Vlad to help – a master carabiner

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. The Vlad could be helpful as a master carabiner for anchor station organisation for multiple clip-ins.

There are often many things clipped in at an anchor station such as a cows tail, safety line, packs and operational items such as releasable systems and passing bends.

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. 

According to the manufacturer, 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).

The Problem – the master carabiner

When I get to an anchor station (often bolts), the first thing to do is put in a master 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 attached to this one master carabiner.


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 (towards the gate) 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.

Before I get going on the Vlad I am interested to see how much of an issue the Carabiner Master Point is by undertaking some testing.

triloading and crowding a carabiner
triloading and crowding a carabiner

Carabiner Master Point Testing

The testing used the CT Snappy Screw Gate (23kN major axis, 10kN minor axis, 9kN gate open, 112 x 73mm, 86g, 22mm gate opening) which is a larger sized HMS/pear shaped carabiner. This size of carabiner is usually carried for the purpose of a master point. 

Note: batch-test from manufacturer 23.76kN

Crowding carabiner

  • 23.52kN (average 3 tests test)
  • Broke at gate pin on all 3 tests as shown in the picture below.
  • Tested at Aspiring Safety, 60mm/minute, 60 Hertz
  • Tested between 12mm steel Mallion Rapides (75kN)
CT Snappy crowding carabiner
CT Snappy crowding carabiner

Tri-load 45 degrees

  • 23.68kN (average 3 tests test)
  • Broke at gate pin on all 3 tests as shown in picture below.
  • Tested at Aspiring Safety, 60mm/minute, 60 Hertz
  • Tested between 12mm steel Mallion Rapides (75kN) and 10mm steel Mallion Rapides (55kN) 
CT Snappy triload 45 degrees

The Solution – if only the master carabiner had lots of holes

I had thought about using a small rigging plate in place of a  master carabiner; however, this never seemed to me to be the right 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 a master carabiner.

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

Vlad Testing

The construction of the Vlad (which is different from the picture shown on the Grivel Website) has reinforcing bars that join the rigging plate eyes to the spine of the carabiner.

VLAD reinforcing bars

While not stated by the manufacturer, the construction suggests multi-directional loading would be suitable. This testing is provided for your information only.

Tri-load 45 degrees

  • 36.69kN (one test)
  • Tested at Aspiring Safety, 60mm/minute, 60 Hertz
  • Tested between 10mm steel Mallion Rapides (55kN)
Vlad testing triload
VLAD triloading result 45 degrees
VLAD triloading result 45 degrees break

Cross load rigging plate holes

  • 45.53kN (one test)
  • Tested at Aspiring Safety, 60mm/minute, 60 hertz
  • Tested between 12mm steel Mallion rapides (75kN).
VLAD cross loading test
VLAD cross loading result
VLAD cross loading result break

My conclusions

Ease of use?

  • The twin gate is easy to use with one hand and get onto and off the harness. However, it does take a few practices to get your fingers and brain to interact appropriately.
Vlad one-handed operation


  • The Vlad has a narrow profile and fits into the bolts most of the time pretty well.
  • Sometimes getting the wire gate (only a 15mm opening) 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

Strength and weight

  • The Vlad has an excellent overall manufacturers rating of 30kN, which is more than required for most situations.
  • Initial testing of multi-directional loading (tri-36kN/cross-45kN) has resulted in max force over the manufacturers Vlad rating (Note: limited testing – 1 test per variation)
  • The Vlad is only 90grams (4 gr. more than my usual larger HMS screw gate alloy carabiner).

Did the Vlad solve the problem?

  • Yes and No. 
  • Yes – the Vlad performs better during testing than the master carabiner. 
  • No – There was no significant reduction in breaking strength of the CT Snappy in tri-loading and crowding of the master carabiner using metal components.
  • The offset D shape of the Vlad locates the carabiner to keep loading along the spine.


  • 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.

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