Alpinfox Posted July 13, 2006 Share Posted July 13, 2006 I’m not a certified climbing guide, and I’m sure there are better treatments of this subject spelled out in more detail in books somewhere, but here is my attempt to give newbie climbers (as well as reminding myself and other non-newbie climbers) some pointers on how to stay safe while rappelling. Three common and potentially fatal errors while rappelling and how to avoid them are discussed here. The first is mis-rigging the rappel device such that only one strand of rope runs through the device and carabiner. When the rappeller weights the device they begin free falling as the free end of rope whips through the rappel anchor. To avoid this accident, develop and follow a systematic protocol while rappelling that tests the rappel system prior to the rappel. An example of one such system is given here: 1) rig your belay device for the rappel 2) while you are still connected to the anchor via your daisy or a sling or whatever, take up all the slack and transfer your weight onto your rappel device. 3) Lean back. Jerk backwards. Really weight that thing. 4) If you have mis-rigged your rappel device, this test should reveal that error 5) Only then should you disconnect your daisy/sling from the anchor and start rappelling. The second error is rappelling off the ends of evenly-matched strands of rope. Some people choose to try to prevent this error by tying knots in the end of each strand of rope. (Note that tying the two ends together is NOT recommended due to twisting of the ropes resulting in a big mess). If you use this method, make sure to use an adequate stopper knot such as a double overhand or figure-8 that will not “roll”. Many people prefer to not tie knots in the ends of the strands due to the chance that the knot will become jammed in a crack or behind a flake. If you choose to not use stopper knots (and even if you do use stopper knots) look below you periodically while rappelling to confirm that BOTH strands continue below you and reach the ground (or the next rappel station). Another step that may prevent this error from becoming fatal is to have a prusik back up knot located above your belay device. The idea being that if you do rappel off the end of the rope, the prusik will tighten up on the rope and leave you hanging from the prusik rather than falling to the deck. However, folks who have tested this theory in a controlled situation found that when one rappels off the end of the rope and starts falling, the tendency is to tightly grip the prusik with one’s hand which prevents it from engaging. The third error is rappelling off the end of one of the two strands of rope that run through the belay device. This can occur when the rope is fed through the rappel station unequally. This MAY have been the situation that recently resulted in the death of a climber on Condorphamine Addiction. To avoid this error, it is a very good idea to clearly mark the middle of your rope with a dye especially made for that purpose, or buy a rope that is pre-marked. Remember to periodically remark your rope as the dye will wear off with use. It is probably a good idea to use a dye made especially for ropes (rather than a sharpie or some other permanent marker) as there is some controversy about solvents in markers potentially damaging the rope fibers. Beal is one company that makes a dye intended for use on climbing ropes. If your rope is not middle marked, be sure to match the ends while feeding the rope through the belay station to insure that the two strands will be the same length. When doing double-rope rappels, be aware that the two ropes might not be exactly the same length. Not all “60m” ropes are really 60m. Again, be sure to periodically look below you while rappelling to insure that BOTH strands continue to your target. CLICK HERE for another thread discussing some of these same issues. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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