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By JaredCamps
Feb 21, 2013
I'm new to all this, so I'm reading books, watching films, and just plain soaking up as much information as I can. One thing that has been bugging me is this: When you complete an alipine climbing route, are you leaving rap gear on the mountain? Or is there a particular setup that allows you to rappel and retrieve your gear? Just something that I've been wondering.

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By Linnaeus
From New England/ Baltimore
Feb 21, 2013
Common alpine routes have some premade rap anchors, mostly webbing and cordelette, from prior parties. New alpine routes, or when you get off route accidentally, require you to build an anchor for each rap. This can be as easy and inexpensive as using nylon webbing or part of your cordelette, or require leaving nuts or *gasp* cams!

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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Feb 21, 2013
Additionally, many alpine routes walk off an easier way down the mountain. Some require rappels, some walk-offs, some a combination.

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By drmartindell
From Homer, Ak
Feb 21, 2013
Read up on and practice v-threads and snow bollards too.

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By DannyUncanny
From Vancouver
Feb 21, 2013
I have rappelled directly off of large rocks in the past. It depends.

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By Ethan L
From Santa Barbara, CA
Feb 21, 2013
Alyssa and I at Table Rock in Linville Gorge
I'm in the same boat as Jared, with being new to Alpine climbing. I've had a couple things bothering me as well. When setting up a rap with webbing around blocks and what not, is it ever ok to run the rope directly through the webbing? I know you're never suppose to do just nylon on nylon, but when I was climbing in RMNP I saw 1" webbing raped around blocks without any rap rings or beaners left on them.

Question 2 is I'm looking into purchasing new ropes to have a lighter set up. One with a thicker lead line, and a smaller diameter tag line. I know that you don't want the differences in diameters to be to great when tying the ends into an overhand. But how what's the limit in difference in diameter? I mean if I were to use a 9.2 as my lead line, what's the smallest I could go with the tag line, while still being able to use it in an overhand knot for a rap?

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By T Howes
From Bozeman, MT
Feb 22, 2013
Ethan L wrote:
is it ever ok to run the rope directly through the webbing?


short answer is yes, but don't get in the habit of doing this.

Ethan L wrote:
But how what's the limit in difference in diameter? I mean if I were to use a 9.2 as my lead line, what's the smallest I could go with the tag line, while still being able to use it in an overhand knot for a rap?


use a double fisherman knot to tie lines of different diameter together.

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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Feb 22, 2013
Epic free solo with a pack on
Tom Howes wrote:
use a double fisherman knot to tie lines of different diameter together.


Why is this? I've tied ropes of different diameters together before wih a double overhand, and it didn't capsize or begin to fold any more than if the ropes were identical diameter...elucidate me!

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By csproul
From Davis, CA
Feb 22, 2013
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background
Ben Brotelho wrote:
Why is this? I've tied ropes of different diameters together before wih a double overhand, and it didn't capsize or begin to fold any more than if the ropes were identical diameter...elucidate me!

Me too..I use an EDK all the time. Although in all fairness, I do it with ropes that are 8.5 and 10.0 and not with a rope and a thin pull cord.

BTW, for rapping straight off of cord/webbing, my rule of thumb is that I'll do it if I'm bailing down something that is not a commonly used rap route. I'm not expecting that others will need to use my rap anchors again. If I'm going down something that I expect other people will use, I will leave a carabiner, preferable one that I've taped closed. I've not ever used a carabiner on V-threads. It also may depend on how mach gear I have vs how far I need to rap. Few pitches to rap, I am probably more willing to leave a 'biner or two...a dozen pitches to rap and I might not be so willing.Also, be careful if rapping straight off of webbing with two different diameter ropes. They are much more likely to creep through the anchor and saw on the webbing than two ropes of the same diameter (or a single rope)or a single rope with a skinny pull cord rigged with a 'biner block.

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By Ethan L
From Santa Barbara, CA
Feb 22, 2013
Alyssa and I at Table Rock in Linville Gorge
Thank you Tom

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By Jeff J
From Bozeman
Feb 22, 2013
JaredCamps wrote:
I'm new to all this, so I'm reading books, watching films, and just plain soaking up as much information as I can. One thing that has been bugging me is this: When you complete an alipine climbing route, are you leaving rap gear on the mountain? Or is there a particular setup that allows you to rappel and retrieve your gear? Just something that I've been wondering.


If some one reciently did the route and left some good gear use that.
But if you are on some new ground than
v-threads
snow bollards
webbing or cord and a quicklink around trees/rocks ect.

you may end up having to leave some gear but use a length of 7mm cord and you should be able to get away with less than $3 - $4 or so per rap station. Just suck up the price and consider it like gas money itis just part of the cost of the trip.

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By Tom Pierce
From Englewood, CO
Feb 22, 2013
Ethan: Following up on Tom Howes' answer regarding running a rope directly through a sling:

1) As Tom mentioned, yes you can do that (but if pulling two tied ropes, be sure to pull the correct line, otherwise the knot could get hung up on the sling).
2) A huge safety issue: Never, ever toprope or lower someone off a rope that is passing directly through a sling or webbing. The rope can eventually cut through the material, leading to a catastrophic anchor failure. I suspect what you saw (sling with no biner) was just someone's old rap anchor.

Climb safe!
-Tom

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By Gargano
From Oakland, CA
Feb 22, 2013
Some tips for DIY rappel anchors:

climbing.com/skill/improvised-...

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By The Ex-Engineer
From UK
Feb 23, 2013
When it comes to alpine abseil descents you have two types:
- planned, with in-situ anchors which are generally straight-forward
- unplanned, without in-situ anchors which are fairly epic

Before setting foot on an alpine route there are two essentials you need - are lots of spare cord (or tape) and a knife.

In well over 90% of cases, you will be abseiling because you are in the a 'planned' situation. It will be common place for mountaineers to abseil there and abseil anchors will already be in place. The topo or guidebook will tell you the anchor spacing, so you can carry ropes that long enough.

On mega-classic alpine rock routes like The American Direct on the Dru there are peg and nut belays in place with a variety of cord/tape with maillons, so it is fairly simple to climb the 23 pitches of good quality rock climbing and then abseil the route. Quite frankly, there is unsightly tat littering the entire route, but when we climbed it we didn't need to back up a single stance.

In some cases you may find anchors featuring badly rusted pitons and sun bleached cord. You may occasionally think some aren't very safe and you will probably be right. You will also see vastly experienced mountaineers use all manner of anchors but there is only one rule - make your own decisions.

If you decide an existing anchor needs to be improved, then please try to it properly. Cut away existing faded, frayed or rotten cord/tape (and pack it out) BEFORE adding your own shiny new cord tape. That said, don't go overboard - old 10mm rope with the sheath intact is still way stronger than a token strand of shiny new 5mm cord.

Example of cord and tape removed from abseil anchors.
Example of cord and tape removed from abseil anchors.


If you don't completely trust an anchor, but improving it is going to require either more time or gear than you really want to commit, then it is time to deploy the 'unweighted back-up'. You build a bombproof back-up anchor and then connect it LOOSELY to the existing centre point or to your abseil ropes. The heaviest person then abseils first, bouncing a bit on the way, whilst the remaining lighter person stares intently at the abseil anchor as if their life depends on it (which it does!). Bearing in mind the only rule - make your own decisions - the last man/woman then decides whether to trust the existing anchor and abseil extremely smoothly and carefully or whether to improve it and leave more gear behind. This is their decision and MUST NOT be criticised.

Unplanned abseils are not massively different. However, on every rap you may need to find anchors from scratch and it is likely you will deploy an 'unweighted back-up' multiple times rather than just exceptionally.

As a comparison:
A 'planned' abseil down the American Direct, comprising 15+ raps on 60m double ropes, on vertical rock, in a group of three, took us well under 3 hours.
An 'unplanned' abseil retreat from the Tournier Spur making 14 raps on a single 8.1mm x 60m rope (with limited existing abseil stations at a 50m! interval) down a gully by two of us, complete with one moderate rope jam, took well over 8 hours.

Anyway HTH, good luck and climb safe.

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By Jim Sweeney
Feb 23, 2013
Jared,

This posting is well worth reading Existing Rap Stations
Jim Donini is a past president of the American Alpine Club and has likely done more rappels than you or I will do in several lifetimes.

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By JaredCamps
Feb 23, 2013
Thanks for the input, everyone. This definitely sheds some light on the subject. I've always been a pretty strict Leave No Trace follower, so this idea of intentionally leaving gear behind threw me for a loop. Thanks again.

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By Greg D
From Here
Feb 24, 2013
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W. <br />
Ethan L wrote:
I'm in the same boat as Jared, with being new to Alpine climbing. I've had a couple things bothering me as well. When setting up a rap with webbing around blocks and what not, is it ever ok to run the rope directly through the webbing? I know you're never suppose to do just nylon on nylon, but when I was climbing in RMNP I saw 1" webbing raped around blocks without any rap rings or beaners left on them.


This is fine for your own safety. But when you pull the rope, you will burn the webbing and leave a potentially serious hazard behind for others. If you do come across a rap anchor made of webbing or slings without any biners or rap rings consider it unsafe.

Rap rings are only a few dollars and weigh next to nothing, biners are only 5-10 dollars new. How much are the used ones on your rack worth?! I don't carry rap rings because I would not hesitate to leave a few biners, nuts, or even cams behind if need be.

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By Greg D
From Here
Feb 24, 2013
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W. <br />
Ethan L wrote:
Question 2 is I'm looking into purchasing new ropes to have a lighter set up. One with a thicker lead line, and a smaller diameter tag line. I know that you don't want the differences in diameters to be to great when tying the ends into an overhand. But how what's the limit in difference in diameter? I mean if I were to use a 9.2 as my lead line, what's the smallest I could go with the tag line, while still being able to use it in an overhand knot for a rap?


Hard to say for sure what difference in diameter is ok with an overhand (edk). Stiffer and slicker ropes will be less secure than soft and dirty ropes. So there is no exact rule. If in doubt, use a double fisherman's

Also, different diameter ropes have different friction properties in rappel devices. So the knot may move while you are rappelling without you knowing. I have seen the knot on joined ropes move as much as five feet during my partner's rappel. I was able to stop the movement simple by holding the rope. Unequal length rope lengths could be a serious problem.

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