Forums: Climbing Disciplines: Trad Climbing: Re: [climber49er] Solo Rappeling - Backcountry Travel - What would you do?: Edit Log

Partner rgold

Dec 27, 2011, 8:47 AM

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Registered: Dec 3, 2002
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Re: [climber49er] Solo Rappeling - Backcountry Travel - What would you do?
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I agree with dan2see. Any time you cleverly manage to circumvent the need to rappel you are not simply safer but also more in tune with your surroundings, making use of available avenues and weaknesses rather than using equipment and technology to just blast through whatever terrain presents itself.

Granted, there are times when a 20 meter rappel is a lot better than a 20 mile detour, but artificially introducing rappels when there are reasonable walking or scrambling alternatives isn't good back-country procedure, most especially for a solo traveler.

Rappelling is the most dangerous thing climbers do and experience does not seem to be a very effective hedge against serious accidents. Having people know where you are and what you route is may be useful in getting your body recovered, but won't help with many of the problems that rappelling can add to your trip. At the very least, it involves counting on search and rescue operations to get you out of a mess caused by the decision to rappel when it wasn't necessary.

If you insist, then make sure you are fully capable of getting out of any jam rappelling can provide. You have to be competent at safely locking off the rappel and going hands-free, at completely unweighting your device in mid-rappel, and at efficiently ascending ropes that won't pull, and you'll need to be able to do these things in bad conditions when you are already tired.

Remember that everything gets harder if you are carrying a pack. You need more friction from your system, you may want a chest harness, and should know alternative strategies such as suspending the pack directly from the rap device.

One of the dangers of rappelling in the backcountry is getting yourself trapped in the middle of cliffed-out terrain. You've pulled the ropes but can't get down the next section. Don't count on maps to give you the full story on this.

I vote for not leaving gear, for a reason you didn't mention: it is unsightly litter, left in places it isn't needed just because you want to follow a straight line drawn on a map. Spare the rest of the back country users the eyesores left to satisfy your manufactured challenge.

The backpacker link given above describes a standard method for retrieving your sling and leaving nothing behind. There are also methods that avoid pulling anything around a tree. These methods involve chains of slipknots (crocheting, literally) that might be hard to pull out from below. You can find descriptions on canyoneering websites.

If you are going to be rappelling broken and brushy terrain, there is a decent chance that your ropes could hang after being pulled and become irretrievable. If you get your ropes back, the sling you pull off the tree can get hung up and then you lose it and your pull cord. Talk about litter! Beyond that, you will need to have carefully thought out an alternate plan for the route that does not involve rappelling and which will not leave you stranded on a ledge if you can't retrieve your ropes.

Rappelling is an essential tool in the climber's and canyoneer's tool kit for navigating vertical terrain. Many of us have done thousands of rappels in all kinds of terrain and conditions. I don't believe you will find an experienced climber who thinks there is anything fun, exciting, or adventurous about rappelling. It is a necessary evil, and I wouldn't lose sight of the evil part.

(This post was edited by rgold on Dec 27, 2011, 9:46 AM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by rgold () on Dec 27, 2011, 9:46 AM

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