; simply tie a Prussik knot and use that as a mechanical rope ascender. Say what? Can’t tie a Prussik knot? Well, just put a triple Kleimholst around the rap rope (above your ATC or rappel device, duh), and ascend that way. Can’t tie one of those either, huh? Wow, your options are running out fast, and you may be getting tired and just a tiny bit freaked. If you forgot to knot off the ends of your rope (a common mistake made by sport climbers moving up to alpine mountaineering) and can’t hold your brake position on the rappel, you are looking at a fatal fall.

Don’t panic! You’re not totally screwed… if you have the handy Tibloc clipped onto your harness (maybe by a 3-6 foot sewn runner), that is. No Tibloc or other manual mini-ascender? No full size ‘jumar’ ascender? Have ‘em both but A) left them at home—this is an easy 5.9 climb—or B) have them in your pack where you don’t dare try to reach? Gosh, I guess you are screwed. The Petzl Tibloc is a powerful climbing and survival tool, and its weight is negligible to even the most ounce-counting climber. The device can slide unopposed up a rope but, with a bunch of metal mini-teeth, will grip the rope when weighted with downward force. (Other models use camming action to prevent possible damage to the sheath of the rope, but if I need to ascend now, I ain’t too worried about the rope’s sheath-life. Little more worried about my own.

Use Spectra or accessory cord—or use a sling—to attach the Tibloc mini-ascender to your climbing harness through both the leg- and waist-loops (not the belay loop!). Such a setup makes for safe hand-ascension. Used this way, an ascender may save your bacon.

So for the price, it’s crazy not to have one, and for the weight it’s silly not to carry the one you have—just leave it clipped to your alpine harness. You can lean-and-mean-it with your sport/gym harness.

Once you have a good ascender rig going, don’t let it sit there and gather dust, unused. Don’t wait until you need it to become proficient with it. The best thing (if you can afford it… hmmm… what’s your life worth?) is to get some lessons from a pro, like Colorado Mountain School or your local climbing school. Although nowhere in Colorado is that isolated, even if you don’t have a climbing school nearby, find an experienced, professional guide (with a good reputation) or an experienced amateur climber if you must. Get someone who knows how to show you.

Then, once you think you’ve acquired a modicum of proficiency, go out to a local slab or crag and (safest is from a top-rope) practice a few feet above the ground. Practice rigging it, clipping it in, ascending on it. Heck, while you’re at it, you might as well practice those Prussik and Kleimholst knots as well. That way, if the scenario described at the start of this article happens to you, you’ll simply smile and jumar fearlessly up the rock without a care in the world.

So you have read this article (and maybe the Tibloc user’s manual and Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills if you’re real motivated), now rush right out and get one of these critical items. Hop to! Your rope-sheath isn’t getting any younger.

Writing By:

Mark Mullen


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: