Used to be if you wanted to work a route, you had to find a partner willing to belay your sorry butt for hours. Now many top (hang)dogs are replacing their belay slaves with the Petzl Mini Traxion, a swing-sided, one-way pulley that can be used for hauling, Tyrolean traverses and toprope self-belay on ropes from 8 to 13mm. In Yosemite, the Mini Traxion has become the favored device to practice crux pitches on big walls. Valley locals also use the Mini Traxion on crags such as the
Cookie to bust out circuits without all the annoyances of climbing with other people. I used the MT this fall to brutally wire my projects and impress my peers with flawless style on the send. Sweet!
I found that the Mini Traxion easily slid up the rope with me as I climbed and clamped down when I fell or weighted it. Problem is, you can’t easily release the Traxion to go down, so you only get one shot at each move. Also, because the Traxion hangs between your thighs like a steel nutsack, when you fall you drop a foot or so onto it. This wasn’t so much a safety issue as a psychological one, and, prior to launching into a crux move, I learned to manually pull the Traxion up the rope, eliminating even the short fall. Before you tie in with this mechanical partner, thoroughly study the technical information included with the Mini Traxion, which clearly delineates do’s and don’ts. In addition, the device must be monitored while you are climbing to make sure it doesn’t flop around and cross-load the carabiner. I recommend using a foolproof backup, like tying into knots or using an extra ascender, until you dial the system.