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How To Rappel

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This was a tough article to write. I started writing this page with some images of my own in hopes of passing on some wisdom and instruction on what to do. Turns out, after doing some google image searches, I’ve been wrong all along! Hereafter is a robust compilation of improved techniques that will give you an edge while bombing down a route.

  1. ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING! You figured out how to rig a rappel. SO WHAT! Any idiot can set and anchor and feed a rope through a belay device correctly. The moment you push off is what counts. Most climbing accidents are on descent, so think about this–how are you going to go out? Are you going to smile at your partner and say:
    “see you at the next anchors” or are you gonna do like GI Jane here and growl:
  2. BUM FIRST: You know how SCUBA divers go bum first? That’s the way to rappel too. Flailing legs are optional, but not out of line.
  3. MULTIPLE RAPPELS If you have to do more than one rappel to reach the ground, you’ll want to be able to see your next station as you descend. Tie knots into the end of your rope and then rappel face first, keeping a keen eye out for the next set of anchors. If you pass the anchors accidentally, get your friend to phone for a helicopter rescue.
  4. BACKING OFF A good climber knows when to quit. I mean, don’t be a wimp, but if the route looks like this, its probably time to set a rappel and get to somewhere dry. FORGOT/DROPPED YOUR BELAY DEVICE?
    NO PROBLEM! This happens to everyone; even the experts like me. Keep a cool head and remember that there are plenty of ways to get out of your predicament.
  5. THE “HASTY RAPPEL” The “HASTY” (rhymes with “PASTE-EE”) rappel is used by the army when time is of the essense and gear is nowhere to be found
    Although this picture shows the basic rope handling technique required for the H.R. there is no actually need for a helmet at this point, since letting go of the rope would kill you anyway.
    Physics students should note that the hastiest possible rappel is 32 ft/s/s. For example, it is possible to be rappeling at about 60 ft/s after only just two seconds of effort! (**N.B. I hesitated when deciding to including this photo, since there was not much context at the source. It is possible that this soldier is only actually drawing up water for the canteen. I dunno. Looks like rappeling though.)
  6. NO BELAY DEVICE TYROLEAN TRAVERSE Nor then, should you be convinced to pass up a tyrolean traverse without a device. Simply don a helmet, wrap your limbs around the rope, and go for it.
  7. UPSIDE DOWN MULTIPLE RAPPELS The aforementioned Multiple Rappels methodology can be done without a belay device, as illustrated here by the Navy Cadets.
    This is nothing more than a mash-up of Multiple Rappels technique a la Hasty Rappel, although the leg work shows a tinge of the Tyrolean technique.
    I’ve tried this several times. Other than a thumping headache, and some funny looks on the cliff face, I’ve come away ok.
  8. WHEN TO DRAW THE LINE Ok. This is just stupid. Not surprisingly it comes from the minds of computer game programmers, most of who haven’t seen the outside of their high school bedroom.
    I’ve only included it because it is a terrible safety example and potentially lethal.
    Notice that the character with pink gloves, giant thighs, and no wrist bands isn’t actually using her rappel device at all. No wonder her partner has phoned in for a helicopter rescue!
    The partner, who is “simul-rapping” seems to be attempting a body rappel of some sort, although it may be accidental.
    No comment on the cat.
  9. THE GROIN GRINDER An alternative to the hasty rappel is the Groin Grinder. Popular with, but not limited to, people who have already had children.
    Personal experience has shown that although a steel jock or “protection plate” may seem like a good idea it ultimately doesn’t produce the friction required.
    Gives new meaning to the phrase
    “awww…suck it up!” 
  10. GUNS Ever wished you had a third arm while climbing a route?
    True story: When stuck on a ledge in Yosemite, waiting with no less than 8 other bumblers, another party arrived, all wearing side arms. Never before have I heard such a simulataneous chiming of oh, after you sir. 
    Ok, ok. This isn’t a real picture. I just included it because it seems a bit ridiculous. Handguns are reasonable, but repeating rifles are just silly. Ha ha ha. 


Originally posted 2012-05-02 14:53:24.


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