abseiling, rappelling

How to Abseil- Clipping in with different rigs (slings, belays, chains)

carabiner, abseiling carabiner, rappelling carabiner

Pictured: Locking Carabiner by GM climbing

Once your group comes across anchors or a belay, time to clip in! It makes sense to girth hitch a brand new sewn sling on your belay loop. You can also use a tie-in to make a tail loop and link it to the bombproof anchors using a locking carabiner.

Make sure to link in between the equalizing points if and when you can. If you can’t do that then you need to at least be clipped onto all the existing anchors. While you are in your rappel, make sure to link to the tail-side of your harness to avoid getting in a tangled mess.

You can also try clipping it to the rope you are using in order to be able to grab the ropes after you hit the ground. If you have to cow-tails in place that is even more ideal so that you can clip the 2 chains at your fixed anchor point.

Many rappellers/abseilers (used interchangeably)  use a daisy chain to girth hitch onto their harness in order to link the anchors. The reason why this is a popular method is because of the adjustments you are then able to make to the daisy chain. However it may be cumbersome and hefty to lug around on the abseil, which is why some resort to just using a sling. Also, do not make the mistake of linking the carabiners to close loops because of the loops fail, then the daisy chain will follow suit.

 

Rappelling/Abseiling Rope- Rigging

Don’t despair, this is easier than you think! If you are not trying to get the ropes back in retrieval then just afix the rope by linking it to the anchors using an 8 knot! When you are rappelling with a fixed rope its typically done with one strand. If you are trying to get the ropes back then all you would have to do is pass the rope through the anchor rings. Make sure middle segments of the rope are set down with anchors. If you are using just one rope then it is only possible to rappel down to about 1/2 of the length of the rope you are using.

Pictured: An equalized figure 8 which helps even the load amongst the anchors

 

If you are trying to accomplish one full rappel in one rig then you will need two ropes. The process is simple..

  1. Pass one of the ropes though the rings
  2. Tie both ropes together using the right abseil/rappel knot
  3. Make sure the knot is as close to the anchors as you can get them so that you have two ropes with the same amount of length in strands. That way you can get distance with your rappel and you will have less fixed equipment strapped to you on your descent.
  4. You will notice that most routes will need two ropes to reach the existing anchors.
    figure 8 rappel, figure 8 rappelling, figure 8

    Pictured: Making a figure 8 with belay

 

How Do I Rig using Chain Anchors?

You will find that on many routes, there are chains affixed to the surface of the boulders, rock, flake, etc. These, in our opinion are way easier than webbing rigs. They are also much easier to use. Make sure to check them to make sure they are bombproof and in good condition. If they pass the test, then go ahead and link into them and pass the rope through the chains. Rigging an equalizer through all three chains would be ideal but it is rare to find that the station gives you this ability. We love chain anchors when you find them because they last much longer than slings or webbing.

So..

 

  1. If there are three chains/bolts in place, Pass the rope rought the bottom link of the chain of the outer bolts.
  2. Avoid using the middle chain link in order to avoid rope drag.
  3. You can use the middle bolt as a backup or to help add to the belay. 
  4. Many bolts you will come across will have only two rigged. In that case you would pass the rope through both

How Do I Rig with Slings?

So, you come across a sling that was previously used and left. What should you do? We recommend inspecting the slings in their entirety while also making sure that the knots are properly configured. Be weary of old nylon as it could easily be damaged animals chewing them or rockfall. They can also be damaged from invisible UV rays. It’s optimal when the rings have the gear fixed (a couple of rings, rapid lins and carabiners)  at the abseil point for simple rope retrieval. Without these rings, rope drag may occur and may eventually rip as you are pulling it down.

You will come to find ugly tangled knots when you come across them at the stations. Most of those who leave a route don’t take the time to untangle the slings. If you cannot figure out the rig, then the best thing to do is remove it and start from scratch. redo the knots and untangle the slings then re-rig. It’s good habit to bring some properly knotted webbing slings with you in your gear in order to add to the stations.

We advise both webbing or cord in order to equalize. They both work great. If you have about 8-14 ft of sling..

  1. Go ahead and pass it through both of the anchors, ultimately tying it off in a loop.
  2. After looping, just pull down on both loops straight down if you are descending.
  3. Once that is done , use a figure 8 to make the abseiling point.
  4. Make sure the angle is less than 60°. If it is more, reinforce more sling.

More on anchors..The X method

Do not forget to figure 8 the knot. If your anchor fails and you forgot to tie it off, tragedy could strike! We found that the most optimal/safest ways to rigging an anchor is to tie separate slings through the anchor and making the necessary adjustments to each of the slings so that you equalize the weight between all the anchors.

If the anchors don’t feel perfectly solid, but seem like they would be able to do the job then make certain the weight is equalized! You do this because you want to bolster of the system in totality! It helps with paranoia too! And the only way to make certain is to find the point where the slings are exactly the same length after tying them off. Think shoelaces!

Also you will want to use the Magic “X” method. The way to do this is to tie the sling into both the anchors and then tug down on the 2 loops. Then, take one of the loops and twist it to about 180 °, which in turn creates the X. Finally, take the rappel rings that you will have in your gear and link them to the bottom of the loops you just created. This is the easiest way to get the lengths of the slings as even as possible. 

 

Without using the X method

magic x method, X method

Pictured: Magic X Method

This is possible but keep in mind if one of your anchor gives out, the ring will slide off and you take the risk in losing your anchor system and possibly your life! The great thing about X is that if, hypothetically you lost one of the anchors, then the second anchor will still be linked. So, we advise to you the X method whenever possible.

You can even use the X on more than two anchors . All you would do is run a sling into the anchors and tug down per anchor, twist all except for 1 to around 180 °. You will lose a little bit of sling length so we recommend using two slings to make this work. Remember the magic X method is your friend so use it often.

Blue Water Perlon

Pictured: Perlon cord by Blue Water

How to Rig with a Cordelette

When you have shared the load equally at all anchor points, utilizing a cordelette will aid in creating a single abseil/rappel point. Cordelette’s are generally created with an accessory line about 5- 7 mm in diameter. We recommend Blue Water  for the strength aesthetic and  cost of those cords. Perlon is the way to go , we wouldn’t go nylon for this application. Also, get about 60M or so and use excess for climbing rope when you are stuck!

So, to rig…

  1. Begin by funnelling cord into the anchors and then tie it using the grapevine knot
  2. Make sure to tug down a piece of cord towards the expected direction of the load. Then tie the strand with a figure 8.
  3. The figure 8 strand is tied off and gives each loop isolation so if one of the loops fail you won’t have complete failure. It also prevents shock from the loading if one anchor gives out.
  4. You need to make sure that the direction is the expected direction so that you give the cordellette the opportunity to equalize
  5. If you add abseil rings, make sure to utilize them into the cordelette point while tying it.

Another method for rigging anchors utilizes less cord. You would tie one side of the sling to the anchor in an overhand knot, funnelling the chord into the middle segment of the anchor while tying the other side of the sling to the third anchor ( if there is a third anchor). Tug down about a foot of cord between the anchors and make sure it is all being funnelled towards the loading . Make sure to tie off the four strips of cord in a Fig-8 in order to make the abseil point.

Double Check!

Make sure either the anchor blocks are perfectly bombproof and in solid working order. If you have any doubts then make sure to use a back up the abseil for all in the group. Make sure to start taking all the heavy gear down with the first abseiler. You want to make sure that the last rappeler is the lightest of the group. Remember, the gear should not bear the weight as the first of the group climbs down, so you are essentially testing the gear on the anchors.Rappelling

Reminder: The last abseiler must remember to take out the backup anchors before descending. It’s not always the most popular turn to go but it is crucial to take the anchors out for future rappelling. If you have any doubts about your anchors then leave the backups in. You don’t want to end up in Accidents column in the AAC Publications. 

 

A point made on Abseil Points

Abseil/rappel ropes are linked to the anchors within a abseil point or rappel point. Best case scenario is that the connection is made with rings or carabiners, chains or rapid links.

Also , you need to really emphasize trying to get the load equal between the anchors in play. we can’t stress this enough. Make sure to use aluminum rings, like NEVER! Reason being is because this aluminum rots and wear away as ropes are funnelled through them .

Double and triple check through and through the entire 360° rim of the rings to make sure this didn’t happen . We would really recommend not using any aluminum if you come across them as they were left behind, but if you must make sure they are coming from you. Also, never abseil using just one ring (aluminum or not) . You should always triple up with rings.

Also..

You will find that some anchors come with no ring attached as the rope would just run through the webbing attached to no other outlet. You can get away with this for the first couple of groups, but as time goes by the rope will wear as the webbing finds a way to get ruined when you are tugging down on it without using rings.

If your route is not a popular destination route then you can leave the rig without rings or chains attached. However, if you are in a spot where it is popular to rappel then we recommend always leaving rings and links or attaching them yourself for others that follow you.

How to extend the anchors?

Petzl Belay

Pictured: Highest rated Belay by Petzl

When you have a situation where the anchors are away from the edge of a cliff, try and stretch them out using a cord or webbing so that your abseil point rests right under that edge or it could be a challenge to get those ropes from the ground once you reach it. Make sure there is an extension! The way to do this is to have two seperate slings running from each anchor to the abseil point. Again it should all happen right below  the edge of a cliff.

Make sure that if the edge has knife-like attributes, tape it off in order to protect the slings. While you have the anchors extended, start to lower yourself before beginning to rappel (since it will feel you have excess to work with). You will notice that the slings really help with leverage while you descend while your abseil device lugs the load. Make sure to use a belay for a backup when you are extending the anchor.

 

Rappelling without leaving gear

Make sure that if you get hit with inclimate weather, headed in the direction of off route, drop loads of your gear, moving like a slug, you may have to start thinking about a bail strategy! Typically the fastest way is to descend down, leaving your gear in the process…but this is the last resort. However, if no abseil anchors are fixed then you will probably have to sacrifice a few but this should be a last resort since anchors are not peanuts cheap. The idea is to leave the least amount of gear. So..

  1. Look for natural anchors first so all you would need to do is lose your web or cord.
  2. Since you are trying to skurry out of there, try and channel the rope into the slings instead of leaving the carabiners or rings behind.
  3. You will struggle pulling the rope down but you can get it done!
  4. If you cannot find any natural anchors , we recommend leaving behind your nuts or cams.
  5. DO NOT RAPPEL ON BAD ANCHORS! If you have to sacrafice even your most expensive gear then do that rather than losing your life.

If you have lots of rappel devices then conserve conserve conserve! You will be glad you have two or more ropes instead of just a solo rope in order to re-rig less at each station.

 

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