There will be times in your rappelling journey where you will have to think fast and use the experience of others to avoid hiccups and other disastrous outcomes. These moments will factor in existing gear vs existing terrain, proper knots, ways to ascend vs existing terrain, how to handle an injured climber in your group, how to help rig an inexperienced climber, so on and so forth. So here are a few scenarios and solutions to consider….
1) How do I Handle Diagonal or Overhanging Rappels?
You approach your next rappel. A 300 ft cliff with a steep over-hanger! That or an extremely wide diagonal where reaching the next station would be impossible if you were planning on rappelling in a straight line.
If you are grouped up the lead rappeler will need to link the rope onto cams (or bolts) while utilizing nuts as the rappeler descends on their way to the next rappel station. When the lead rappeler makes it to the next statin, they would link their device and ropes in without letting go of the line. If you are rappelling last, you would then unlink and grab the gear that was left by the lead rappeler. As the the last rappeler, you would rappel down only slightly past the next station, and you would then be held and pulled in by the lead rappeler.
2) How to Rappel When Carrying Too Much Gear?
Sometimes you will not notice how much gear you actually brought with you until it is too late! This is normal. The trick relies on how to maintain the excess load while on your rappel.
If your pack is heavy or you have a hauler that seems impossible to carry with you as you descend, we would connect a sling (with a couple of webbing points) to the load. Use a few attachment points on the bag itself to clip onto the sling. Then link the sling onto your belay that should be attached to your harness already. Use a biner to fasten. You should be in good shape to then straddle the bag as it is leveraged by your belay and you will not feel abrupt weight shifting on your descent.
As the steepness in your rappel increases, the importance in the way you carry your load increases. You should never feel uncomfortable while you are rappelling. This may seem self-explanatory but we are shocked at how many people ignore this important point to then just deal with a tiring experience and not a joyful one.
3) How do I Rappel With Lines that are Fixed?
Many times you will be rappelling with fixed lines using one rope.
What you need to look out for is an autoblock that is correctly rigged so that you don’t deal with any slippage on your descent. If your autoblock isn’t rigged properly you will experience a decrease in your friction knot which WILL slip! The key thing to remember here is a properly placed autoblock. Double and triple check to make sure it is rigged properly. We cannot stress this enough.
4) When is it Important to Pass a Knot
To avoid using two ropes, many utilize a passing knot in order to make one significantly long strand where that would be the only line needed to rappel down.
We would do this when you are looking to wall climb or when the weather elements pick up and you are looking for a quick getaway plan. Learning how to use passing knots is critical because they can even be used on damaged cord in times when you have really no other options. You would isolate the damage and tie passing knots on the damaged part of the line. We only recommend as a last resort.
Utilizing Mechanical Ascenders to passing knots– If you are lucky enough to be using an ascender then follow these steps when passing knots:
- Fasten a knot to the lower half of the line to guarantee you will not slip off of it while rappelling. Make sure your rappel device and autoblock are both rigged onto your rope
- Descend down until your knot is about 2 ft under your device. Grip the autoblock in order to halt in place
- If you are utilizing a mechanical ascender, link it to the line right about your deice and snap it to your harness using a sling. Move the ascender up on the line. Keep moving it up until the sling is stiff with no flexion.
- Allow for the rope to funnel through the backup autoblock in order to shift the weight to the assigned ascender
- Fasten a figure-8 about 4 ft under the stopper knot in order to have a backup in place. Link it using a belay-to-harness and lock with a biner.
- Take apart the device, autoblock and redo them both right under the stopper knot. Triple-Check to make sure everything is in the right place
- Link the slings used around the feet to the ascender. Stand yourself in the sling. Detach the harness from the ascender and remove yourself from the slings. The weight should now be leveraged by the autoblock and rappel device.
- Grab the ascender and triple-check everything to make sure everything is in place.
- undo the F-8 and begin to rappel.
If you are using a Cordellette:
- Tie a Munter
- Lock the munter using a biner
- Create a mule knot (wrapping a coil onto the strand that isn’t carrying the weight and then funneling a loop around the strand this is carrying the weight, then finally back into the coil, which ultimately creates a slip knot) . Fasten the mule right next to the munter.
- Utilize a backup knot using a fisherman’s knot.
How to Help an Inexperienced Rappeler Rig their Device?
So you’re out showing your friend what you’ve learned over the past few years taking up the new life changing hobby, rappelling. Your friend is always up for new things, but the problem is he/she has no experience rappelling.
It sounds counter-intuitive but you should always let the inexperienced rappeler lead in single-pitch rappels. You would then be helping by belaying the lead rappeler from above and you would utilize a second line. That being said, if you are multi-pitching, it’s probably best to lead because you can’t trust that the inexperienced rappeler will able to scout the best route to the next rappel station. Also you can’t trust that they will snap in the next anchors.
We would pre-rig their device and autoblock to avoid confusion and keep them from creating a huge problem. On a multi-pitch you (the experienced rappeler) would lead and you would hand off a fireman’s belay while below once the inexperienced climber rappels down.
How to pre-rig your buddies setup:
- We would use girth hitches (at least two) onto the harness’s tie-in section, to form a dual cow’s tail. Link the rappel device to the cord along with the dual girth hitch slings and lock using a biner. Do this before you start to rappel.
- Triple-Check both your harness as well your buddies harness before proceeding
- While you are descending, tug on the rope to keep it taught. The tail extension prohibits your buddy from getting vacuumed into the line.
- Once you get to the next station and rigged the anchors, your buddy can then start rappelling towards the next station
- Remind your buddy to make sure the tail doesn’t get run across the line. Yell it out to him
- Remind your buddy to make sure the line doesn’t get tangled in any protruding rock or any other obstacle. Keep an eye out for any obvious snag terrain while descending
How do I Rappel with an Injured Climber?
Hopefully you will not have to ever have this scenario happen to you. However, it is important to know what to do if disaster strikes.
We would utilize the spider rappel technique which situates an non-injured rappeler to rappel with an injured rappeler using just a single device. You can also use the spider when you are guiding newbies around so they wouldn’t have to do much of anything.
- Setup the device/harness onto the line and rig an autoblock for backup, linked to your leg loop
- Fasten a cordelette using three dual-stranded F-8 knots and make sure there is a tail that is a little bit longer then a second tail. The F-8 in the middle will link to the device. If you have slings instead, you can link those to the device.
- Link the shorter tail to your harness tie-in and clip injured rappellers tail (longer tail) to their harness. Lock with biners! The idea is to be rappelling at different tiers so you avoid crowding and possibly coming into contact with the injured rappeler.
- Make sure to fasten the injured on the opposing side of your brake hand
- Triple-Check the rig and biners (Both) and test the autoblock by gripping it and pulling. If there is any slippage, redo the autoblock. You are set to move! Remember, you will be the one controlling the rapper for both you and the injured rappeler. Make sure the line doesn’t scoop across the sling/cordellette that link you to the device.
How and when Should I Simultaneous-Rappel?
This type of rappel is for the experienced rappeler and should only be used when logging a significant amount of hours of rappelling prior to using. The idea is you would be rappelling with another at the same time. Word of caution would be that this is a very dangerous maneuver so pitch at your own risk! The steps need to be perfect to sustain safety. You also don’t want to tip off another group rappelling before or after you, inducing them to try something they are not prepared for.
When you simul-rap, you are essentially doubling the weight on your anchors, so make sure they are absolutely bomber-proof. Make sure to fasten with stopper knots on each end of the lines before throwing them. It’s optimal if the line passes through smaller chain links or slings so that the knot joining the lines are not possible to pass through. Make sure not to rig an overhand knot while simul-rappelling. You can even try triple grapevine backups since this will make the knot bulge out fat enough to guarantee no ring pass-through.
Even the most experienced of abseilers uses rings for their ropes. The load gets held by grapevine knot that is constricted on the ring so to avoid dependence on their partners counterweight. GriGri’s are recommended for the simul-rappel. If not then the second most ideal backup is the autoblock. The second rappeler is setup to rappel on the second line. The second rappellers line is dependant on the climbers counter-weight. If the first rappeler slacks the line, the second slips down.
If for some reason the first rappeler prematurely clips out, the second will fall! In order to avoid this, they would fasten to each other using a sling about 5-6 ft from each other. The team then triple-checks the rig and harness tie-in buckles and begin to rappel alongside one another. The team makes sure not to pass the rope across each others belay loops/slings. Once they reach the next rappel station they link in, grap their rappel rope, set the next rappel and continue on.
NEVER shortcut the autoblock backups. Hypothetically, if you don’t set stoppers and your teammate rappels off the rope, he/she is a gonner. On top of that, you will lose the counterweight and you will also fall to your demise! If you forget to fasten yourself to your partner utilizing slings or a cordellette and you rappel down as lead and out of habit remove the rappel device, your partner will fall.
If you flip the GriGri in inverted position while rappelling, you will both drop! Whenever you simul-rappel you are increasing the weight on your line and anchors and that in turn increases the chances that your anchors will pop and your ropes can tear easier. Stay conservative with your rappelling and be smart..avoid simul-rappelling unless rappelling is what you do for a living and you’ve been doing it forever!