I’m a self confessed gear junky. I love to play with shiny things and we all love a rope trick or two. I also like looking good when I work, image is important as a first impression can be the difference between a days work and no work. All vanities aside, I think that a professional instructor should be equipped with the most up to date equipment available and of course the knowledge of how to use it! You can imagine how excited I was to read that Petzl were planning a re-release of the Croll and Basic early 2013. I was also mildly worried as historically there had been little change to the design of what was arguably an already excellently functional pair of products.
I managed to get my hands on one of the new Croll ascenders as they hit the shelves and have just acquired a new Basic literally as Hitch N Hike unpacked their shipment from Lyon.
I’ll start with a look at the Croll.
2013 Petzl Croll
Like the Basic, the last major design change in the Croll was when they went over to plastic safety catches from the metal ones. Since then we’ve only seen some small cosmetic tweaks. As you can see above the the 2013 Croll (right) is a complete redesign on the previous model. It looks as though Petzl have done a ground up redesign with a completely new set of parts and with an eye on size and weight.
The previous versions of the Croll weighed in at 130g, the 2013 is a featherweight 90g.
Usefully, the 2013 Croll is small enough to stir your coffee with if you are unable to find a spoon nearby.
The safety catch although small is easy to operate, one handed installation and removal from the rope is just as easy and smooth as prior versions. With the cam being smaller a shorter action is required to disengage the safety catch making the process faster but in no way less secure.
The attachment holes are well sited and allow the Croll to sit flat. I have used mine with a Torse chest harness and found they make a perfect combination, as I’d expect from 2 products from the same manufacturer. I’d recently had issues with an Anthron AC-30 chest ascender as the use of a Torse interfered with the clean running of the rope.
The main change apart from size is the addition of a stainless steel plate inside the rope groove. Although it does not cover the entire rope contact surface it shields the frontal portion where most heavy wear is generated as the user leans back on ascent. The stainless steel insert should improve the lifetime of the 2013 Croll, especially for cavers operating in digs or where there are a lot of fixed, gritty ropes.
I had a test of the Croll down Oxlow Mine recently and we used a mix of rope types and diameters, some very supple and some stiff and fat. After the initial bit of step and pull, the rope runs as smoothly through the Croll as it ever did, with no twisting or feeding issues.
In summary then, in producing the 2013 Croll, Petzl has taken a much loved and hugely popular item of equipment and completely redesigned it. A bold step but one that appears to have completely paid off. Petzl’s updated documentation for the Croll can be found here.
The 2013 Basic is the newest piece of kit to hit the shelves from Petzl. Just like the 2013 Croll it has had a complete redesign. I will probably sound a bit like a parrot here repeating lost of stuff from the Croll comparison but I’ll be as brief as possible.
Again the Basic has been on a diet, dropping from 135g to a skinny 90g. If you were to make the switch from the previous jammer versions to the 2013 ones you’d save a total of 85g, that’s the equivalent of a 3rd jammer in your pocket. You could even stop your New Year diet 0.19lbs early or not feel guilty about bringing that extra bag of Haribo underground.
Just like the 2013 Croll, the Basic has shrunk. Perhaps not to the same degree as the Croll but the unit feels noticeably more compact in the hand, not to mention comfortable.
The upper section of the Basic is now fitted with a gentle curve and a matching section of plastic. These changes fit my hand like a glove, feeling comfortable with a left or right handed grip. I may however find it a little harder now they are so easy to hold to coach efficient technique with out over reliance on arm strength.
Another big change is the loss of the double hole at the top. In the past we have been able to build pulley-jammers or mechanical advantage SRT systems by placing a karabiner through the top holes and capturing the rope. This is no longer possible on the 2013 version but have no fear, Petzl have thought of that and given us the solution.
The new lower attachment point is double size, allowing 2 karabiners to be clipped in.
The previous version of the Basic allowed us to clip into the top attachment holes for use in tyroleans, pulley systems and rescue:
The 2013 version allows us the same versatility but with a simpler, single attachment point:
The only use that the Petzl documentation indicates for the top attachment hole is to add weight to help reset a z-rig hauling system. You should probably read Petzl’s documentation if you don’t understand that.
The final big change to the use of the Basic is involving pulley-jammer setups, the kind of hauling and rescue technique that an instructor first learns. The new advised method is arguably simpler to arrange and easier to learn. It does however require an extra krab over the previous method.
I intend to spend some time hauling weights on this arrangement but I really expect no loss in function over previous techniques.
Although it may take users a little while to adjust to the new method of use, I think that the 2013 Basic is a good addition to the Petzl family and combines nicely with the Croll to shrink both the size and weight of the average SRT kit. I think that I could remove my new Basic and 8mm footloop assembly and put it in my pocket between pitches.
One moan (well it can’t be all singing Petzl’s praises), bring back the bright colours! I love my new Basic but I know that one day I’ll drop it in a puddle or sump whilst I’m sorting my harness out and because of its stealth colour I’ll not be able to find it again. Give us a choice of tactical colour for the bandit runs and military users but lets have some red, purple, orange or lime greens for the people who don’t wish to blend in!
Interestingly, neither the 2013 Croll or Basic are listed as having a breaking strength or working load limit. The closest we get is the advice that for industrial users Petzl do not recommend the use by anyone over 100kg.
I think this reflects the attitude where the jammers are not placed in situations that require them to hold more than a person’s weight and high load scenarios like traverses and rescue have specialist rigging kit. The issue we may have with this is in a spare rope rescue scenario where we pick off a caver from one rope and accompany them to the floor on another rope attached via a Basic or Ascension jammer. Petzl has an online tool to advise people over 100kg how to use the equipment and that appears to show that correct use of a Croll (i.e. no fall factors!) will be fine with larger loads. For an Ascension it suggests increasing the shock absorbency of the attachment point, i.e. using a dynamic safety link or a cowstail as is widespread in Europe.
I’d still like to see some figures from Petzl for 9mm and 10mm rope to confirm that we can continue to use the Basic in the above way. I don’t expect any loss of strength but it would be comforting to know for sure.
Finally, with all this lovely new lightweight and compact kit coming to our shores, when can I expect a nice redesigned Stop descender?