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Lowering vs rappelling


Original Post
Adam Paashaus · · Greensboro, NC · Joined May 2007 · Points: 791

Ive been climbing a while now and one gray area I dont see talked about enough are the options when you reach the chains on a sport route(or trad route if equipped). It is pretty common knowledge that you should not Top Rope straight through the chains(excess wear). But one thing I dont understand is why lowering is acceptable in most peoples eyes. When you have weight on the rope and get lowered aren't you causing the same damage as taking a TR lap on the route. In the last 10 years I have never lowered of a route that was not equipped with carabiners specifically for that purpose. I'm assuming the main reason is that its faster and easier to lower that to rap. And no, Im not trying to start a "sport climbers are lazy" thread. My other problem with lowering is that so many accidents have been happening where the communication is lost between partners resulting in the climber getting dropped. That seems to be a problem that would not happen as much if the climber were to take an extra minute to pull the rope up to the center and rap. Am I wrong?

edit: I included this in the beginner forum b/c I think it is important new climber info.

Will S · · Joshua Tree · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,051

What's the steepest and/or most traversing sport route you've rapped from and cleaned your draws on the way down?

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145

There are two overall discussions here -- conservation of fixed protection, and climber safety.

Route-setters do not all agree on conservation, some have no problem with lowering, others despise the wear and tear as needless. I think most of the wear and tear is not so much to lowering after a 1-time anchor clean but due to repeated TR'ing directly through the fixed pro. I can see the point of bringing your own rigging equipment for a TR anchor to run laps on a route.

Rapping is what I use more than not, it's self reliant and best conserves the fixed pro.

However, where lowering is a benefit would be for traversing & overhanging pitches where the climber can tram themselves on the system's-backside for route cleaning. The issue comes into play when on-rappel and you clean gear/draws then can introduce slack into the system if the deflection is great enough, or trying to penji up and under to try and grab a piece in the wall, the opportunity to go hands-free is there; obviously not the best situation when rapping. With a trammed Take and Lower, the climber can work hands free and still be within acceptable risk of the system.

Take and Lower versus Off-Belay & Rappel communication is always an issue. The biggest problems are lowering off the end, which I feel is poor planning that would have been easily preventable; taking someone off the belay system because the partners are not on the same page; or, the climber calls for the Off-Belay, when they didn't intend to do so (which I have a done a couple of times, quickly corrected by an attentive belayer who had a better overall picture of the situation).

It doesn't hurt to confirm the plan before separating from the partner when on the ground. Or, not realizing the situation has changed and due to a loss of sight and unintelligible verbal yelling, not being 100% clear that the climber doesn't want to go Off, maybe keeping them On and belay it all out is being the best option for safety.

Whether there is agreement or not on either method, I can appreciate both points of view on this for conservation. For safety, I think understanding the overall situation at hand is what climbers have failed to grasp when an accident occurs and that what is important to learn.

Adam Paashaus · · Greensboro, NC · Joined May 2007 · Points: 791
Mark Nelson wrote: However, where lowering is a benefit would be for traversing & overhanging pitches where the climber can tram themselves on the system's-backside for route cleaning.
+1 Didn't even think about that. Most of the time i've climbed steep routes that would be hard to clean while rapping, there have been fixed draws or a second has cleaned it on a TR. I will say most routes are not too steep to clean on rap even if it is overhanging a little.
dorseyec · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2009 · Points: 5
biscuits wrote: I will say most routes are not too steep to clean on rap even if it is overhanging a little.
You can say it but it doesn't mean its true. At the Red River Gorge as soon as you start hitting the steep 10's and up they are a pain in the ass to clean on rappel.
Adam Paashaus · · Greensboro, NC · Joined May 2007 · Points: 791

The Red!? Not a good example of what "most" climbs are like. Plus I said a little overhanging.

Monty · · Golden, CO · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 3,224

Don't be a tool, Rap you fool!

Or at least when ever possible... Duh

Kai Troester · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 95

you can cut down on the wear if you lower through quick draws clipped into the anchor. That's what I tend to do. Obviously the last one climbing and cleaning the route will have to clean them and needs to rappel or be lowered. I generally opt for being lowered.

camhead · · Vandalia, Appalachia · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,240

Even after you rap, the force of even pulling the unweighted rope through the fixed anchors causes wear and tear on them. It's not much, but it adds up over time. The best thing to do is, after the last person runs a TR lap, he unties and walks off the back of the cliff, thereby minimizing impact on the anchors. This would extend the life of anchor chains over 1000%. If the route ends in the middle of a cliff, or a walkoff is impossible, the last person to climb should just throw himself to his death after that last toprope run.

Which is what I feel like doing every time I read moronic threads like this.

Kai Troester · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 95
camhead wrote:Which is what I feel like doing every time I read moronic threads like this.
I don't think at all that this thread is moronic or pointless. It brings up a subject that many of us have thought of before and I do like reading what others think about it.
dorseyec · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2009 · Points: 5
biscuits wrote:The Red!? Not a good example of what "most" climbs are like. Plus I said a little overhanging.
Well its a good example of what most steep sport climbing areas are like, areas you typically lower through..... Obviously if you are a lowering to clean a 5.8 or some 5.12 slab climb you are doing something wrong.
caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,450

The real issue is stewardship. What percent of climbers actually maintain anchors or fixed gear? Probably 1% or less.

If you've been climbing more than a couple years, just do your part. Keep a couple quicklinks and a wrench in your pack and if something at your local crag is worn, fix it.

If you're not up to that, consider giving money to the ARI or ASCA, or giving some hardware to someone who does have the time and know-how.

dorseyec · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2009 · Points: 5
biscuits wrote:But one thing I dont understand is why lowering is acceptable in most peoples eyes.
You wanted to know why its acceptable, and that is why. There are tons of sport routes that are to steep to clean on rappel, there is your answer.

And even "a little overhanging" can have you 15 feet away from the wall by the time you get to the bottom of the route and are trying to remove those last few draws on rappel.
Zach Wahrer · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 5,877
camhead wrote:Even after you rap, the force of even pulling the unweighted rope through the fixed anchors causes wear and tear on them. It's not much, but it adds up over time. The best thing to do is, after the last person runs a TR lap, he unties and walks off the back of the cliff, thereby minimizing impact on the anchors. This would extend the life of anchor chains over 1000%. If the route ends in the middle of a cliff, or a walkoff is impossible, the last person to climb should just throw himself to his death after that last toprope run. Which is what I feel like doing every time I read moronic threads like this.
Hahahaha, I applaud you sir!!
camhead · · Vandalia, Appalachia · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,240

other reasons that not everyone raps off routes:

-not everyone carries an atc on their harnesses while climbing.

-simplicity and speed are often the best way to go, and it is simpler and faster, after cleaning a single-pitch route, to simply thread the chains and lower without ever going off belay.

-constant toproping by large groups is one thing; one person lowering at the end of the sesh is another.

-safety. there are more steps to screw up when setting up a rap. Quite a few (perhaps a majority?) cragging accidents involve rapping.

Finally, most of those who advocate always rapping off of routes are either
1. climbers who learned in a traditional/multipitch/leader-follower setting
2. climbers who still see a novelty/fun factor in rapping
3. climbers who lack the experience and breadth to know how anchors actually wear
4. climbers who believe that there are hard and fast dogmas that should be followed by
everybody.

With the exception of "1," all of those above groups are precisely the same people who are most likely to mess up a rappel. Raps are easier to mess up than lowers, and those who rap at single pitch sport or sprad crags are more likely to mess up their raps.

Personally, when I'm cragging with someone who insists on rapping every route after cleaning, the red flags go up, and stereotypes form. But hey, I'm a jerk.

J.B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 150

Unless it is too steep to TR safely, have a second climber TR on your gear, then clean and rap at the anchor. Not rocket science...

Routes that are too steep are going to have fixed draws or be too difficult for climbers that would be wasting time on this thread anyway...

EDIT: And if you're the only one climbing, you should just find some climbing friends...

And Camhead, if someone cant manage to rappel of a single pitch sport climb, should they really be climbing?

caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,450
SirMixALot wrote:Unless it is too steep to TR safely, have a second climber TR on your gear, then clean and rap at the anchor. Not rocket science...
What if the second climber doesn't want to climb it or isn't good enough to climb it?

Yeah. That was your mind just getting blown.
J.B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 150
caughtinside wrote: What if the second climber doesn't want to climb it or isn't good enough to climb it? Yeah. That was your mind just getting blown.
You could get some friends that would actually be productive with you or you could climb it again. BOOM!
camhead · · Vandalia, Appalachia · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,240
SirMixALot wrote: You could get some friends that would actually be productive with you or you could climb it again. BOOM!
hmmm... I predict that SirMixalot won't be climbing with caughtinside anytime soon.
caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,450
SirMixALot wrote: You could get some friends that would actually be productive with you or you could climb it again. BOOM!
Newsflash new guy... most of the people I climb with wouldn't want to toprope it. Half the fun of cragging is that you can pull it and everyone can lead.

I suppose I could always recruit a sub to follow me around, flake my ropes, clean my leads and tell me I'm great. What are you doing this weekend? I'd get a chick, but my girlfriend would be pissed.
J.B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 150

Touche! I've just been used to always climbing with at least one person that jumps on the TR... But I also rappel and just have someone pull the strand running through the draws if nobody wants to TR.

BTW, I like MOST big butts. And I'm not a new guy.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Beginning Climbers
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