Certifications for climbing equipment can be wonky and confusing. Often climbers find themselves seeing a certification on a product and in general trusting that the device is safe to use. The danger in this is that each certification is specific to a test and a situation for that device, and a climber’s use may fall outside of what is considered ‘acceptable’ by any given cert. Essentially, even if your climbing equipment has a certification number stamped on it, it doesn’t mean it has been tested to do what you use it for. This is why it is important to take a quick look at certs and what they say about how we use our gear.

"Even if your climbing equipment has a certification number stamped on it, it doesn’t mean it has been tested to do what you use it for."

Ascenders are one type of climbing gear that can be particularly confusing when it comes to certifications, as there are multiple types of devices, and thus multiple certifications for different applications. The UIAA and EN refer to this group of devices as Rope Clamps and certify them to do different tasks in that area. These different certifications can VERY BASICALLY be thought of in 2 groups: stuff for static loads only (EN 567), and stuff that can also catch certain falls (EN 12841). The EN certifications of these tests rely greatly on the UIAA developed test and are generally used interchangeably, so an ascender marked with UIAA should be expected to be tested in the way we describe here.

Certification Static Strength Pull Test – 3 mins. 100Kg Dynamic Drop Test – Anchor force ≤ 6kN 100Kg Dynamic Drop Test – Breaking force ≤ 3kN Descent Velocity Test
EN 567 4kN
EN 12841:A 15kN X X
EN 12841:B 4kN X
EN 12841:C 12kN X X
EN 12278 15kN

This table more clearly displays just how different these certifications are and highlights the importance of knowing what gear you use and why. Below we will break down the testing methods for each cert and what they say about how an ascender is tested and intended to be used by the manufacturer.

EN 567:2013 (UIAA 126) – Static Loads Only

It is not uncommon to see climbers using devices only marked EN 567 as part of a lead rope solo setup, but you might find it a surprise that this is a certification built for products used in a static situation, meaning no part of the testing process involves catching a falling object. It dictates that the device has a static holding power of 4kN (and is cycled 4 times in this test) but does NOT include testing the device to arrest a fall of any kind.

Trango Passport Closeup
The Trango Passport ascender is only rated EN 567 and is not tested to hold a fall.

A product marked EN 567 is described as a rope clamp device and is tested ONLY to be used to capture progress in one direction on a rope or webbing and even then it has only held 4kN. Many devices that have passed this certification are ALSO tested to pass other certs, but it is a good thing to note that a device having this certification alone is not tested to catch or hold a fall, and is made to be be used in conjunction with another device that is.

This designation is most commonly seen on devices made to trail along fixed safety lines or to hold onto weight in a progress capture situation like gripping the rope when hauling loads. These types of rope clamps are used to focus tension or grip onto lines in rigging and rescue work where other systems are in place to secure people in case of fall.

The Petzl Tibloc is rated EN 567 and it functions best as a rope grab, but can be used to climb a rope in an emergency.

The Grandwall uAscend is an EN 567 rated ascender often used for top rope soloing. It is not tested to catch falls.

EN 12841:2006 – Static, Dynamic and Descent in One Cert

This certification has three types (A, B & C) and can get quite complicated. The reason for the three types has to do with the broadness of the category of rope clamps. Some are made to function as a safety backup (A), some for manually climbing a rope (B), and some for descending it (C). The confusion starts with the fact that devices often are made in such a way that they can have 2 of these distinctions (A/B, A/C, or B/C). For our purposes in what we usually refer to as ascenders, we’ll focus a little more on A and B. This cert can get a bit muddy so let’s start by breaking down each sub category.

The back of a Turbochest with certification markings
The back of a CAMP Turbochest chest ascender shows the EN required markings of certifications.

12841:A (or sometimes 12841/A)

Ascenders marked 12841:A are certified and tested to hold a static pull of up to 15kN AND a dynamic fall up to 6kN. An important thing to note about this certification is that this is the only complete test of static and dynamic forces on a SYSTEM in this category; every other cert in this category ignores the anchor and focuses solely on the device itself.

More specifically, the 15kN pull test ensures that the device can grab the rope and support a large amount of force, and the fall test makes sure the device doesn’t let go AND does not transfer more than 6kN of force to the anchor. If you are expecting a device to catch a fall safely, it is important to keep the strength of your anchor in mind, and this is the only certification in this class that takes this into account.

A fall arrest device in a common use.
Beal Monitor fall arrest device in use. Photo courtesy Beal.

12841:A is almost always seen in a device designed for work at height in a professional setting, and is unlikely to be a device a climber would pick up at a local gear shop or climbing website. Think window washers, cell tower climbers and arboriculture, where discrete systems with few but robust devices work together under fairly strict safety standard guidelines. Since WeighMyRack doesn’t categorize professional use equipment, we do not currently list any devices that carry this certification on our ascender page.

12841:B (or sometimes 12841/B)

This certification tests a device to hold a static pull of 4kN, and to catch and hold 100kg before being pulled and held at 3kN without failing. This certification is most commonly seen on hand ascenders and devices that are expected to be a piece of a larger system rather than used as a stand alone piece of PPE (personal protection equipment) like 12841:A.

One often overlooked difference between this cert and 12841:A is that nowhere in the fall test is there a mention of force on the system, but rather that the device mustn’t fail to hold the rope up to 3kN AFTER the fall has already been caught. The forces that a falling body or bodies can generate is a very large subject fraught with opinion and more than we wish to cover here, but it is fairly well understood that a standard whip with a hard catch can easily generate forces at or above 3kN. This is all to say that a device rated 12841:B should not be considered a single piece holding your life if falling is at all a potential.

12841:B is the most common cert in ascenders and is likely the thing you think of when using the word, ‘ascender.’ These are often used for jugging ropes and will hold your weight or trail behind you (or on your chest) on a top rope solo climb, but are not at all designed to catch the forces generated in a roped solo (lead) fall.

The back side of a Kong Lift Ascender
The Kong Lift hand ascender is certified EN 567 and EN 12841:B which can hold 4kN and catch and hold 3kN, respectively.

EN 12841:C

The third piece of this certification specifically covers devices designed to control descent. Similarly to 12841:A, recreational climbers are very unlikely to encounter descenders of this type as they tend to be large, heavy and designed to be used in work at height situations. They also are expensive or hard to purchase without industrial business relationships with manufacturers. Where 12841:A covers moving upward and catching falls in very controlled environments, 12841:C is tested to hold 12kN, catch an emergency fall of 3kN, and tested to not overheat and still function after 50m of rope have passed through it under weight.

EASY_ACCESS_2F720_use03-800x800 1
A certified descender being used to lower 2 people. Image courtesy Climbing Technology.

The main takeaway for this type of gear is to be able to work completely hands free and transition to a controlled descent. While most climbers wouldn’t have a reason to seek out devices with this designation, there are some cases such as route setting or route developing where a device like this can come in handy. We don’t currently list descenders on WeighMyRack as they tend to be segmented to the professional side of the industry, but this may change as climbers needs continue to grow to include these situations.

What 12841 Says About Use Case

Put simply: A piece of gear rated 12841:A is tested to be able to catch a fall of 100kG without stressing the anchor more than 6kN and not letting go up to 15kN, where 12841:B is tested to catch a fall of 100Kg and not let go up to 3kN. This is why pretty much every device designed to function as a backup or fall arrest will be rated 12841:A, and a device meant solely for progress capture (think hand ascenders) will often only be certified 12841:B. Finally 12841:C is designed primarily to hold and lower weight in a controlled way but can be used to ascend as part of a frogging setup.

12841:A

  • Rated to catch falls generating forces up to 6kN at the anchor
  • Rope adjustment, safety backup for rescue/work at height
  • Not always available in gear shops

12841:B

  • Not rated to catch more than 3kN
  • Jugging ropes, backups, rope grabs, chest ascenders
  • Highly available, most common cert for rope clamp devices

12841:C

  • Rated to descend rope and hold 15kN
  • Controlled descent of rope and hands-free for rigging, work at height, routesetting, photography
  • Fairly uncommon to climbing shops/websites

A Bit on Pulley Certification and Rope Grabs

EN 12278:2017 (UIAA 127)

This cert covers devices that function as a weight rated pulley. While a pulley may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of ascending a rope, the muddy waters of climbing gear often have strange overlaps and this one in particular is quite common. The most common type of rope clamp to utilize this cert is what most climbers refer to as a capture pulley, most often used by big wall climbers and guides to haul gear and people to a fixed anchor.

The Edelrid Spoc is rated EN 567 and it functions as a rope grab, but also has a UIAA rated pulley which is tested to hold 15kN of force when used as a pulley.

Though capture pulleys have their own set of features, functions and certifications, we list many of them in this gear type because they share certifications with these devices, so are made to at least partially function in similar ways. For example, a device with a one way capture pulley can easily pass the EN567 cert to be considered a rope clamp, and so also functions as a backup ascender. For simplicity it is best to think of ascenders with this cert to be rope clamps with pulleys as a feature.

One important thing to note is that this pulley certification should not be confused with ascenders that have rollers (that can look just like a pulley) added to them for ease of use in hauling or feeding situations. EN 12278 specifically ensures the pulley can handle 15kN of load, and rollers are not certified at all.

The Climbing Technology Quick Roll is a EN 567 and 12841:B rated ascender which has a built-in roller (that looks like a pulley) that is NOT rated to hold any amount of weight and should only be used as mechanical advantage in a hauling setup.

The Many Certifications for Ascenders All Have Their Place

Though this is article is not entirely exhaustive, we’ve gathered the information we think is most useful for climbers and included additional contexts to hopefully broaden the understanding of how we use these devices. Regardless of your intent to use a rope clamp or ascender, knowing more about each of these certifications will help you know how it is designed and tested with your use in mind. To help with further comparisons we list each of these certifications as part of the technical specifications on each ascender on WeighMyRack and have filters for each type to help you find the ascender you want.