Ascender (climbing)

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Two ascenders (left and right handed), left rigged for ascending, right shown open Petzl Ascenders (On Rope).jpg
Two ascenders (left and right handed), left rigged for ascending, right shown open
Ascenders in use on a steep mountain slope, offering the two climbers both security plus an additional aid to their upward ascent. Note that they are not roped together, but are climbing independently of one another. Zumarovani.JPG
Ascenders in use on a steep mountain slope, offering the two climbers both security plus an additional aid to their upward ascent. Note that they are not roped together, but are climbing independently of one another.

An ascender is a device (usually mechanical) used for directly ascending a rope, or for facilitating protection with a fixed rope when climbing on very steep mountain terrain.


Ascenders can also be used as a braking component within a rope hauling system, often used in rescue situations.


Ascenders are usually used in pairs, and offer similar functionality to friction knots, but are faster, safer and easier to use, [1] albeit still with consequences in weight and in security (as ascenders can, even with a locking carabiner, come off the rope, and fail by shredding the rope at high loads, rather than slipping and fusing as with friction knots). A mechanical ascender employs a cam which allows the device to slide freely in the intended direction of movement, but provide a firm grip on the rope when pulled in the opposite direction. To prevent an ascender from accidentally coming off the rope, a locking mechanism or trigger is deployed. The ascender is first attached to the climber's harness by a piece of webbing or sling, and then is clipped onto the rope and locked on.

Ascenders are usually used in pairs, so that one is free to be slid up the rope whilst the other bears the weight of the climber. The ascender which has just been slid upwards is then made to take the climbers load, so locking him to the rope, and freeing the other one so it, too, can then be slid upwards too. The process is then repeated to ascend the rope. [1]

For climbing on with a fixed rope attached for security (for example, to snow anchors on a steep slope) only one ascender is used, keeping the other hand free for holding an ice axe.

Ascenders are not typically used on free climbing routes, where a climber uses his or her hands and feet on the rock, climbing the features, edges, cracks, and pockets that the route provides without artificial aids. Instead, they are more likely to be used in aid climbing. [2]


One such ascender device is a jumar, named for its manufacturer Jümar Pangit, a company in turn named after jumar inventors Adolph Jüsi and Walter Marti. The first iteration of the tool was sold in 1958. The device's name also engendered the verb "to jumar" for the process of using such a device. In jumaring, the second climber (the one who belays the lead climber on the route) uses ascenders to climb the rope instead of climbing directly on the rock. Other terms for this process include ascending and jugging. [3] This process is similar to prusiking, except using an ascender device instead of friction knots.

In his memoir Life Is Meeting, John Hunt, leader of the 1953 British Mount Everest expedition, credits the jumar with enabling climbers "to climb at alpine standards even at high altitudes". [4]

Non-mechanical devices

In place of mechanical ascenders, one or more thin rope slings (or prusik loops) may be used which can be slid along the thicker climbing rope when not under tension. These friction knots will lock under load to enable the climber to use the strength of their leg to step up and ascend the rope. [5] [1] :46–48 Prusik knots are much lighter, but are not capable of taking a dynamic load, such as arresting a falling climber, because they are prone to melting or fusing under such extreme forces. [6]

Single-rope technique

In caving, ascending a rope by means of mechanical devices is often necessary and is the main alternative to ladder use. This is termed single-rope technique. The rock which forms the cave is often wet, slippery, relatively featureless and often unreachable from the necessary rope locations. So climbing the rope may well be preferable to climbing the rock or a ladder, provided that a belay location that provides an ascent has already been found. Although climbers may regard a climb as a challenge to be tackled with minimal aids, cavers are likely to consider it as an obstacle to their progress to be overcome as conveniently as possible, and are more inclined to make use of mechanical ascenders. [7]


The first mechanical rope ascending devices were created by Henri Brenot, and were used in France both for mountaineering and caving as early as 1934. [8]

Jümar Pangit, a Swiss manufacturer located then in Reichenbach (Switzerland), was founded by Adolph Jüsi and Walter Marti. Jüsi was studying eagles for the Swiss government and needed to ascend on ropes in order to perform his work, so Marti developed the ascender for him. In 1958, the first jumar was introduced to the climbing market. This page (archived) gives an overview on the older jumar models. A current model is still in production.

French caver Fernand Petzl developed a mechanical rope ascender in 1968, and his company Petzl continues to produce both handled and handleless models that are popular with mountaineers and cavers today.

Other countries, notably the United States, have also produced rope ascenders. Other names for different styles of ascenders include 'ropeman' and 'tibloc'. [2]

Related Research Articles

Climbing protection is any of a variety of devices employed to reduce risk and protect others while climbing rock and ice. It includes such items as nylon webbing and metal nuts, cams, bolts, and pitons.

Glossary of climbing terms List of definitions of terms and concepts related to rock climbing and mountaineering

This glossary of climbing terms is a list of definitions of terms and jargon related to rock climbing and mountaineering. The specific terms used can vary considerably between different English-speaking countries; many of the phrases described here are particular to the United States and the United Kingdom.

Ice climbing Activity of ascending ice formations

Ice climbing is the activity of ascending inclined ice formations. Usually, ice climbing refers to roped and protected climbing of features such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water.

Rock-climbing equipment

A wide range of equipment is used during rock or any other type of climbing that includes equipment commonly used to protect a climber against the consequences of a fall.

Abseiling Rope-controlled descent of a vertical surface

Abseiling, also known as rappelling, is a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, by descending a fixed rope.

Free climbing Form of climbing not using aid climbing

Free climbing is a form of rock climbing in which the climber may use climbing equipment such as ropes and other means of climbing protection, but only to protect against injury during falls and not to assist progress. The climber makes progress by using physical ability to move over the rock via handholds and footholds. Free climbing more specifically may include traditional climbing, sport climbing, bouldering and most forms of solo climbing. Free climbing a multi-pitch route means free-climbing each of its pitches in a single session. At the end of each pitch, climbers anchor themselves to belay stations where they can rest.

Self-locking devices are devices intended to arrest the fall of solo climbers who climb without partners. This device is used for back rope solo climbing for "ground-up climbing" or "top rope self belaying". To date, several types of such self-locking devices have evolved.

Belaying Rock climbing safety technique using ropes

Belaying is a variety of techniques climbers use to create friction within a climbing system, particularly on a climbing rope, so that a falling climber does not fall very far. A climbing partner typically applies tension at the other end of the rope whenever the climber is not moving, and removes the tension from the rope whenever the climber needs more rope to continue climbing.

Lead climbing Competitive discipline of sport climbing

Lead climbing is a climbing style, predominantly used in rock climbing. In a roped party one climber has to take the lead while the other climbers follow. The lead climber wears a harness attached to a climbing rope, which in turn is connected to the other climbers below the lead climber. While ascending the route, the lead climber periodically connects the rope to protection equipment for safety in the event of a fall. This protection can consist of permanent bolts, to which the climber clips quickdraws, or removable protection such as nuts and cams. One of the climbers below the lead climber acts as a belayer. The belayer gives out rope while the lead climber ascends and also stops the rope when the lead climber falls or wants to rest.

Munter hitch Adjustable knot used control friction in a belay system

The Munter hitch, also known as the Italian hitch, Mezzo Barcaiolo or the Crossing Hitch, is a simple adjustable knot, commonly used by climbers, cavers, and rescuers to control friction in a life-lining or belay system. To climbers, this hitch is also known as HMS, the abbreviation for the German term Halbmastwurfsicherung, meaning half clove hitch belay. This technique can be used with a special "pear-shaped" HMS locking carabiner, or any locking carabiner wide enough to take two turns of the rope.

Prusik knot

A Prusik is a friction hitch or knot used to attach a loop of cord around a rope, applied in climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, caving, rope rescue, ziplining, and by arborists. The term Prusik is a name for both the loops of cord used to tie the hitch and the hitch itself, and the verb is "to prusik". More casually, the term is used for any friction hitch or device that can grab a rope. Due to the pronunciation, the word is often misspelled Prussik, Prussick, or Prussic.

In rock climbing, an anchor can be any device or method for attaching a climber, a rope, or a load above or onto a climbing surface—typically rock, ice, steep dirt, or a building—either permanently or temporarily. The intention of an anchor is case-specific but is usually for fall protection, primarily fall arrest and fall restraint. Climbing anchors are also used for hoisting, holding static loads, or redirecting a rope.

Single-rope technique

Single-rope technique (SRT) is a set of methods used to descend and ascend on the same single rope. Single-rope technique is used in caving, potholing, rock climbing, canyoning, roped access for building maintenance and by arborists for tree climbing, although to avoid confusion in the tree climbing community, many have taken to calling it "stationary" rope technique.


An autoblock is a rope device used in climbing and caving for both rappelling (downward) and ascending (upward).

Pit cave Cave with significant vertical passages

A pit cave, shaft cave or vertical cave—or often simply called a pit or pot ; jama in South Slavic languages scientific and colloquial vocabulary —is a type of cave which contains one or more significant vertical shafts rather than being predominantly a conventional horizontal cave passage. Pit caves typically form in limestone as a result of long-term erosion by water. They can be open to the surface or found deep within horizontal caves. Among cavers, a pit is a vertical drop of any depth that cannot be negotiated safely without the use of ropes or ladders.

Grigri (climbing)

A GRIGRI is an assisted braking belay device manufactured by Petzl designed to help secure rock-climbing, rappelling, and rope-acrobatic activities. Its main characteristic is a clutch that assists in braking under a shock load. The success of this device has led to grigri becoming a common name for devices of this type. In 2011 a new version, the GRIGRI 2, was released to replace the original 1991 model. Petzl released the GRIGRI + in 2017, adding safety features to the original design, and 2019 saw the release of an updated version of the device, simply called the GRIGRI.

Belay device Mechanical piece of climbing equipment

A belay device is a mechanical piece of climbing equipment used to control a rope during belaying. It is designed to improve belay safety for the climber by allowing the belayer to manage their duties with minimal physical effort. With the right belay device, a small, weak climber can easily arrest the fall of a much heavier partner. Belay devices act as a friction brake, so that when a climber falls with any slack in the rope, the fall is brought to a stop.

Big wall climbing Type of rock climbing

Big wall climbing is a type of rock climbing where a climber ascends a long multi-pitch route, normally requiring more than a single day to complete the climb. Big wall routes require the climbing team to live on the route often using portaledges and hauling equipment. It is practiced on tall or more vertical faces with few ledges and small cracks.

Figure 8 (belay device)

The figure 8 belay device is a piece of metal in the shape of an 8 with one large end and one small end.


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