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Rappelling vs. Lowering
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reprieve


Feb 25, 2004, 1:53 PM
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Rappelling vs. Lowering
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I was out at the crag this weekend for some beautiful sport climbing. Four people - 2 ropes. The guy who owned one of them insisted that whenever somebody topped out on his rope, they would rappel down instead of being lowered. It was the first time I had encoutered this. His contention was that this puts less stress on the rope. Is this true? How many people are the same way with their ropes?


vegastradguy


Feb 25, 2004, 1:57 PM
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we rap to save the rap rings...if we're TR'ing the route, we set an anchor and TR it. last person rappels.

i dont think that a TR puts any more stress on the line than a rappel. or at least, any significant stress. fallin puts stress on ropes....

of course, i could be wrong on this one. :?


superdiamonddave


Feb 25, 2004, 1:59 PM
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Nothing wrong with doing that, but I don't see how there is less "stress". The rope will still be weighted and making sharp bends over a rappell device. Rappelling will however, save wear and tear on the anchors.


overlord


Feb 25, 2004, 2:00 PM
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its good to rapp off the route if theres significan about of friction between rock and rope or if there are some sharp adges somewhere.

otherwise, its basicly the same, but lowering is quicker (consider it whn youre at a crowded crag).


tylerm


Feb 25, 2004, 2:00 PM
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I would imagine it could put more stress/wear on the rope; just look at what it does to the rap acnhors...friction wears them down so fast so I imagine it could do some damage to the rope. I always try and rap down-although it takes more time it allows the anchors to live longer.

You know that black/grey dust you get on your hands after a long day? That's the anchor (in tiny bits) after being worn down.

I'd say rap.


kman


Feb 25, 2004, 2:31 PM
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Less wear and tear for long term rope life. That's probably the reason he wanted you all to rap on his rope.


micronut


Feb 25, 2004, 2:39 PM
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It's more a question of wear to the sheath than "stress". In some areas where the climbing is really steep and the anchors are set up below any lip, than lowering off of a well slung out anchor is no big deal. But when the rock is high friction and the rock is slabby, such as desert areas in California that I frequent, the the wear can get excessive. I just picked up a new rope in October, and already it's gettin' way furry. I have people rap whenever it makes sence.

Also remeber that on sketchy anchors, rapping puts half the force on the anchor as lowering.


squish


Feb 25, 2004, 2:46 PM
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Your friend has good reasons, as others have pointed out.

1. Repeatedly lowering climbers can quickly wear out the sheath on your rope if there is significant contact with the rock, especially edges and rough crystals. If this is a straight-up sport wall with very little relief and the rope only contacts the draws, it might not be as much of a consideration, but sometimes the rope friction is huge. Rope friction = rope wear.

2. It places less wear on the anchor rings, and not lowering from the rings is a courtesy to the climbing community, especially those who would need to replace the anchor at some point. It especially makes sense if it's a busy crag.


shank


Feb 25, 2004, 3:35 PM
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Where are Jay and Matt when you need them.... :lol:


abalch


Feb 25, 2004, 3:50 PM
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Yes, I almost always rapell instead of lowering. I just find it works out better all around if I do. I can stop, lock off, and remove gear or unclip draws easier than if someone is lowering me, and I have to direct them when to stop. I also don't like my rope rubbing over outcroppings and ledges as I am lowered. I damage my rope less when I rapell over the same ledges.


timpanogos


Feb 25, 2004, 4:13 PM
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There was another thread recently, where a guy had a new rope and was upset about some big dude hang dogging on his new line.


Anyway, I remember buying my first lead line - it was like the first 4x4 truck - you are so squeamish before you get that first "Rocky Mountain Pin Stripe" (scratch the paint job).

I remember cussing my wife for kicking some dirt on my godly new lead rope.

Didn't take too may trad/aid routes to come to the realization that this is your main tool - use it - enjoy it - love it - be good to it, be careful with it, wash it from time to time - but quit being neurotic about the thing. When it’s time to retire it, so be it.

If you were to live by the manufactures recommendations – heck, what is the darn thing rated for – 7 to 10 lead falls?

I watch guys fall over and over and over (within minutes) on the same 30’ section of their rope– often without ever switching ends, or giving the rope a rest.

What happens first, sheath wears out from lowering or say 20 lead falls? Or maybe 20 long hot days in the sun – with wet/dry cycles – maybe some freezing etc. The reason the rope is so abrasive on the rings/binners is all that microscopic dirt grinding away at your fibbers and sheath – dang, makes you want to wash that thing after every outing – but what about washer wear?

Heck use it up for a session or two and come full circle, get a nice new godly lead line and await that first pin stripe. Damn I hate that.

Chad


blueeyedclimber


Feb 26, 2004, 7:04 AM
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Yes, less stress on anchors is main reason. Second consideration is friction of rope on the rock.

Another consideration, though, is if you have a kinky rope, it helps get the kinks out.

Josh


sarcat


Feb 26, 2004, 10:00 AM
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Depends on the ability of the climber. I always lower newbies their first times because I feel uncomfortable with the crossover.

I've replaced a fair amount of ovals on chains from too much lowering. When lowering I always use a pair of opposing draws then only use the chains for the final rap after the routes been cleaned. Agreed that the rope is to be used and maintained not set on a pedistal.


kalcario


Feb 26, 2004, 11:35 AM
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This topic has been done to death here but since it is more important that 99.9% of the stuff on this site I'll weigh in one more time.

Some of the best climbers who ever lived have died rappelling. Statistically there is a lot more that can go wrong rapping vs. being lowered. When the anchors wear out replace them. On popular routes they should be replaced every few years anyway and on less popular ones they won't wear out.

Notice how NONE of the various climbing manuals out there recommend rapping to save wear and tear on your rope vs. lowering off, instead you get intricate schematic drawings showing how to clip in, thread and lower off. If lowering off was such a bad idea I doubt it would be promoted, and if rapping off was safer, it would be promoted as such I would think! Guys who have actually worked search and rescue write those books...

There has never been a death due to anchor failure on a sport route as far as I know, people die rappelling every year. I sport climb 100-150 days a year and have been climbing since the mid 70's, and I NEVER RAPPEL unless it is absolutely necessary. Set up TR's with your own draws, or lower off your own draws if somebody else is going to lead it, then thread the anchor and lower off when you're finished. If you're worried about getting dropped when lowering than that person should'nt be belaying you in the first place.

And for God's sake learn how to use a GriGri! It's the only belay device that works when you let go of it, arguing against this is like arguing against auto-restraining seat belts in cars.

And people who have only been climbing a few years have NO BUSINESS giving critical safety advice on this site or anywhere else.


squish


Feb 26, 2004, 7:20 PM
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In reply to:
Notice how NONE of the various climbing manuals out there recommend rapping to save wear and tear on your rope vs. lowering off, instead you get intricate schematic drawings showing how to clip in, thread and lower off. If lowering off was such a bad idea I doubt it would be promoted, and if rapping off was safer, it would be promoted as such I would think! Guys who have actually worked search and rescue write those books...

Yeah, but some of us are cheap dirtbags who want our ropes to last a little longer, so we avoid grinding them over edges, bulges, roofs and aretes when possible. Deciding between rapping and lowering really depends on where you're climbing. Sport areas are often ideal setups for lowering, but not always. I'll often lower too, if the rope path is pretty straightforward. Other times, you simply can't lower due to crazy rope drag, wild traverses, or whatever else. You can't generalize that lowering is safer than rappelling 100% of the time.

In reply to:
And for God's sake learn how to use a GriGri! It's the only belay device that works when you let go of it, arguing against this is like arguing against auto-restraining seat belts in cars.

Ok, I won't argue that, but I don't plan to start using one either. All I'm going to say is: they have their place.

In reply to:
And people who have only been climbing a few years have NO BUSINESS giving critical safety advice on this site or anywhere else.

I'm not so sure that this was a safety question in the first place. You brought that up.


sarcat


Feb 27, 2004, 7:05 AM
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In reply to:
And people who have only been climbing a few years have NO BUSINESS giving critical safety advice on this site or anywhere else.

So tenure is preclusive to saftey and those with out tenure are unqualified to help or answer any kind of safety question???? So if I put in my 20 years do I get a star on my belly and exit the unstared sneech populace. Sounds like absolutism to me and uncalled for in this thread.

I'd ask Kalcario how he learned anything if the only valueable/trustworthy advice he recieved came from people "climbing since the mid 70's"?

Thanks to reprieve asking the question. It made me look closer as to why I'd rap as opposed to lower... oh wait... I can't ask that because I'm not 30+ years experiance.


bumblie


Feb 27, 2004, 7:13 AM
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If you want to reduce wear on the anchors, then the last person should rap. Every one else can lower off the draws. Rapping puts about the same amount of stress on the sheath as lowering.


kalcario


Feb 27, 2004, 8:54 AM
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*So if I put in my 20 years do I get a star on my belly and exit the unstared sneech populace.*

Just trying to discourage people from giving advice that could get somebody killed, you can question my etiquette but I'm not hearing anyone refute the rest of my post...your life is worth more than your rope


sarcat


Feb 27, 2004, 9:00 AM
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In reply to:
your life is worth more than your rope

I hoped that was what I also ment in my post.

Excellent then! We agree.


fredrogers


Feb 27, 2004, 9:03 AM
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I personally like lowering vs. rapping most of the time. It scares me when people sometimes rap and sometimes get lowered. That seems to setup a potential miscommunication between climber and belayer. The climber is thinking about getting lowered while the belayer has taken them off-belay because he/she thought that the climber was rapping. I prefer to always be lowered and not taken off belay. I have heard of too many accidents with friends involving rappels and miscommunication. I have not heard of many people dying because the anchors failed or the rope was too "fuzzy".

I agree that rapping can be the better method on some single pitch trad routes if you are cleaning the route while going down. Rapping will help alleviate an outward pull on the pieces which keeps them from getting stuck. But I think rapping should be the exception and not the rule for myself.


blueeyedclimber


Feb 27, 2004, 9:14 AM
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I think either way is fine. I or someone in my group, if they are the last climber, will rappell. Either way, it should be known by all parties what is going on before they leave the ground. And also a good way to communicate should something change. Most rappelling accidents happen because of climber mistakes or poor communication (NOT equipment failure). I actually rather enjoy setting up a rappel, but I let my belayer know what i am doing and I focus on what I am doing and double and triple check everything. Plus, my rope is a little kinky, so the rappel helps to unkink it.

AS for mister-know-it-all.....Whatever.

Josh


iltripp


Feb 27, 2004, 9:21 AM
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In reply to:
And people who have only been climbing a few years have NO BUSINESS giving critical safety advice on this site or anywhere else.

You have NO BUSINESS telling other people where they should be giving advice. I've only been climbing a few years, yet I know enough to see if someone is doing something wrong and tell them the better way. You're absolutely right that giving advice about something you are inexperienced in is stupid and dangerous, but give me a break here. What you said is ridiculous.

You know, my advice would have been pretty similar to yours: that possible dangers increase when you choose to rap everytime. So, what makes you so much more qualified than me to give a response here. Obviously, in my noobiness, I fail to see something contained in your vast reserves of wisdom. Get off your feckin' high horse and go preach somewhere else.

I would even say that your advice, while good at times, is hardly the "right" answer. Your response was far too absolute in a sport where "it depends" is the crucial phrase in every answer. I would whole-hardedly agree that you shouldn't rap off a route every single time, but it is stupid to say that you should NEVER rappel. Other factors, like friction between rope and rock should be taken into consideration.

If I am setting up a TR, I will lead the route, build an anchor (using my own draws) and lower off. As long as there is not terrible friction against the rock, the other climbers will continue to climb and lower off. If there is terrible friction, chances are I will choose another route. At then end, I will feed the rope through the rap rings and either rap off (with a backup) or lower off, depending on how I feel. I am confident in my abilities to know that I can rap off of a route with a good degree of safety, but I also know that there are many things that can and do go wrong, so I don't rap everytime someone climbs the route. Doing that isn't going to save your rope much at all (except for friction, but like I said, pick another route). Saving wear on the anchor is a moot point, because you should be TRing through your own gear anyway.

Kalcario, your advice is sound, but really. I've seen very experienced climbers do some very dumb things, and I've seen some relatively new climbers have a really good head on their shoulders. Knowledge and safety are very individualized things that can't be judged simply by the number of years you've put into the game without killing yourself. That being said, the internet makes it far to easy for people to be self-proclaimed experts and spout out BS that could get someone killed, so your comments do have their place.


kalcario


Feb 27, 2004, 9:46 AM
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*the internet makes it far too easy for people to be self-proclaimed experts and spout out BS that could get someone killed, so your comments do have their place. *
 
Correct. I am referring to sport routes and the odd habit people have of rapping off them to save wear and tear on the rope and anchors, and how misplaced this concern is when weighed against the increased statistical danger of rapping vs. lowering. I have done lots of rappelling in my former (and soon to be resurrected) life as a trad climber including backing off El Cap 3 times before I finally did it, once from 22 pitches up in a blizzard. My main point here is there are misinformed and misguided voices out there at the sport crags telling you to rap, and the best way to counter such nonsense is to be absolutist, if one life is saved thereby then I don't mind being accused of "preaching".


nealric


Mar 1, 2004, 11:52 AM
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I usually rap- and for a different reasons than people have been talking about.

There is no communication gap in rapping. After you yell off belay- the belayer can sit back and relax. I have watched people at sport crags about to un anchor to lower- only to find out that they were not yet on belay.

Another plus is that you can weight the rope before unanchoring (hard to do if you lower)- If you do that its pretty hard to mess up with the belay device.

Its also nice for going around overhangs. Some belayers are smart about such things- others are not. Its nice to be able to control yourself so you dont smack your head.

Although rapping is statistically more dangerous than lowering- I think the statistcs may lie in this situation. Rapelling can be done anywhare from a himalayan big wall in 100mph winds to down a 15 foot boulder. Lowering is almost ALWAYS done at a sport crag. Of course lowering will be safer when taking that into account. From reading accidents in north amercan mountaneering- it seems that most rapping incidents occur because a) rapping off the end of the rope or b) rapelling of a chincy anchor. Neither is an issue sport climbing.


squish


Mar 3, 2004, 1:55 AM
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In reply to:
There is no communication gap in rapping. After you yell off belay- the belayer can sit back and relax. I have watched people at sport crags about to un anchor to lower- only to find out that they were not yet on belay.

Good point. I think the question of rapelling being more dangerous is only an issue when you're stupid. It can certainly go both ways. However, I would never call Off Belay if I intend to be lowered.

Pro/con rappelling: You have complete control.
Pro/con lowering: Your partner has complete control.

Actually, lowering on overhanging sport routes is probably the best idea because you can't tram on rappel.


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