By John Walter
It's 5:00 a.m. and I've just spent a rainy night on a 3-foot by 5-foot ledge at 11,500 feet on the south side of Pingora, huddled up with three other smelly guys. We were caught by a storm that slowed us down and ended up topping out at dusk. We started rappelling in the dark and got off route on the rappels. To make matters worse, the rope is stuck. The Klemheist knots that we are rigging are slipping on the wet rope. We are looking solemnly at each other to see who will be the sucker who will ascend the rope and free it up. At that point I'd have given about anything to have a Tibloc, the new micro ascender from Petzl.
The design for the Tibloc is fairly simple, apply friction to the rope by forcing the rope through a constriction and supplement that friction with downward pointing conical pins. My first reaction to the pins was that they would cause some hideous wear on the rope. However, the guys at Petzl assured me that the Tibloc actually causes less wear than their other ascenders. The Tibloc has no moving parts, keeping the design and usage simple and easy. It also has a slot to tie a keeper sling onto it so you don't loose it. The single piece Tibloc weighs in at less than 1.5 ounces and measures just 2 inches. It works on ropes from 8mm to 11mm.
When I tested the Tibloc, I ascended a rope with it as the upper ascender and a Prussik knot as my bottom ascender. While I fussed with the bottom and changed the configuration of the webbing and slings for the Prussiks knot numerous times, the Tibloc worked like a charm. I didn't have to mess with it once. You'll probably want two Tiblocs to ascend any rope, so make sure your partner buys one too.
I didn't test this on wet or frozen ropes, but wet ropes should work the same. Since the Tibloc puts less wear on the rope, I would assume that it doesn't hold quite as well as other ascenders. Petzl even recommends that it only be used on ropes larger than 10mm if there is a possibility of a fall. I can't imagine ascending a rope in a situation without the possibility of a fall.
Being so small and lightweight, there is no reason to ever take the Tibloc off your harness. From ascending a rope, to hauling systems, to opening beer bottles, the Tibloc will get a great deal of usage. Although micro ascenders are recommended for emergency use, they are getting used for almost every purpose that a full size ascender would be used. Climbers are even using them on big walls.
Back to the story: The sucker turned out to be my buddy Zane. To make a long story short, he struggled up the ropes with slipping slings while we shivered on the ledge. He found that we were only 15 feet off route. He freed the ropes, set up the rappels correctly and we rapped off. I promptly bought myself a Tibloc, and I also bought one for Zane.
The Tibloc Retails at around $25.
John Walter is Climbing Editor at GearReview.com.
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