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The 5 Best Ascenders of 2024

We tested all types and brands of ascenders to help you decide which one is best for your upcoming adventures
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Best Ascender Review (We tested a variety of ascenders to figure out what works best in different applications.)
We tested a variety of ascenders to figure out what works best in different applications.
Credit: Ethan Newman
By Ethan Newman, Steven Tata & Chris McNamara  ⋅  May 21, 2024

The Best Ascenders for 2024


Looking for a new ascender for your next vertical adventure? Our team has decades of big wall and rescue experience and has tested over 20 of the best ascenders side-by-side. This comprehensive review compares 13 of today's top options, offering you expert advice on which one is best for different situations. Our team field tested all of these products, climbing big walls in Yosemite and Zion, using them for rescue training on glaciers, and as top-rope solo devices at crags. We examine key components, like how easily an ascender slides and clips, how much it weighs, and how versatile it is for multiple uses. Whether you're seeking a mechanical model to clean routes on a big wall or a lightweight option for glacier travel and crevasse rescue, our in-depth review has you covered.

Editor's Note: We recently repurchased and retested all of the ascenders in our lineup and updated this review on May 21, 2024, to highlight new award winners.

Top 13 Ascenders - Test Results

Displaying 1 - 5 of 13
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Awards Editors' Choice Award   Top Pick Award  
Price $79.00 at Amazon$89.95 at Backcountry$78.69 at REI$90 List
$74.89 at REI
$97 List
$74.50 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Trigger can be manipulated by thumb or index, easy to clip on and off rope, slides well, comfortableComfortable hand positions, lots of clip-in points, retracted trigger is protected by housingLightweight, comfortable to grip, lower connection point fits multiple carabinersLightweight, can be used as a chest ascender, bottom clip-in accomodates two carabinersVersatile as a pulley, very positive lockout, works with webbing, teeth don't fuzz rope sheath
Cons Not the lightest option, could include more clip-in pointsTrigger is awkward to feather, middle clip-in point grinds when ascending over protrusionsNot everyone loves the index finger grip, doesn't slide as easily as others, relatively expensiveLess comfortable than handled models, larger than other basic ascendersAbove average sliding resistance, doesn't grab as quickly as other devices, only works well with oval carabiners
Bottom Line Whether or not the line is weighted, this is the easiest ascender to use thanks to an innovative triggerThis comfortable, handled ascender is a go-to for big wall ascentsA time-tested, handled ascender whose reliability makes it a fan-favorite for big wall climbsA compact, lightweight ascender that's versatile enough for ascending or haulingWhile this is a relatively versatile device, it doesn't stands out in any particular application
Rating Categories Black Diamond Index Edelrid Hand Cruiser Petzl Ascension Petzl Basic Climbing Technology...
Ease of Sliding (30%)
10.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Clipping (25%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
5.0
Versatility (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Weight (15%)
5.6
5.7
6.6
8.6
8.7
Comfort (10%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Specs Black Diamond Index Edelrid Hand Cruiser Petzl Ascension Petzl Basic Climbing Technology...
Rope Diameter 8-13 mm 8-13 mm 8-13 mm 8-11 mm 8-13 mm
Measured Weight (grams) 207 201 167 87 83
Style of Device Handled Handled Handled Basic Capture Pulley
Applications Ascending Ascending Ascending Hand or chest ascender Ascending, hauling, toprope soloing
Multiple Clip-In Points? Yes, plus a small one for cord or quicklink Yes Yes Yes No


Best Overall Ascender


Black Diamond Index


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Sliding 10.0
  • Clipping 9.0
  • Versatility 7.0
  • Weight 5.6
  • Comfort 8.0
REASONS TO BUY
Trigger can be used with either thumb or index
Super smooth to slide
Simple to operate
REASONS TO AVOID
Few clip-in points
Handle is only moderately comfortable
SPECIFICATIONS
Measured Weight (grams) 207
Rope Diameter 8-13 mm
Style of Device Handled
Applications Ascending
Multiple Clip-In Points? Yes, plus a small one for cord or quicklink

The Black Diamond Index edged out the competition to take the top spot for a handled ascender. While it might have fewer features than some of the other models we tested, the star feature is that the trigger can be used with either your thumb or index finger. At the beginning of an ascension pitch, there's usually not enough weight below the device to easily pull the rope through. But with this trigger, plus the lighter spring in the cam, you can easily disengage the cam and smoothly slide the device up an unweighted rope. This design is especially helpful when this device is being used as your bottom ascender, but of course, it's just as comfortable to slide above your head, too.

Even though it's our favorite, we do think that this ascender could be improved in a few ways. Firstly, it's not the lightest fully handled ascender – even though big walling is hardly an ultralight endeavor, each ounce adds up on a full wall rack. If weight is a major concern, we suggest the Petzl Ascension, one of the lighter handled ascenders on the market. While some other handled ascenders have space for multiple carabiners, the Index has only one carabiner hole and one quick-link hole at the bottom of the handle. Being able to clip ladders and a tether to the bottom of the ascender is convenient and avoids the chain of carabiners you often end up with in big wall systems. These critiques aside, we love how well the Index ascends a rope and particularly appreciate the ability to manipulate it with either hand easily.

ascender - we loved the trigger on the black diamond index, which is the only...
We loved the trigger on the Black Diamond Index, which is the only one we could manipulate with our thumb or index finger.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Best Bang for Your Buck


Petzl Tibloc


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Sliding 8.0
  • Clipping 5.0
  • Versatility 7.0
  • Weight 10.0
  • Comfort 4.0
REASONS TO BUY
Ultralight and compact
Affordable
Simple
REASONS TO AVOID
Can only be used with certain carabiners
Less reliable on skinnier ropes
SPECIFICATIONS
Measured Weight (grams) 34
Rope Diameter 8-11 mm
Style of Device Capture Pulley
Applications Emergency ascending, hauling
Multiple Clip-In Points? Hole for keeper cord

While we probably carry the Petzl Tibloc as plan A for a big wall, it is always on our harnesses as a plan B. This ultralight, affordable ascender is incredibly versatile – our lead tester often carries one or two on the back of their harness, just in case. Weighing only 34 grams, it's about the weight of a small wire-gate carabiner, so we never notice it on our harness, even when it's commonly racked with an autoblock and a small knife as a small emergency kit. While the old model had a bad habit of fraying the sheath, especially on skinnier ropes, this newer Tibloc incorporates a small, spring-loaded, plastic arm to depress the carabiner, reducing the chances of it skittering down a weighted rope. This simple, mechanical device is uber lightweight and works well in a variety of circumstances, including ascending and even hauling in a pinch.

While the Tibloc is incredibly useful, there are some downsides. It's reliant on a round-stock carabiner to effectively bite the rope – the skinnier the rope, the more important the thickness of the carabiner becomes. If you are working with a skinnier rope, it helps to “set” the Tibloc before weighting it to avoid it shuddering down your rope, causing minor (though always unnerving) sheath wear. Of course, you can always sidestep these issues by opting for a capture pulley designed for small-diameter ropes, like the Edelrid Spoc. Since the Tibloc is entirely dependent on the accompanying carabiner for a handle, keep in mind that there's no real way to grab the device while ascending. However, as an ultralight device you can always carry for use in a pinch, the Petzl Tibloc is a no-brainer.

ascender - the petzl tibloc is lighter than most carabiners, so we ended up...
The Petzl Tibloc is lighter than most carabiners, so we ended up keeping it on our harness along with our prussik loop and small knife, as a little self rescue kit.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Our Favorite Basic Ascender


Petzl Basic


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Sliding 8.0
  • Clipping 8.0
  • Versatility 7.0
  • Weight 8.6
  • Comfort 7.0
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable for a handleless ascender
Fits two carabiners in the bottom hole
Works well as top-hand or chest ascender
REASONS TO AVOID
Less comfortable to grab than handled models
Not as compact as other basic ascenders
SPECIFICATIONS
Measured Weight (grams) 87
Rope Diameter 8-11 mm
Style of Device Basic
Applications Hand or chest ascender
Multiple Clip-In Points? Yes

The Petzl Basic is far and away our favorite basic, handleless ascender. Although it's a fair bit bigger than other comparable models, it really isn't any heavier. The bottom hole can fit multiple carabiners, so you can tie into both a tether and a footloop, which is incredibly convenient. We also really like the shape: it was comfortable in our tester's hands yet kept our thumbs away from accidentally disengaging the cam, which can be an issue with ascenders of this design. Although we didn't test them together, you can use the Basic with a Petzl Croll to have a pair of right and left handleless ascenders – a nice option to significantly pair down your gear, depending on your objective.

While they might not be specifically marketed as such, handleless models are commonly used as chest ascenders when clipped into a chest harness. The Basic works decently well in this way. But usually, the shorter the device, the more comfortable it is in this capacity – a device like the Kong Futura Body is going to be a better option if you're looking specifically for a chest ascender. And for long days of wall following and cleaning, we'd recommend a handled model, like the Edelrid Hand Cruiser, for comfort. But for lightweight missions that only include some jugging and hauling, the Petzl Basic is an excellent option.

ascender - using the petzl basic for a &quot;fix-and-fire&quot; first free ascent of a...
Using the Petzl Basic for a “fix-and-fire” first free ascent of a new route on Mount Kinesava in Zion National Park.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Most Versatile Device


Petzl Micro Traxion


72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Sliding 7.0
  • Clipping 6.0
  • Versatility 9.0
  • Weight 8.9
  • Comfort 5.0
REASONS TO BUY
Ascender and progress-capture pulley in one
Useful for all kinds of situations on a big wall
Cam is protected by housing
REASONS TO AVOID
Not comfortable to grab
Expensive
Lockout is easily popped
SPECIFICATIONS
Measured Weight (grams) 79
Rope Diameter 8-11 mm
Style of Device Capture Pulley
Applications Ascending, hauling, toprope soloing
Multiple Clip-In Points? Hole for keeper cord

If there's one ascending device we're likely to rack on our harness for any long multi-pitch climb, it's a Petzl Micro Traxion. We've used this device as an ascender, as a capture pulley in a haul system, as a part of a top-rope soloing system, and for crevasse rescue. This utilitarian device even works reasonably well as an emergency ascender, especially when clipped directly to the belay loop in a 2:1 setup (when set up with an active assisted-braking belay device, it is sometimes referred to as a “photographer's ascending setup”). We appreciate the small, thoughtful design features of the Micro Traxion, such as the small hole for a keeper cord and the fact that the profile is thin enough to work with any carabiner.

When using the Micro Traxion as a hand ascender, our testers tended to grab the carabiner clipped to the device. Although this “works”, it sure isn't the most comfortable way to ascend a rope. Even though the lockout button is flush on the frame, it is still easy to pop open if you're grabbing this device directly – if you're going to be doing a lot of jugging, we'd suggest a hand ascender, like the Index, instead of relying on a capture pulley device like this one. While our testers found tons of uses for the Micro Traxion – including as part of a fix-and-follow method for efficient climbing – even we admit that it's expensive. While it's not our favorite as a dedicated ascender, it's easily one of our most used tools on our harnesses.

ascender - the petzl microtraxion and edelrid spoc are close contenders for our...
The Petzl Microtraxion and Edelrid Spoc are close contenders for our favorite progress-capture pulley. The Spoc is a touch lighter, but the Micro Traxion grabbed the rope a little better when loading at odd angles.
Credit: Ethan Newman

An Innovative Ascender for Photographers


Climbing Technology Quick Roll


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Sliding 6.0
  • Clipping 8.0
  • Versatility 8.0
  • Weight 4.2
  • Comfort 8.0
REASONS TO BUY
Great for going up and down the rope
Eliminates a carabiner for 2:1 systems
REASONS TO AVOID
Not very versatile
Heavy
SPECIFICATIONS
Measured Weight (grams) 261
Rope Diameter 8-13 mm
Style of Device Handled
Applications Ascending, hauling
Multiple Clip-In Points? Yes

At first glance, the Climbing Technology Quick Roll seems a bit gimmick. But as one tester put it, “If I was a climbing photographer, this is the ascender I would buy.” Rigged in conjunction with a belay device like the Petzl Grigri, it makes for a very efficient 2:1 setup to go up or down the rope at will. Additionally, cavers will likely find the Quick Roll useful to rig a foot loop for a rope-walker setup thanks to an integrated pulley.

But because of this added pulley feature, the Quick Roll is somewhat cumbersome compared to other handled ascenders, even compared to similarly heavy ones like the Grivel A&D. This design is also not nearly as versatile as other ascenders we tested, so we wouldn't necessarily recommend it for everyone. However, if you're specifically looking for a setup to quickly switch back and forth between ascending to descending, then the Quick Roll is certainly a tool worth considering.

ascender - you&#039;re always managing a lot of gear on a big wall. add in extra...
You're always managing a lot of gear on a big wall. Add in extra photography equipment, and it can all be a bit much. The Quick Roll simplifies this system just a little bit, allowing you to ascend and descend with ease.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
83
Black Diamond Index
Best Overall Ascender
$85
Editors' Choice Award
82
Edelrid Hand Cruiser
$90
79
Petzl Ascension
$105
78
Petzl Basic
Our Favorite Basic Ascender
$90
Top Pick Award
73
Climbing Technology Roll n' Lock
$97
73
Edelrid Spoc
$100
72
Petzl Micro Traxion
Most Versatile Device
$145
Top Pick Award
71
Grivel A&D
$80
70
Petzl Tibloc
Best Bang for Your Buck
$55
Best Buy Award
69
Kong Futura Body
$77
69
CAMP Solo 2
$90
68
Climbing Technology Quick Roll
An Innovative Ascender for Photographers
$106
Top Pick Award
44
Wild Country Ropeman 2
$60

How We Test Ascenders


We tested each of these ascenders while climbing thousands of vertical feet of rock on famous routes like The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite and Moonlight Buttress in Zion. We used them on fast-and-free ascents, on multi-day big wall sieges, practicing our systems at our local crags, and even to help develop new climbing routes. Through the combination of real-world testing and close examination – based on decades of combined experience – we evaluated each model according to a set of key metrics that we consider when selecting a new ascender.

Our testing of ascenders is divided into five performance metrics:
  • Ease of Sliding (30% of overall score weighting)
  • Clipping (25% weighting)
  • Versatility (20% weighting)
  • Weight (15% weighting)
  • Comfort (10% weighting)

Why Trust GearLab


Chris McNamara, Steven Tata, and Ethan Newman tested these ascenders primarily for big wall and rescue applications. Chris has completed over 70 ascents of El Capitan, while Steven has climbed El Cap a comparably small – but still wildly impressive – nine times. Ethan primarily climbs in Zion, where he has established a number of grade V big wall climbs. All three are experts at self-rescue with extensive experience climbing all over the world.

The Petzl Ascension is an excellent tool to have on the wall. They...
The Petzl Ascension is an excellent tool to have on the wall. They kept us happy while climbing Tangerine Trip on El Capitan.
If you&#039;re eyeing hundreds, or thousands, of vertical feet of rope...
If you're eyeing hundreds, or thousands, of vertical feet of rope above you, it's worthwhile investing in a comfortable ascender, like the BD Index.

Analysis and Testing Results


Unlike a harness or shoes – where you can assess sizing and fit in a store – there is no easy way to test ascenders short of purchasing or borrowing them. It takes some practice to adjust to each different model, and while all of them are easy to use after some time, each is handy for a particular application. It is helpful to consider the opinions of experienced climbers who climb in similar terrain rather than make a judgment based on marketing claims alone. Our expert team purchased, field-tested, and examined each of these ascenders based on an objective set of metrics. After extensive testing, we are confident that this review of ascenders is the most comprehensive one available.


Value


Like many pieces of specialty climbing gear, ascenders are expensive. We want to ensure that we're purchasing the right piece for the job and that that piece of gear is designed to last us for years of adventure. While we closely examine key performance metrics, we also take into consideration versatility and overall value. While sometimes the best gear is the most expensive, when it comes to specialty gear, that's often not the case. Our overall favorite handled ascender, the BD Index, is less expensive than directly comparable models. On climbs other than big wall ascents, we're often carrying an ascender as an emergency backup. As one of the smallest, lightest weight, least expensive, and most utilitarian options on the market, there's really no reason not to carry a Petzl Tibloc. While it's far from our favorite ascender, even a low-scoring option like the Wild Country Ropeman 2 is worthy of your consideration, especially if you're just looking to carry an ascender as a backup.

ascender - although it isn&#039;t our first choice for all applications, the petzl...
Although it isn't our first choice for all applications, the Petzl Tibloc is still the best ascender money can buy.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Ease of Sliding Up the Rope


Big wall climbing is a battle of attrition, with each inefficiency adding up over each foot gained up the wall. The less efficient an ascender slides, the more tired you'll become, and the less likely success is as an outcome. If the ascender slides up the rope easily, you'll move faster, use less energy, and travel upwards more efficiently.


Our assessment of this metric is largely based on using these ascenders while climbing, but we also wanted to back up our experience with a more objective measurement. Ascenders typically have an easier time sliding up ropes under tension, so we progressively weighted the same rope by adding carabiners to the bottom until the ascender slid up without also lifting the rope and carabiners.

ascender - the bd index slid up the rope among the easiest of the ascenders we...
The BD Index slid up the rope among the easiest of the ascenders we tested.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Of all the devices we tested, the BD Index and Edelrid Hand Cruiser performed the best, smoothly ascending with only a lightweight locking carabiner at the end of the rope. All of the devices in our review were able to easily slide with three big lockers – a total weight of 246 grams (approximately 0.5 pounds) – or less. The notable exception was the Ropeman 2, which has a hellaciously strong spring and took a full ten carabiners – 820 grams (1.8 pounds) – tied to the end of the rope before it would slide without friction.

ascender - the petzl ascension is an excellent workhorse ascender, with an...
The Petzl Ascension is an excellent workhorse ascender, with an ergonomic handle and comfortable high hand position.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Clipping On and Off a Rope


No ascender is intuitive to use at first; it takes practice to be able to quickly clip them on and off the rope. Handled ascenders traditionally feature a comfortable thumb lever on the cams that enables convenient one-handed operation, while the easiest models include a trigger that you can use with your index finger. Basic ascenders and capture pulleys often require two hands and take much more practice to clip and unclip with just one hand.


We also like devices that include a keeper loop or some other means of keeping it clipped to something when removing it from the rope. Dropping gear on a big wall can be catastrophic to your efforts and dangerous to other parties below. To test each ascender's ease of use, we simply clipped and unclipped each ascender many times over the course of a climb.

ascender - the teeth on these trigger loaded devices is what allows the...
The teeth on these trigger loaded devices is what allows the mechanism to bite into the rope. Some are grabbier than others and have a harder time releasing.
Credit: Chris McNamara

All of the handled ascenders scored well in this metric, but the Index is a bit easier to use than the others. While all handled ascenders are designed as right- or left-handed, the Index can easily be unclipped with either hand, regardless of orientation. Out of the handleless options, the Petzl Basic is the easiest to use one-handed and you can keep a carabiner on it while clipping and unclipping. The Kong Futura Body and CAMP Solo 2 also worked reasonably well for the same reasons. Even though progress-capture pulleys like the Climbing Technology Roll n' Lock and Edelrid Spoc generally require two hands to operate, we were at least able to unclip them while the cams were still clamped to the rope.

ascender - when you reach the top of a pitch, the bd index is incredibly easy...
When you reach the top of a pitch, the BD Index is incredibly easy to unclip and move above the anchor. These small moments of efficiency really add up over the course of a full-day or multi-day ascent.
Credit: Ethan Newman

One thing we did like about the Petzl Tibloc and Micro Traxion is that they have small holes specifically designed for 2mm keeper cords to help prevent dropping the devices – the Ropeman 2 has a pull wire on the cam that serves the same purpose. Even though the Spoc doesn't include a dedicated hole, it does have several places where you could easily attach a keeper cord without interfering with the device. While these details may seem small, these touches prove to us that these devices have been thoughtfully designed by experienced climbers and rescuers.

ascender - though it took a bit of practice, we were eventually able to clip...
Though it took a bit of practice, we were eventually able to clip and unclip the Futura Body with only one hand.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Versatility


While we intend to use these devices primarily as ascenders, there are only so many tools one can take up a big wall, so versatile devices are extra handy. Many of these devices can be applied in a wide variety of applications, including ascending, hauling, self-belaying, and more. The more ways one can practically use one of these ascenders, the higher the score.


The Petzl Micro Traxion is at the top of our list as a true Jack-of-all-trades. Not only can you use it for a wide variety of applications, but it performs reasonably well in all of them. It never slips as an ascender, it hauls comfortably, and it works well as one of your two top-rope solo devices. While we greatly appreciate the similar versatility of the Roll n' Lock, this device only works well with certain carabiners.

ascender - the micro traxion and spoc are similarly utilitarian. for weight...
The Micro Traxion and Spoc are similarly utilitarian. For weight savings, the Spoc is nice. But we ended up preferring the Micro Traxion for it's lockout, slightly more efficient pulley, and more protected cam.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Hauling With an Ascender


Ascenders – basic-style ones, in particular – can be incredibly useful to use in big wall hauling systems. As described in the now-famous Chongo 2:1 system, we prefer ones with a slightly shorter frame, like the CAMP Solo 2, to lengthen the throw of a haul setup.

Interestingly, the Grivel A&D includes a unique slot in the frame of the device to be used as a rappel plate. It's mostly designed for mountaineering expeditions up fixed ropes, as the rappel plate feature doesn't create enough friction for a vertical rappel, even with multiple lockers. While not exactly ideal for big wall climbing, it would be very useful on a snow slope. The “A&D” in the name stands for “ascend and descend”, as the Grivel A&D is one of the few handled models we tested that is specifically designed for descending fixed ropes.

ascender - technically, you can rappel with the grivel a&amp;amp;d, but it didn&#039;t...
Technically, you can rappel with the Grivel A&D, but it didn't really offer enough friction for steep terrain, even with several carabiners clipped.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Weight


Weight is not a significant factor when choosing an ascender for big wall climbing – we're hauling enough gear as it is – but it can play a larger role in choosing one to leave on your harness for self-rescue applications. Capture pulleys are particularly helpful for ascending a rope or setting up a rescue system in an emergency. We weighed each ascender straight out of the box to confirm manufacturer claims.


The Petzl Tibloc is far and away the lightest, most compact device we tested – it is almost half the weight of the next lightest ascender. It's the one we never really notice hanging off the back of our harnesses, and we often keep it clipped with a prussik loop and knife. The Edelrid Spoc is also impressively lightweight and a little more versatile relative to its weight. As far as fully-handled ascenders, the Petzl Ascension is quite light compared to similar models and might be a good pick for alpine walls where a mix of features and weight is paramount.

ascender - as an emergency ascender, it&#039;s impossible to beat the size and...
As an emergency ascender, it's impossible to beat the size and weight of the Petzl Tibloc.
Credit: Ethan Newman

Comfort


Since big wall terrain is inhospitable and often uncomfortable, small differences – like the comfort of a handle – can make a big difference in climbing performance over a multi-day ascent. After climbing thousands of vertical feet with these devices, we're confident in our assessment of which designs cause hot spots or any other uncomfortable straining of our hands.


Obviously, the handled ascenders are the most comfortable to use, but the Edelrid Hand Cruiser really lives up to its name. Not only is the handle comfortable, but the angle at which the ascender grabs the rope puts it in a far more ergonomic placement than other comparable devices. Additionally, the folded metal on top creates another very comfortable hand position that easily allows for two-handed use of a single ascender or changing grips to avoid blisters. If it fits your hand well, the Petzl Ascension's index finger horn is great. But otherwise, it uncomfortably separates your fingers, which is what some of our testers experienced.

ascender - compared to other handleless options, the petzl basic was...
Compared to other handleless options, the Petzl Basic was comfortable enough to use as a primary ascender.
Credit: Ethan Newman

For non-handled models, the Petzl Basic is a comfortable, compact ascender. The molded plastic part of the housing fits comfortably in our palms, which was a nice break from other full-metal designs. With the CAMP Solo 2 and the Kong Futura, we had to be very careful how we grabbed the device so as not to accidentally disengage the cam, which was a bit worrying and less comfortable for more than one reason. Most of the emergency ascenders and progress-capture pulleys are too small to grab – rather, we tend to hold onto the carabiner that is clipped to the device, which isn't particularly comfortable for more than a single pitch.

ascender - chris mcnamara jugging up the first pitch of south seas, el capitan.
Chris McNamara jugging up the first pitch of South Seas, El Capitan.
Credit: Corey Rich

Conclusion


Although they will all get you up a rope, each ascender we cover in this review fills a unique niche. Ascenders are crucial tools for big wall climbing applications and can be very helpful for recreational climbing, where you may need to self-rescue in the event of an accident. Handled ascenders are invaluable for moving up fixed lines and are a massive step up from the traditionally used friction hitches. Basic ascenders can be called upon for myriad uses, as can small capture pulleys, which are particularly useful to always carry in case of an emergency. From glaciers to big walls, as you continue to develop your rope work, undoubtedly, you will find more than one use for a top-quality ascender.

Ethan Newman, Steven Tata & Chris McNamara