A basic guide to Rappelling

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Rappelling is a technique that allows you to descent down a cliff in a controlled manner using a rope. It comes from a French word rappel which means “to recall”. In Europe this technique is usually called abseiling which comes from the German word abseilen, meaning “to rope down”. It’s one of the most dangerous techniques and the cause of many climbing accidents. It is categorized into skill based technique. Therefore it is very important to learn the essentials of rappelling before trying it out. The following post will give you an idea about things you need to know before going on this expedition.


Rappelling is usually carried out using artificial anchors like cams, pitons and bolts or natural anchors like trees and boulders. Usually the rope is either doubled with the midpoint at the anchors or tied to another climbing rope. The climber uses then uses a rappel device which utilizes the friction of the rope through the device to control his descent down the cliff.

It requires a lot of skills with creating rappel anchors, tying ropes together with strong knots, rope management, rigging the rappel device, using safety back-up systems and retrieving or pulling the rope down. Basic skills you need to learn to safely rappel are –

Rappel anchors

carabinersAtleast three bombers anchors are preferable to rappel off a cliff. Anchors can be bolts, cams, nuts, pitons, trees or tied off boulders. Rappel ropes are threaded through metal – carabiners, quick links and steel descending rings.

Rappel ropes

While rappelling, you use either one or two climbing ropes, which are threaded through metal anchor material. It is always recommended to use doubled single rope to be safe in situations like knot failures or rope getting jammed in the anchors when you pull it.

Knot for rappel ropes

Ropes are tied together with one of the four rappel rope knots namely – double figure-8 fisherman’s knot, square fisherman’s knot, double overhand knot and double fisherman’s knots. Autoblock knot and stopper knot are used as safety backup.


Rappel device

It is a best practice to use rappel device like an ATC (air traffic controller) or figure-8 descender.

Pulling rappel ropes

Pulling ropes down after rappelling should be easy if you have carefully checked the system and avoided possible hang-ups and tangles. As you pull the ropes, pay attention for falling rocks that ropes could dislodge. Wear a helmet and keep your head down so a flying chunk doesn’t hit your face.

Rappelling is always dangerous and most of the time accident occurs because of human errors. While you rappel lot of things can go wrong including –

  • Rope connecting knot can come untied
  • You might rig your rappel device wrong
  • The anchors may fall
  • Rope might cut on a sharp edge
  • Rope might get stuck when you pull it
  • Your clothes may get stuck in your rappel device


Double fisher 8 knotATC

 Double – Triple check the system before starting

The best to check is to use buddy system and check each other’s harness and rappel setup. Check carefully the anchors, the slings on the anchors and make sure the knot connecting your two ropes is tied correctly.


For more information –

Contact: info@gofootloose.com


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