So..If you think heavy duty ropes don’t rip, you’re in for quite a surprise! Hopefully it doesn’t happen as you are out rappelling. Be cautious if you are using rope left behind. You do not know how the rappeler before you managed/stored their ropes. Some people store things with no sense how items react to other items. If you have an old car battery nearby and it is seeping acid onto the rope, it can be disastrous.
Point being, keep your ropes stored in a safe area away from everything else. They are your babies! Treat them like lifelines because that is truly what they are. Don’t jump on them, cut them without intent and make sure to never have them laying around any chemical substances. The best way to take care of them is to get them stored in a bag (We really love how the Notch bags hold up for years!), storing that bag in a cool dry area. Make sure when you are lugging your ropes around to use a tarp or bag. Keep them away from the sun and if they need to be cleaned, then clean them. Use a rope washer at home which links to the hose.
We recommend marking up the ropes when you are rigging one-rope rappels. Simply take a permanent marker to mark the middle sections. Some ropes on the market come with these marks in the form of tape or a secondary cord that wraps itself around the cord. However, keep in mind these do not last long (usually just a few pitches), as they wear down with use.
Rope Rigging Kink
Unfortunately ropes tend to kink after enough use. This will really take a toll on your management and time. To reduce the amount of kinking, we recommend rolling them as if you are removing them off a spool instead of flaking them out. Take a step further and avoid munter hitches, mountaineer’s coils all together.
Once you notice the core (usually a white color), time to throw the rope away . Do not take any chances and do not be a cheapskate when it comes to your life! If you fall in the lead position or if you see any spots in the rope that look suspicious, time to get rid of the rope! We also recommend throwing away any ropes older than 3 years of age!
What Kind of Ropes to Look for When Rappelling
You want ropes made of kernmantle construct. Reason we go with these is because the core adds strength and the sheath does a solid job of protecting the core of the rope. The OPG lines are excellent. Again, don’t skimp and get the highest quality for the highest chance of not hurting yourself. They are solid for lead climbing.
Make sure to use ropes only for what they are made for, ascension and descension. Don’t play tug of war with your friends with them!
Static ropes– Great for rappelling as they have a stretch property aren’t too stretchy. DO NOT lead with these ropes. EVER. We only go with Singing Rock for our static ropes. They are the best on the market in our opinion.
When the objective is to fix the line to climb up (ascend rather then descend) or when you are trying to pull off multiple rappels, then we suggest using a static rope such as SR. Reason being is because they don’t stretch and rip through edges of cliffs as much as a lead rope does. You get tons of stretch out of lead ropes as you will notice.
Dynamic rope makers intentionally create elasticity in order to keep command of the deceleration as a climber descends. This reduces impact on the rappeler, anchors and the belays that are being used. The UIAA tests these ropes with severity using dummies before certifying them for use in the marketplace.
Single, Split and Dual Ropes
You will notice a “#1” within a circle on the single rope rigs. This emblem is the actual certification for the ropes, giving you the green light to use them independently from other ropes. Make sure to look for this designation when purchasing if you intend on using single rope rigs. At the same token, you will notice “1/2” and the number “2” for half ropes and dual ropes. The concept is the same. You would use 2 “1/2” ropes for a successful lead as well as the 2 of the “2” designated ropes for leading.
Remember: If you plan on just using one rope, make sure it is the rope that has the “1” single rated designation. It is very important so do not overlook this. Also, use two stranded ropes for half and dual designations. If you are just using a static line, make sure it has enough girth (10mm +) but remember, Leading with a static line is not a good idea no matter what the girth is.
Climbing Rope Diameter and Length
Over the past two decades or so, the evolution of the climbing rope has turned leaner and meaner! The ropes nowadays are made much thinner and longer. The growth in climbing ropes has gone from about 135 ft in the old days to about 180 ft give or take. However, diameters have really gone down from 11mm to 9-10mm (on single ropes). The longer the rope, the more carry, coil and management. However, more times than not, it is well worth the additional load. You will find yourself using just one 180 ft rope for your trip! Add to that, if you take two long ropes with you, sometimes it will allow you to bypass one or two rappel stations on your descent.
The thicker the rope the harder it is to manage. It will be much heavier and cumbersome. That being said they are much safer as they are much tougher to cut, which typically reduces paranoia and is many more times than not, rapellers choice! If you are going real thin then you have more of a chance of getting it torn on a sharp cliff.
Dry Rope Worth It?
When you are faced with a downpour while rappelling, It is nice to have dry rope rigs in place to counteract the rain. However, unless you are planning on rappeling in areas that bring constant rain, It will be more of a burden to constantly replace them.
The Problem is most dry rope coatings come off after a half dozen pitches. Dry core coating ropes last a little bit longer. If you are looking to rappel only and rappel often, we do not think going the dry rope route. It is also going to cost you more in the long-run so make sure you go after non coated ropes.
The total amount a rope stretches out when loaded with weight is called static elongation. You want to make sure you are using a rope with low elongation so you do not hit the ground hard if there is an acceleration from falling on the way down.
How to Make an Overhand Knot
We use this not more often than any other knot since we use two ropes for most of our rappelling. We love it for it’s ease of untying when it is time to. This knot is used very commonly nowadays and has really come into its own. You do not get a tiny profile so don’t be alarmed when the knot looks too knotty! This is actually an advantage in that it really lessens the chance of having the ropes get stuck on something. Make sure to use this knot on ropes with similar diameters.
- Make sure to take both ends of the each ropes, twist and turn them into coil form. Once you get a coil, funnel the ends of the ropes out passing them through the coil you just made
- Make sure you have about 8-12 inches of tail.
- Time to Cinch as hard and tight as you can make them. Make sure the single-strand is snug against the double-strand.
- Once that it is done, back up the overhand with another overhand knot and tie this knot into both rope strands a finger length from the initial knot. This is where you will see the profile get bigger.
How to Make a Square Fisherman’s Knot
This is yet another knot that allows to join two ropes together. This method is also fairly easy to untie. If you choose to make simple square knots, always remember to use this knot to back it up.
- Bring the ropes together using a square knot. Check to see that each strand exits the square not passing onto the same side of the loop that it went through. Symmetry is key here,
- Make sure that the square knot is secure on both sides. We would actually use a double fisherman for a backup. Very important!
- Cincheroney! make sure the square knot is tight. Finally cinch the backups you made against the square knot.
Double Fish Knot
The double fisherman is similar as you probably could tell based on the name however we use it for other purposes other than tying a couple of ropes together. This is not is best used for fastening secondary rope (perlon, spectra, tech, Titan, etc) into loops. We wouldn’t use them for rigging anchors or chock slings. the double fisherman is not the easiest to unravel especially as they get thinner and moisture gets stuck in them. So..
- Make sure that the end of one rope is coiled and make sure to coil twice. Once this is done , pass the end out between the coils.
- Take the second rope and coil it around the first one in the opposing direction from the initial pass-through. You will know you did it right if the knots are parallel to each other.
- Take all four of the strands you’ve made coming out of the knots and cinch them tight. Eyeball the tails and make sure they are about 4 inches long (each).
Figure Eight Fisherman’s Knot
You have total security with this knot. As a result, using these for topropes and joining ropes that will be used many times over. You will notice that the profile of this knot is bulky so you will have an easy time once you are ready to pull it down from below. They won’t get stuck easily.
- Make sure to have the ropes fastened together using a figure-8 and leave about 1.5 ft of tail. Make sure the ends exit on opposite sides of the fig-8.
- Lastly, tie a fisherman’s knot on both sides of the fig-8.
It is vital to tie off a stopper to both ends of the ropeway before you throw them down while rappelling. An even bigger emphasis on this when you are dealing with rain or at night. You also should do this if you don’t have too many hours on your belt rappelling. The only negative with stoppers is that they get stuck on things pretty easily. You will notice a lot if you have large gusts of wind in the area you are rappelling in or you are working with rigid rock formations. ALWAYS use a stopper knot for backup.
overhands and figure 8’s that separate from the other knots work well as stopper knots. You can even try tying both rope ends together as a stopper. So…
- Coil the rope about 3-4 times , wrapping it around itself and make sure to funnel the end through the coils you just created.
- Tug on both ends to tighten. Make sure you have about 4 inches of tail left
- Tie off another stopper on the other side of the rope.
Rope Girth Differences
Problems arise when you are rappelling with too thick a rope adjoining another rope too thin. Reason being is that when you rappel this way, the thinner rope will stretch farther out then the longer one. This can cause slippage as far as the rappel rings. This can be a disaster if the rope passes through the slings as it can cut right through. So make sure your ropes are similar in girth.