With their increased efficiency and consistent all-weather performance, mechanical ascenders have almost eliminated the need for traditional prusiks for aid climbing, complex haul systems and emergency rescue. And while all ascenders are capable of moving up a fixed rope, models specifically designed for particular climbing situations are likely to be more efficient and easier to use.
Some things worth considering before choosing an ascender include:
Comfort and ease-of-use are critical elements in ascenders used for big wall climbing and difficult aid. Consider how the ascender fits the hand and practice removing it from the rope. Any difficulties encountered on the ground will be magnified after 10 pitches of jugging on the big stone.
On big walls or during unexpected emergencies, ascenders that do double-duty in a hauling or rescue system are ideal. Spend time learning how to rig these set-ups before leaving the ground.
Weight and Size
Although their compact size compromises usability for extended jugging, small, lightweight ascenders are perfect for emergencies and take up little space in a pack or on a harness on long free routes.
Most ascenders work with a wide range of rope diameters but climbers using super-thick or ultra-skinny ropes should first check the manufacturer’s rope-compatibility recommendations.
Here are five ascenders suitable for almost any climber’s needs:
This classic ascender receives some smart updates for improved safety and comfort. Instantly noticeable is the new, wider, grippy and more comfortable handle – perfect for long days of jugging. The new cam is a less obvious, but very significant upgrade, minimizing friction on the upstroke without compromising grip on iced-up or muddy ropes. Finally, the frame now shields the cam trigger, reducing the chance of accidental opening.
Black Diamond nForce
The nForce’s innovative linkage system transmits more clamping force than traditional ascenders, ensuring security on icy or muddy ropes. This powerful new clamping mechanism doesn’t damage the rope, as the cam uses a less aggressive tooth profile. The large handle accommodates gloved hands, while the massive clip-in hole allows full rotation of beefy locking biners. The unique trigger cam opens with a traditional thumb-push or a slick trigger-finger movement.
Petzl Mini Traxion
The mini Traxion exemplifies Petzl’s knack for producing innovative hardware that solves classic climbing problems. This all-in-one self-jamming pulley is ideal for hauling light loads, ascending fixed lines or solo toproping. The efficient pulley minimizes wasted energy when hauling, while the aggressive and carefully sculpted cam eliminates slippage on icy or muddy ropes. For specialized hauling situations, disengage the cam and transform the Mini Traxion into a simple, free-moving pulley.
Wild Country Ropeman MK2
Easier to use than traditional prusiks and lighter than full-size handled ascenders, the MK2 is ideal for any emergency rescue or hauling situation. The durable, cast stainless steel cam provides a secure grip on all ropes without adding unnecessary weight of or bulk.
With no moving parts and a feathery weight of just 39 g, the Tibloc eliminates any excuses climbers may have for not carrying emergency rescue gear. Paired with a round or oval stock carabiner, the Tibloc is an efficient emergency ascender or simple self-jamming pulley.