Self-belay Solo Climbing
WARNING: Petzl has released this Self Belay Solo Climbing Introduction
in which they give a lot of warnings on how to properly use their devices when self-belaying.
Comparing the pulleys on the Petzl Mini Traxion (left) and Micro Traxion (right). The Mini pulley has more volume but the Micro actually has the bigger sheave and is a much more efficient pulley.
We ordered a Mini Traxion from a local gear shop and they accidentally sent us a Micro. I can't say I'm disappointed. In a solo top rope setup rig, the Micro is pretty darn cool. The rope feeds through it very smoothly and we never had any trouble with the device failing. It is extremely small and manageable, straightforward to set up, and the button that locks the rope clamp in place makes it super easy to change into "rappel mode." We found that we didn't even have to remove the Micro from the rope. Just clip into your anchor, lock the rope clamp in the open position, set up your rappel device above the Micro, and rappel. The Micro will slide down the rope easy as pie, and you'll be on your next lap in a matter of moments. First session with this little guy I was able to get in about 20 routes (40-50ft) in a four-hour session.
We initially had some trepidation about the ease with which the clamp can be locked in the open position (we thought that the simple button would allow for the clamp to be inadvertently locked open, creating all kinds of dangerous scenarios from free falling haul bags to free falling solo top-ropers). But after spending some time with the device we think that it would be very difficult to get the clamp in the lock position without meaning to. In order for the clamp to be locked open, you have to depress the button and lift the clamp into the locking position, then release the button. A mistaken locked-open clamp never happened to us, and we can't think of any way that it could. What we did find out about the button is that it is way, way easier to use than the lever, push, tweak action you have to bust out on the Mini Traxion.
One drawback is (as with the Mini Traxion), once the Micro is weighted, there's essentially no hope of loosening the clamp. If you get stuck hanging on the Micro half-way up, you better have a way of escaping the device. Another downside is the price tag: at $125 the Micro Traxion's weight savings will cost you a bit more than the similar, though slightly heftier, Mini Traxion.
Hauling on a Big Wall
The Micro Traxion is our new favorite hauling device. It used to be a hard call between the Mini Traxion and Pro Traxion with a 80-150 pound load. But now we would definitely go with the Micro Traxion. Since we rarely climb with loads more than 150 lb (and encourage you to do the same), the Micro Traxion is what we use 90 percent of the time on a big wall.