Vlad to help

Vlad to help – a replacement for the master carabiner

Back in November 2018, I decided to purchase a Grivel Vlad and put it on my harness to see if it was going to be a useful addition.

To give this article context I am talking about canyoning. However, it could equally apply to climbing, abseiling, instruction as well as backcountry rescue scenarios. Any time you need anchor station organisation for multiple clip ins.

According to the manufacturers, the Grivel Vlad is:

An innovative combination of a rigging plate and a carabiner

Evolution of the traditional solution, which requires two carabiners plus the rigging plate, making a long chain from the belay point.

One piece, lighter, cheaper, closer to the belay point.

It keeps everything aligned in the right direction.

By the numbers

  • Length 120mm
  • Width 82mm
  • Opening 15mm
  • Lengthways rating 30kN
  • Open gate N.A.
  • Cross loading 12kN
  • Weight 90 g. (3.2 oz.).
  • Max load 27kN (Written on the device is the max load of 27kN with arrows pointing outwards from the three holes and carabiner).
Vlad max loading 27kN
Vlad max loading 27kN

The Problem – the master carabiner

When I get to an anchor station (usually bolts) the first thing to do is put in a carabiner – ideally not into the main abseil/belay point. Then several things are clipped in this such as a cows tail, safety line, pack or anything else. The reasoning behind this is for the organisation. Everything gets clipped into and out of this one carabiner.

Master Carabiner
Master carabiner with multiple clip ins – safety line, pack and cows tail

While this is an efficient way to rig the main issues I see is tri-loading and crowding the carabiner. 

The carabiner can easily be tri-loaded, that is, pulled from three different directions. The is especially true for canyoning where you often have a safety line attached from the side. Any loading away from the spine of the carabiner reduces its strength.

Even if tri-loading is not occurring, any more than two additional things clipped into the master carabiner is going to crowd it. As I said above, any loading away from the spine of the carabiner reduces its strength.

The Solution – if only the carabiner had lots of holes

I had thought about using a small rigging plate however this never seemed to me to be a good solution. You need to have an additional carabiner and for hangers, the rigging plate ends up aligned at 90 degrees to the rock.

Along comes the Vlad.

There is enough stuff on my harness already, I don’t need another shiny bit of gear. So I took off a rigging carabiner and replaced it with the Vlad. Would I use it? Did the Vlad work as I had hoped?

Vlad clipped into the top bolt of an inline anchor – cows tails attached
Vlad sits flat against the rock – aligns the carabiners at 90 degrees
Vlad used to rig side by side glue in anchors – pack and cowstail attached with a quickdraw joining the anchors
Vlad clipped into one bolt of a side by side linked anchor – cowstails attached.

My conclusions

Ease of use?

  • The twin gate is easy to use with one hand and get onto and off the harness.
Vlad one handed operation
Vlad one-handed operation

Compatibility?

  • The Vlad has a narrow profile and fits into the bolts most of the time pretty well.
  • Sometimes getting the wire gate through the hanger can be tricky; however, once through the rest of the carabiner follows.

Wear and tear?

  • As the Vlad is usually attached to bolt hangers, it has got a hard time especially in the top of the carabiner. Also along the lower edges that have scraped along rocks when on the harness.
Vlad wear and tear
Vlad wear and tear

Strength and weight

  • The Vlad has an excellent overall rating of 30kN which is more than required for most situations.
  • The Vlad is only 90grams (4 gr. heavier than my usual HMS SG alloy carabiner).

Did the Vlad solve the problem?

  • No more tri-loading and crowding of the master carabiner. The offset D shape locates the carabiner to keep loading along the spine.

Usefulness?

  • I have field trialled the Vlad on around 15 canyon trips, on a two-day canyon rescue workshop and over 17 hours on a deep cave rescue SAREX.
  • I use the Vlad multiple times every time I go out. Four months on its still on the harness is now part of my permanent kit.

Grant at Over The Edge Rescue.