The Best Progress Capture Pulley or Ascender for Solo Self Belay Toproping

by Robert Beno and Chris McNamara
Saturday November 3, 2012
We put three options to the test in the Solo toprope world and pitted them against each other to see which device would be the best for your Solo TR adventures. We used the same rigging for each device, and climbed each of them on a multitude of climbs. We took into account the following factors:

Click to enlarge
Petzl Micro Traxion
Credit: Erisa Coppernoll
  • Ease of rigging
  • Ease of change-over to Rappel
  • Size, weight, bulk, sexiness
  • Ease of rope feed
  • Overall Bomberness (a technical term)= how quickly the device engaged, if it ever failed…etc…
  • Price

In the end, each device worked well for a self belay, but there can be only one Solo TR king.

To test, we used the rigging system described in our SuperTopo article How To Set Up A Self Belay for a Solo Toprope, with 3 different devices on miles of varying vertical terrain ranging from low angle 5.7 to overhanging 5.11+. We scrutinized each product and compiled a review based on the information we were able to gather.

We tested three different devices head-to-head: Petzl Micro Traxion, the tried and true Petzl Mini Traxion, and the Wild Country Ropeman 3 ascender.

While each of the devices that we tested worked as a self-belay for solo top-roping, we found the Micro Traxion to be the most well suited to the task due to it's light weight, small size, smooth feed, and ease of change over from climbing to rappelling. The only caveat here is that the Micro Traxion is also the most expensive.

A close second is the classic Mini Traxion. Favored for its originality, treasured for its solid performance, revered for its cash savings over the Micro Traxion. The Mini Traxion was not quite as smooth on the rope feed, and the clamp is a bit more difficult to lock in the open position, but the $10 worth of extra beer you can buy is probably worth those minor inconveniences.

Wild Country's Ropeman 3 is a solid little device. We can see it being useful in a lot of rescue and guiding applications, but for the purpose of Top Rope Soloing we found it to perform just slightly below the other contenders.

NOTE: the term "progress capture pulley" is clunky but the best we could think of. Many people often refer to all devices as "Mini traxions" or "Mini traxioning" because the Petzl Mini Traxion is the device that started the rapid growth of toprope self belaying.

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Robert Beno and Chris McNamara
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C Blank · Climber · San Francisco, CA  Jun 27, 2012
04:30pm PT
One thing also that is much better about the Microtrax is that it's harder to get it to lock open accidentally.
KSK82 · Climber · Anchorage, AK  Aug 7, 2012
10:18pm PT
How did rope damage, if any, from falls compare? One reason I like the Ropeman is because it doesn't destroy my rope.
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