SRTE versus Petzl Stop Descender


Peter Freeman

My descender is an SRTE single-rope single-brake Stop. I selected it four years ago based on published reviews, as I had at that time no SRT experience. Fortunately, it has proved a sound decision.

A few weeks ago I used a Petzl Stop for the first time, when Chalky, Lynne and I went for a practise session in the open at Staughton Vale. I was pleasantly surprised – the Petzl’s handle operation felt very nice and I had no trouble with slippage when stopped. However, we WERE using thick rope (11mm IIRC). Slippage on thinner, wet and muddy ropes is one persistent complaint about Petzls, whereas with an SRTE you NEVER need to lock-off, even if you want to dangle while taking photos, halt for a rebelay or any tricky manouevre, or whatever.

When Chalky mooted buying two sets of SRT training gear for the club (now done), we discussed whether they should include Petzl or SRTE stops (there was NO doubt that they should be STOPS of some kind, rather than racks, etc). We concluded that they should be Petzl, as with most of the other items, simply so that we could say that VSA trainees were learning on world-industry-standard equipment. We reserved that our recommendation when trainees came to buy their OWN kit might well favour something else.

However, Chalky advises that in fact he has purchased SRTE stops, based on several tests he performed with the Petzl. It seems that the slippage problem is alive and well once away from thick, dry, clean ropes. The SRTE, by contrast, even on its factory-default adjustment, will stop securely on 8mm cord (yes, we have tried it in cave, safely!).

I suppose the choice depends on your intentions, and also weight. A small caver who doesn’t plan to push the envelope will probably do well on a Petzl. For most, an SRTE would still seem best, to me. The authoritative cave rescue manual (LOAL) recommends against either of them for rescue loads (200Kg).