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 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).
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 clipped into and out of 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 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 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?
Ease of use?
- The twin gate is easy to use with one hand and get onto and off the harness.
- 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.
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. more than my usual HMS SG alloy carabiner).
Did the Vlad solve the problem?
- Yes. There is no more tri-loading and crowding of the master carabiner. The offset D shape 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.