When it comes to rappelling, two things remain constant. One, you will need rope to guide you through the terrain. Secondly, you will need someone to do the rappeling! That’s it! You may be thinking, what about the anchors, harnesses and other equipment? Well, those are all good practices to utilize, however one can use his/her own bodyweight to gather enough friction needed to descend down a rappel pitch.
|#1||Petzl - Cordex Plus||° Ergonomic cut for high dexterity|
° Built in carabiner hole
° Double layer abrasion resistant
|#2||CMC- Rappel Harness BLK||° Size fits all/Snug build|
° Front web tie-in loop allows for silent connection point to avoid clanging carabiners
° Low-profile contrasting stitching to make inspection easier
|#3||SRC- Sterling Wicked||° 1 packet per rope/20 packets|
° environmentally friendly/biodegradable wash solution
|#4||PMI Bokat Rope Washer||° Simplicity of use|
°Effective with built in brush
°PVC housing is made of flexi-vinyl hinge for durability
These types of rappels are known as body rappels. These types of rappels are not for the novice and should be used with major amounts of caution. That being said it is an excellent idea to learn how to use them early in your rappelling career. It will teach you to be fundamentally sound when it comes to body leverage and will help with the longevity of your ropes. Also, there will be times where your experience harness or anchor failure and will be. Make sure to practice these body rappels with extremely short drops at first and use only a belay.
The Dülfersitz body rappel is the most common body rappel. These are the steps when performing a Dülfersitz:
- Run the rope in between your legs
- Wrap it around your hip line
- Take it across your chest, making sure that you are using the opposite shoulder
- Wrap across the back and grip it with your braking hand
- Begin to gradually and diligently back over the edge making sure the weight distribution is over the balls of your feet
- Continue down the rope at a slow pace so that you avoid rope burn
- As you travel, make sure that you keep your balance hand steady and that it stays your balance hand and does not become the panic hand for utility anywhere else
You will descend in a controlled fashion by how strong your grip is holding onto the rope via your breaking hand. However, you can add additional friction by coiling the rope around your breaking arm a few more times. The idea is to keep your arm as straight and as stiff as possible. You also want to make sure to keep your braking arm is not tucked close to your body, rather keep it away from your body. Reason being, you can break it if you stop suddenly on the descent as it will be pulled behind you!
Again we advise learning body rappelling for emergencies only! Do not implement the Dulfersitz or any other body rappel for routine rappelling. You run the risk of also damaging nerves that run along the shoulder line since you are putting your entire weight/load on it. Temporary paralysis of the muscle can also cause you to fall to your death!
There have been instances when the Dulfer had been performed in emergency situations only for the rappeler to end up hospitalized. Make sure that if the time calls for a body rappel, to be wearing your gloves (Petzl makes excellent leather gloves specifically for rappelling), using a double rope system and taking it very slow on the descent. Make sure you have enough, but not too much, padding around the regions where the rope touches the body, especially around the shoulder and hip lines.
How do I perform an Australian body rappel?
The Australian is similar to the Dulfer except the rope gets coiled around the forearm and not across the shoulder line and you are facing outwards from the edge. This is not easy to pull of for paranoia reasons since you will be facing down to the ground. You can technically perform the Aussic facing the rock, but you will not get the same effect. The Aussie is used in many tactical applications. They are typically less unpleasant to use than the Dulfer but don’t typically work as well when there is an abundance of rope weight beneath the rappeler.
There is also a method to where you can use a seat harness coupled with a carabiner to make it less arduous on the body. You would channel the rope through carabiner, over the shoulder line and lowered to the braking hand. A body rappel with seat harness is recommended before all others.
What are some other ways to body rappel?
The ones we’ve mentioned so far are helpful in emergency situations. There is one method, the Tarzan method, that strips away the weight distribution along your upper body and moves it down to one leg! This is tremendously dangerous to pull off. You would essentially be coiling the rope around one leg, using its friction to slide down, with no other means of controlling the line. Practice this on an indoor wall at short distances. It is harder than you think!
Some really good body rappels are the Arm wrap body rappels! In this rappel, the rope is coiled around a single arm, channeling it under the same armpit, then along the back and finally around the braking arm. Make sure you use the braking arm as a directional appendage to your next station or destination! Make sure you do not forget to run the rope under your armpit because if it only runs over your shoulder line, it might end up around your neck like a nuce! Ouch!
Typically Arm wraps are used when descending down sharp and elevated drops. However, you can use them for long distances but be very very careful! You do not want to rappel in pain and endanger yourself, ever! Rope burn aside, your balance arm may be thrown to the side or upward on your initial drop over the edge. If you want your shoulder socket to stay in place, become very proficient before attempting!
Make sure you are wearing clothes that cover your body and sleeves that protect you from rope burn. If you are journeying to “far away from home” places, the last thing you need is to infect yourself from rope burns. These burns have known to cause infectious death, so take the proper precaution. You want to stay stress free throughout the journey. Protect your skin!
Be aware of where you are rappelling from, specifically the edges of cliffs. You want steady ground, not loose gravel edges or broken ground.
How do I care for my rope?
At the beginning of the article we mentioned that rope is essential when you rappel. It is important not to overlook maintaining your ropes for the life of its use! If you use your lines appropriately then care for them, they will rewards you with long lastingness! If you plan on doing a lot of body rappelling, this next part is crucial…
Always remember never to let your rope glide onto sharp edges and avoid too-rough of a terrain. Never pull on your rope if you feel it is stuck on a rough surface. You will ultimately break the mantle and kern fibers which can spell disaster! Make sure to use a edge protector, especially on rough edges to avoid cutting. Make sure to also avoid dirt and grit which will eventually make its way into the kerns and become abrasive to them. Avoid stepping in puddles with your rope and never jump or step on it for any reason.
Most ropes, especially synthetics can be washed gently with lukewarm water and a rope wash ( We use Sterling, avoid bleach!) Avoid using hot water over 130° F. Luke warm water does just as good a job as hot and you will avoid damaging the rope. If your rope is globbed up with mud or grit, we suggest using a rope washer (PMI works well). All you would need is a hose to hook it up to and you would then slide the rope into the washer. To dry the rope, rinse it thoroughly then just dangle it over a clothesline or somewhere where the rope can hang and drip. Avoid kinking the rope when you are washing it.
Why does my rope feel powdery after washing?
Rope manufacturers use a special kind of oil so that the ropes are less abrasive when put into their weaving systems. This also acts to sustain durability for the rope by keeping the kern fibers smoother and less prone to abrasion.
How should I store my rope when not using?
Keep your ropes in a dry place away from sunlight and chemicals. Even moth balls can overtime, affect durability in your rope. Get a hold of some Polyethylene or cloth bags and neatly tuck them away in those! Do not leave dangling over a nail to avoid rot! Loosen all the knots and press out any kinks before storing away.
Should I mark the middle of my rope?
Yes indeed you should! It is critical to know where the middle of your rope is, especially when you are rappelling! Reason being is that you should always be cognizant of when the rope ends will be at the same height and distance, especially using a dual line. Your statics will need to be marked in the middle since they are produced in continuous and different sizes with no marker. If you are using a U.I.A.A. approved line, it is mandatory for the manufacturer to mark the middle with a cloth or other indicator. Many times the color will change at the halfway point to make life easier for the rappeler.
Make sure of there is cloth tape on the rope does not come off and isn’t too rough to mess with the mantle fibers. We advise against using paint because the paint can act to strip the nylon over time. If you insist on using paint make sure that it reacts well to the type of rope you are using. You can also use certain dyes like Rit to mark the middle.
Can I fix my stripped rope end back to new?
You should not allow for the rope fibers at the ends to shred open and fray. If this happens you will lose rope strength on the ends and that is never good. The traditional way of securing the ends is by coiling thread around the frayed area. However, we suggest melting the ends using a torch (not a lighter), searing through using a blade. The ends should be seared. As you torch, begin shaping the end off so that it is a smooth finish and tinier in diameter then the rest of the rope.
Word of Caution: If you are using a natural rope, we would prefer you use tape to wrap it instead of torching, since natural rope tends to char when burned. Keep in mind that if you do tape it to secure that tape. If it not secure it will be difficult to push the rope through the rope protectors we hope you plan on using! If you know how to you epoxy, soak the ropes in that instead of the tape method.
How do I unkink my rope?
Most descenders are built to keep ropes from kinking. However, ropes will eventually kink, especially laid line.
You can manage the kinkage by hanging the rope on a high anchor system, allowing the rope to free and twist on itself. You can also try whipping it around to speed up matters. If you wash your rope in a standard washing machine, you will inevitably find your rope to be kinked, eventually. In this case, allow for the rope to dry then press the kinks out of it before storing.
How should I handle my ropes?
How to release or “pay” a stored rope depends on where you are storing it.
The most standard way to prepare for storage is your basic coiling method. Reason why this is tried and true is because your not kinking or bending the line at sharp angles. At right-laid, begin to coil in a clockwise fashion! If you are left-laying the rope, then you want to use a counterclockwise direction. Most kernmantle line can be coiled whichever way you prefer. Letting down the line is termed for when you are ready to uncoil and use! We advise that you uncoil before tossing over and down a cliff to avoid issues. You are not Indiana Jones and this is not Raiders of the Lost Arch! Coiled line will get tangled and will cause you headaches!
Remember: Totally let down the line before throwing it over. After you uncoil it by hand then you can toss it over using the right techniques.
Variations of the basic coil..
You can also coil your line using the Swiss Coil method. To perform:
- Grab the rope with one hand at its center point
- Begin to wind into a short rounded, flat coil
- Make sure that both ends of the rope are wound multiple times around the top portion of the coil
- Finally take then ends and channel them through the top of the loop. You should have about 5-7 ft left of each end loose over the top of the loop
Again, do not toss over until you completely release the Swiss. We like this coil method because you can take the loose ends and tie it around your waist and neckline, around your torso with the coil hugging your back like you are carrying a book bag.
Another method is called the Butterfly coil which we like for its simplicity and ease when ready to let down. To perform:
- Create slip knots
- Take the end (should have only one) and channel it through the last slip loop. You will have essentially created a half hitch
To release, all you would do is uncoil the last loop, use one of your hands to hold onto the end of the rop and toss the chain over the edge. If done properly, it would not even get tangled in a heavily dense tree. Use a bag to carry the coiled butterfly around. Make sure the slips are not tied too firmly. You will notice sharper angle bends in the rope so we do not suggest storing it for long periods of time this way.
A word on storing in bags…
Ropes are actually “Faked” or rolled into a cloth bag. You should do this gently so that you avoid kinks. Once you get the rope in the bag, simply roll it into a tight bundle while keeping the end of the rope outside of the bag. You don’t want to just stuff the rope into a bag because you run the risk of tangling. When you are ready to take the rope out of the bag, simply keep the rope inside bag, hold the end of the rope with one hand, and toss the bag over the edge.
We advise not to pay out the line before you begin to rappel. Strap a bag to your waistline or one of your legs and pay the rope from your bag while you rappel. You can even use your pants to fake a line if you do not have a cloth bag handy. Make sure to fasten a cord around the lower portion (near the lip of your shoes/boots) so that your line doesn’t fall out from under your pants. Fasten the end of the rope to your harness, in case the rope isn’t long enough to make it to the ground level or next station. Rappel on!