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Rappelling: Have I Been Doing it Wrong?


Original Post
FourT6and2 ... · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 45

When rappelling, I always thought you set up your rappel/belay device exactly as you would when belaying—in terms of device and rope orientation. Is this not the case?

Out of boredom, I watched a bunch of YouTube videos (probably a mistake on my part lol) of people setting up rappels. And the vast majority of them set up their belay/rappel device by threading the rope inverted. Meaning, instead of the rope coming down from above, entering the tube device from the rear, out and down to the ground from the front... they put a bight in the rope by inverting the rope in the other direction and threading the device backwards so the brake strand comes out the rear, toward you. You wouldn't belay this way and it looks strange to me. Now I'm wondering if I've just been doing it wrong this whole time? Seems like it works either way, but this just looks wrong to me. Yet so many people in videos do this. And I've seen people at the crag do it this way too.




Whereas, this is how I've always done it and thought was proper:

Chris Little · · Albuquerque N.M. · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 0

You spelled it right. Usually.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456

The device in the middle two photos is of a symmetric plate design, i.e. it doesn't matter which side of the device the rope comes out of. Having the rope exit the device as in those photos is more common for folks using such devices who also rap with the rope over their leg vs. between their legs. It's fine using this device either way.

The device in the lower photo is an asymmetric design where it does matter which side of the device the rope exits from and it is oriented as it should be in the photo. Whether the rope then goes over your leg or between them is a matter of personal preference.

FourT6and2 ... · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 45
Healyje wrote: The device in the upper two photos is of a symmetric plate design, i.e. it doesn't matter which side of the device the rope comes out of. Having the rope exit the device as in those photos is more common for folks using such devices who also rap with the rope over their leg vs. between their legs. It's fine using this device either way.

The device in the lower photo is an asymmetric design where it does matter which side of the device the rope exits from and it is oriented as it should be in the photo. Whether the rope then goes over your leg or between them is a matter of personal preference.

So with a device such as an ATC or Reverso, you can orient it so the brake strand comes out toward your body instead away from you? I'm not talking about using the side with the teeth vs no teeth. You can thread the device with the brake strand going over the teeth, but then you can flip the whole thing around so the brake comes toward you instead of away?

EDIT: I included another photo of someone using an asymmetric design in this way for clarity. Brake still goes over the teeth. But it's oriented backwards.
Igor Chained · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 70
FourT6and2 ... wrote:

So with a device such as an ATC or Reverso, you can orient it so the brake strand comes out toward your body instead away from you? I'm not talking about using the side with the teeth vs no teeth. You can thread the device with the brake strand going over the teeth, but then you can flip the whole thing around so the brake comes toward you instead of away?

I'm sure you could, it would just be awkward having the brake hand so close to your body.

FourT6and2 ... · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 45
Igor Chained wrote:

I'm sure you could, it would just be awkward having the brake hand so close to your body.

Yeah that's what I've always thought. But seeing so many people do it, I was like WTF I've been doing it wrong lol

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Personally I´ve always done it your way and that´s how we teach it as well. The "other" way is fine but probably better suited to beginners on easy-angled stuff than free hanging. Whatever floats your boat really.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Igor Chained wrote:

I'm sure you could, it would just be awkward having the brake hand so close to your body.

Agreed. Brake strands away from my body for better ergonomics. But you can do it either way.

FourT6and2 ... · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 45
Jim Titt wrote: Personally I´ve always done it your way and that´s how we teach it as well. The "other" way is fine but probably better suited to beginners on easy-angled stuff than free hanging. Whatever floats your boat really.

Ah makes sense that maybe it's easier on low-angled terrain vs free hanging.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456

Looks like you added a top photo or I missed it the first time - don't rap that way.

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 867

The first photo is low angle since the device points out and away from her body.  In vertical rappels, the device will point more upwards towards your chin.   Brake hand below works better.  

Another tidbit is how does the rope feed in vs out.  If the brake position is at an angle to the device causing the rope to enter at a different angle than it exits, it may cause the rope to "roll" as it enters, leading to some twists in the rope, which is more likely with the first photo setup in a vertical rappel.
YMMV

FourT6and2 ... · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 45

Cool, thanks y'all

Kees van der Heiden · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 40

What worries me more is the lack of a back up in these pictures.

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,045
Kees van der Heiden wrote: What worries me more is the lack of a back up in these pictures.

Backups are for chumps..... ;)

Justin Veenhuis · · Ferndale, MI · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 101

I notice that neither climber has the rappel backed up. It dosnt look like you could put a prussik on a leg loop that way. If it were extended it looks possible but I dont see any benifit. Fireman belay might be harder too. Ill try it sometime.

T G · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 1
Justin Veenhuis wrote: I notice that neither climber has the rappel backed up. It dosnt look like you could put a prussik on a leg loop that way. If it were extended it looks possible but I dont see any benifit. Fireman belay might be harder too.

In the case of a rap extension, you can attach your autoblock to the belay loop (safer) or to your leg loop (less safe) as you would with the non-extended method (i.e. with the rap device secured to your belay loop).

There are many benefits to an extension which you can look up elsewhere, and it has zero impact on the effectiveness of a fireman's belay.
Justin Veenhuis · · Ferndale, MI · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 101

I meant having the brake strand come out the top of the belay device, looks like it would make all backups more difficult.

T G · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 1
Justin Veenhuis wrote: I meant having the brake strand come out the top of the belay device, looks like it would make all backups more difficult.

Nope. No impact.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 135

The pics show the device off an extension.  If it were direct into the belay loop, the rope might have to turn over the device more sharply, which may add kinks.  I use an Alpine Smart, and for the device to lock and release, the rope has to run the way you have been doing it.

Robert Hall · · North Conway, NH · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 14,917

With a belay/rap device with "teeth" my general rule is that if: 1) I am on a less-than-vertical rap, and 2) I've done the rap before (so I know it won't go vertical or overhanging, and 3) the ropes are 9.2 mm or thicker I will usually orient the device so the teeth are NOT aligned to break (like an original ATC without "teeth") as this allows for a much smoother rap.

 If: 1) I know it's vertical or overhanging ("free") or 2) I've never done the rap before, or 3) they are small diameter ropes, I'll always orient so the "teeth" can grip when the break hand wants to break.

Note that the conditions of the 1st paragraph are all linked by "and", i.e. ALL must apply; whereas the 2nd paragraph are linked by "or", if ANY condition applies.
   

FourT6and2 ... · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 45
Matt Himmelstein wrote: The pics show the device off an extension.  If it were direct into the belay loop, the rope might have to turn over the device more sharply, which may add kinks.  I use an Alpine Smart, and for the device to lock and release, the rope has to run the way you have been doing it.

None of the pics I posted show the belay device extended. They are all attached directly to the belay loop with a carabiner.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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