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On rappel...and out of rope


Original Post
Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 1,029

There have been several accidents lately, where the climber went off the rope end. Coupled with all those escape the belay debates, I got to thinking about rope ends, just a hypothetical, and the possibility of needing to escape a rappel.

Let's say you are rappelling, and either tied a knot, or otherwise notice the immanent approach of one (perhaps ropes are uneven) or both rope ends. Oops. What's next? Is ascending all the way back up it?

Best, yes the lawn needs mowing, Helen

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Old lady H wrote: Let's say you are rappelling, and either tied a knot, or otherwise notice the immanent approach of one (perhaps ropes are uneven) or both rope ends. Oops. What's next? Is ascending all the way back up it?
Either that or ascending far enough to be able to build a secondary anchor.
Ideally, you wouldn't be rapping into unknown territory with unknown anchor spacing.


PatMas · · Tulsa, OK · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

If you are first down have gear with you, that way you can just ascend back up to a stance and hang out. If you just went past the fixed gear station, (and you have a competent partner) They can stop at the station you passed, pull rope, rethread and get the rope back to you so that you can tear down your temp anchor and rap off  the fixed one they got to.

If you don't trust your partner to get all that done, then yup, you are going allllllllll the way back up.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

If it's a case of uneven ends AND the ends are knotted, just keep rappeling. When your device hits the first knot on the shorter end, the ropes will even out. Just make sure the knot is sturdy and won't untie.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,734

Also make sure you know how to transition from rapping to ascending safely.  It’s worth practicing on the ground a few times to become proficient- particularly if you’re in the habit of rappelling into unknown territory.

curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 69

it all depends on the situation. are you at the end of the rope but only need a few more feet to reach the next station? Tie your cordalette to the end of the rope, pass the knot and you're fine. Do you have 50 ft to go? convert to ascend and start climbing...

the key here is if you are doing "adventurous rappelling", you need to have enough gear with you to ascend the rope.

Nathan Sullivan · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Sep 2018 · Points: 0

Hmm, might be a good idea for the first person on rappel to carry gear, if you aren't sure where the next station is.

I've never been in this situation, but I probably should practice ascending from rappel.  From what I understand, you can easily flip an ATC-Guide (or similar) into auto-block mode and use that as part of an ascension system, without removing the rope or the biner you were rapping on.

Hobo Greg · · My Van · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 200
FrankPS wrote: If it's a case of uneven ends AND the ends are knotted, just keep rappeling. When your device hits the first knot on the shorter end, the ropes will even out. Just make sure the knot is sturdy and won't untie.

Even better (?) would be to just hold the short end, continue letting the long end through your hand, and even out, that way you aren’t relying on/jamming the knot into the device?

curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 69
Nathan Sullivan wrote: From what I understand, you can easily flip an ATC-Guide (or similar) into auto-block mode and use that as part of an ascension system, without removing the rope or the biner you were rapping on.

yep. just clip the "guide" ring back to your belay loop with a 2nd biner. the only tricky part is unclipping the biner that creates the bite of rope in the ATC, but this can easily be managed by ensuring you have a good backup/3rd hand in place before you "flip" the device.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,734
curt86iroc wrote:

yep. just clip the "guide" ring back to your belay loop with a 2nd biner. the only tricky part is unclipping the biner that creates the bite of rope in the ATC, but this can easily be managed by ensuring you have a good backup/3rd hand in place before you "flip" the device.

Only had to do it once- but what I did was used a 4’ sling to tie a klemheist above the device and used that to take weight off the device (not necessary but it’s nicer to reconfigure if it’s unweighted), tied fig 8 on a bight below the backup that I had below the device and connected that as my ‘catastrophe’ backup to my belay loop.

Reconfigured the device into guide mode (important to note that this method won’t work with a non-guide mode tube- at least not safely).  I took the original backup off, used an alpine draw as a stirrup and ascended about 28 meters back up in just a few minutes- tied an alpine butterfly in both strands and attached that about half way up.  I was surprised it worked pretty well, but glad I haven’t had to do it since.


Some of this is probably overkill, but I’m pretty much a jug Gumby- I don’t do a ton of it.
Philip Magistro · · Estes Park, CO · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 0
Jake Jones wrote:

Only had to do it once- but what I did was used a 4’ sling to tie a klemheist above the device and used that to take weight off the device (not necessary but it’s nicer to reconfigure if it’s unweighted), tied fig 8 on a bight below the backup that I had below the device and connected that as my ‘catastrophe’ backup to my belay loop.

Reconfigured the device into guide mode (important to note that this method won’t work with a non-guide mode tube- at least not safely).  I took the original backup off, used an alpine draw as a stirrup and ascended about 28 meters back up in just a few minutes- tied an alpine butterfly in both strands and attached that about half way up.  I was surprised it worked pretty well, but glad I haven’t had to do it since.


Some of this is probably overkill, but I’m pretty much a jug Gumby- I don’t do a ton of it.

Doesn't sound like overkill to me.  Standard transition: place a cat knot below the device, place a footloop on a friction hitch above, stand up, clip guide-mode loop to belay loop with locker, remove third hand below the device and start jugging!

Mark A · · Golden, CO · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 91

Ran into that recently, rapping on a 60m rope for a pitch that required a 70m rope to reach the station.  I was on a giga jul so it was already self locking (could achieve this with other setups as others have pointed out), so I just ascended a little till I found a reasonable stance, created a gear anchor and had my partner rap to there.  He then rapped to the station leaving a few pieces of gear on one of the strands.  I then down led to the station.

Obviously lots of other options out there. For the "ascend" option I would say that if you can communicate to your partner have them put you on top belay and climb back up, seems better than ascending the rope unless your rapping on a line that you can't climb.

mbk · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

Worth pointing out that flipping the plaquette is a lot less dicey if you have extended your rappel.

Danny Herrera · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 380
I yelled, "THERE'S NO KNOT IN THE SHORT ROPE."
Don continued to say he was suffocating. He sounded very distressed.
I yelled back, "I KNOW; TURN UPSIDE DOWN."
His scared grunting sounds continued and he sounded much closer.  It occurred to me that he was rappelling very fast to get relief from the suffocation and was in danger of coming off the rope.
I yelled again with great alarm in my voice, "THERE – IS - NO - KNOT - IN - THE – SHORT – ROPE!!"
Finally he stopped.  "THERE ISN'T?!" he replied in disbelief. I could suddenly hear him much better. "NO" I said.  I was greatly relieved that I had caught him in time.
"Shit, it’s right here." His voice had changed. He no longer sounded like he was suffocating.
"WHAT IS?" I asked.
"The end of the rope," he said. "IT'S RIGHT HERE!
He sounded 25 to 35 feet above me. His tone was amazed and befuddled.
"TIE IT OFF," I said.
"I CAN'T. "
"WHY NOT?"
"I'VE ONLY GOT ABOUT . . . A QUARTER OF AN INCH!" Grunting, working sounds.
"I'M REALLY HUNG OUT TO DRY UP HERE, HOWARD." His voice was suddenly calm and defeated.  Maybe accusatory.
http://www.howardreplogle.com/essays/climbingacident/caccident.htm
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Hobo Greg wrote:

Even better (?) would be to just hold the short end, continue letting the long end through your hand, and even out, that way you aren’t relying on/jamming the knot into the device?

Tie the knot so it has six inches of tail. Then, the knot is taking the weight of the device and you rappelling on it, and your hand is holding the tail to make sure it doesn't untie.

curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 69
Danny Herrera wrote: howardreplogle.com/essays/c…

wow...

David Ponak · · Longmont, CO · Joined May 2014 · Points: 15

I recently thought my 70 meter rope would stretch to down-climbable terrain so I skipped a tat station and made it to my knots and realized not quite. I was using a Mammut alpine smart and since it is already in locking mode it was very easy to get my feet on just about anything and pull on the rope above the device with my left hand while taking up slack below the device with my right and ascend quickly and easily without having to change a thing. Freehanging would probably be too hard and I would have had to rig a sling to a prussik above the device like what is shown here https://youtu.be/WcUmdGIf21o?t=150 

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 612
The rappels present unusual challenges for many climbers, especially since most of them overhang 

<snip>

 
The first person to rappel takes the quickdraws...   As this person descends, they must clip the rap line into enough of the bolts to stay in contact with the cliff!  If they don’t they may find themselves hanging 10′ from the wall and 30′ above the water.  (Shit, time to get out the ascenders!)  When the first person gets to the belay anchors, they clip-in using the slings girth-hitched to their harness, then clip the end of the rap line into the anchor too.  It’s very important to maintain control of the end of the rap line.   The second person down unclips the rap rope from the draws as they descend and may end up free-hanging over the sea.  The first person then pulls them into the belay.

If you don't know or can't see the next rap station, it's very important to maintain contact with the wall.  If sport, clip some bolts.  If trad, place a piece or two or three.  Knots in the ends, especially at night.  
Idaho Bob · · McCall, ID · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 452

If you're sport climbing, even multi-pitch sport climbing, going off the end of the rope happens due to human error resulting from not planning the lower/rappel taking in consideration  the distance from station to station and the length of the rope.  But this does occur therefore tying knots (or tying the end of the rope to your harness) is a "best" practice.  Unfortunately some climbers think it's not "cool" to tie knots (or wear helmets or use third hands!).  

Trad climbing, especially adventure trad climbing is different.  If you're on a trad. climb with bolted belay stations it's the same situation as sport climbing.  But adventure climbing is, well, an adventure.  For me, I adventure climb on double 70's. Tie them together with a flat overhand,  don't toss the rope, stack in saddlebags, tied to harness.  That greatly reduces the chance of rope getting stuck.  This gives a rappel length of about 230 feet and that should be enough to reach a secure stance.

BTW, not a bad practice to measure the actual length of your rope when new (just to make sure it's not mislabeled).  When new a 70m should actually be about 71-72m, but shrinks with time.  Maybe as much as 5% per some manufacturers.  Knowing the actual length can avoid mishaps.   And finally, don't count on rope stretch to reach safety.

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

Rock climb multipitch usually with double 60m, multi pitch ice usually double 70m. almost never run out of rope...  It is pretty fun to get on something long you know you can hike with a single 60 or 70  but I only do that route if I am certain about the raps.   any kind of real adventure I like the doubles... 

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107
Danny Herrera wrote: howardreplogle.com/essays/c…

this should be required reading for every beginning climber.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

General Climbing
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