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Ask Dr. Piton ...... about how to rappel with a very heavy l
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Oct 29, 2001, 10:45 PM
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Ask Dr. Piton ...... about how to rappel with a very heavy l
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Dear Dr. Piton,

I am a burly trad climber with huge muscles. I like to aid climb too. When I reach the summit of El Cap, I feel like I'm the bitchin'est dude on the face of the planet, yet my bollocks shrivel in terror at the very thought of rappeling with my pig. Not only do I fight that lard-assed sow every painful step of the way, but when it comes to rappeling, I fear for my very life! Due to my extremely well defined abs, I usually rap with the pig on my back but sometimes even I need a break.

I have heard of "riding the pig", but I'm afraid of losing control of my speed, of barn-dooring wildly in the wrong direction, of smashing my extremely large testicles which helped get me up the burly routes I climb, and of getting turned upside-down by the weight of that monstrosity yanking at my harness. Surely Dr. Piton, there HAS to be a better way!


Crushed Bollocks

P.S. Below is a pic of a burly dude I met on the second pitch ledge of a 5.11b offwidth.

[ This Message was edited by: addiroids on 2001-10-29 23:04 ]


Oct 30, 2001, 4:04 PM
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Ask Dr. Piton ...... about how to rappel with a very heavy l [In reply to]
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Dear Mr. Bollocks,

Dr. Piton is impressed.

Dr. Piton is mightily impressed.

Dr. Piton is HUGELY impressed!

In fact, Dr. Piton might even be a bit jealous.


Yes, Mr. Bollocks, there is indeed a Better Way. Your relationship with your pig is like any other relationship you have in life - either you must retain control, or you will be controlled. This maxim holds true both with sows and with sweeties. This is especially true if your sweetie also happens to be a sow.

Extrapolating upon this last thought, you must next consider your most intimate relations with your sow, those instances of special tenderness and carnality when the two of you come together and share that bond of heightened physical intensity.

It is during these rare and cherished moments, Mr. Bollocks, that you must take control! Shout your proclamation from the cliffside, resound your battlecry from the ramparts:

"Carpe swinem!!" ............... ["Seize the pig"]

Now is the time, Mr. Bollocks for you to make your stand - either you must ride the pig, or you shall indeed be ridden. The choice lies entirely within your grasp.

But can you make the right decision? Do you know the Better Way?

I refer, of course, to rappelling with your haulbag.

Traditional Big Wall Technology would have you connect your rappel device to your harness, attach your pig to that same carabiner so that the pig hangs directly beneath the rappel device, then you would descend in this orientation, fighting the pig the whole darn way. Not only is this awkward and difficult, but it poses serious risk to your future family life!

Note: Any time Dr. Piton writes "Traditional Big Wall Technology", you should substitute the words, "The Stupid Way".

The easiest, safest and hence most correct way to rappel with an enormous load is to "Ride The Pig". This means that you attach the PIG to the rappel device, then you attach yourself to the pig, NOT the other way around [see "Traditional Big Wall Technology" This way, you control the pig, and not vice versa.

You will need to have the following stuff:

Your harness, helmet, rappel device, gloves[!], some slings and some locking crabs. It is really smart to have your ascenders with you, too. You will also need to grab your "Docking Tether" that you were using on the wall to secure your load to the power point. This cord will allow you to fasten yourself and your pig into the rap station with a "Load Release Knot" that can be removed under tension, meaning you won't have to struggle with unclipping a carabiner that supports both the weight of yourself and your pig!

Remember, doing things the hard way is the sport of fools.

Once you have your two ropes set up to rappel, you must rig yourself and the pig for rappelling.

First attach a locking crab to the top suspension straps of the haulbag. We will call this first locker the Suspension Point Locker. Onto this first Suspension Point locking carabiner you will attach the load release knot cord ["docking tether"] that you used for docking the load to the Power Point of the belay station anchors while you were on the wall. This is nothing more than a fifteen-foot-long hunk of 7mm cord doubled and with a figure 8 on a bight tied in the middle. Since both you and your pig [and hence your life] will be secured to the rappel anchor with this docking tether, make darn sure you fully understand what I'm talking about or you may end up dead! Secure the bag to the rappel anchor with the load release knot cord using a load release knot as described in this post:

Ask Dr. Piton ... about attaching your haul load to the anchor - the LOAD RELEASE KNOT

Knowing how to do this is imperatively FUNDAMENTAL to doing things the Better Way, and you shouldn't go anywhere near a wall until you have internalized this system.

Next, you pass your descending device through the two rappel ropes and clip it to a separate locking crab. You then attach this crab-and-rappel-device to the top of first Suspension Point locker. You have effectively put the pig on rappel! [Note that the pig is still docked to the rappel anchors]

Next you must attach yourself to the pig. Remember, the pig is rappelling, and you are riding the pig! You need to clip yourself into the first Suspension Point locking carabiner that is attached to the straps of the haulbag and that has the load release knot cord attaching it to the rappel anchors. This way you are hanging from the pig at all times. You DON'T want that pig hanging from you, that's for sure! The important thing here is to attach yourself as closely as possible, certainly no more than a foot away and most probably around three to six inches. You need to be this close to the bag in order to control both it and the rappel device.

To attach yourself to the Suspension Point locker of your pig, it's best to use your adjustable daisy cinched up tight. If you are still using Traditional Big Wall Technology[see] then you can substitute a doubled- or tripled-up sling for the adjustable daisy.

You and your sow should now be rigged thusly:


|| = double ropes on which you rappel
RD = rappel device
[L] = rappel device locking crab
[SPL] = suspension point locker
LRKC = Load Release Knot Cord ["docking tether"]
RA = rappel anchors
../. = adjustable daisy or tripled sling
....\. = haul bag straps

Here's a better look as drawn by Bob Shaftoe:

When rappeling with REALLY FAT SOWS, it may be necessary to use a second rappel device in series with the first. Put it BELOW the primary rappel device so you can better control it. A munter will work, but it's better to rig up something that won't twist the rope, like a good old-fashioned carabiner brake-bar setup. This secondary device will not have that much weight on it - the weight of you and the pig is mostly on the primary (upper) device. Therefore this second device need not support that much force or bend the rope all that sharply. You can rig it sticht-plate like through the LARGE hole in a figure of 8, if you like, just enough to give you a bit of extra braking. A full turn around a separate locking carabiner might even be all you need.

It's now time, Mr. Bollocks, to enjoy the only fun part of your whole descent - Riding The Pig! If you've never rappelled like this before, you will be absolutely amazed at how simple and painless it is! No struggle to unclip a carabiner, you just untie the load release knot in the docking tether cord and away you go.

You grip the pig between your legs and
rappel down - it's so incredibly easy you'll be kicking yourself that you didn't learn this years earlier. No pain, complete control. You're not off balance, you're not barn dooring. You actually sit in comfort directly on top of your sow! Revel in how good it feels to actually be on top of her for a change! Take off your shirt to reveal your rippling abs!

So put on your helmet, and take off squealing!


Now that you, Mr. Bollocks, know the Better Way of doing things, you can safely and easily handle and rappel with loads that weigh even more than you do.

No longer will you be subject to the vagaries of Traditional Big Wall Technology.

Note: If you continue, despite these words to the contrary, to use Traditional Big Wall Technology then you are beyond the help of Dr. Piton.

For detailed beta about the East Ledges Descent of El Capitan, scene of countless epic struggles and History's Greatest Man vs. Sow Conflicts, click here:



I am Dr. Piton,

and while I can keep my sow in line, I have yet to experience the same success with my sweetie.

[ This Message was edited by: passthepitonspete on 2002-12-14 19:25 ]


Oct 31, 2001, 5:11 AM
Post #3 of 8 (19660 views)

Registered: Oct 16, 2001
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Ask Dr. Piton ...... about how to rappel with a very heavy l [In reply to]
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Jeez Pete, You crack me up

Hey Addiroids, you crack me up too

Happy Halloween everyone,


[ This Message was edited by: beta on 2001-10-31 05:14 ]


Oct 31, 2001, 6:01 AM
Post #4 of 8 (19660 views)

Registered: Jan 16, 2000
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Ask Dr. Piton ...... about how to rappel with a very heavy l [In reply to]
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You CRACK everyone up. I love your stories. If you ever write a book it would defently be a best seller.
I look forward to the next episode of
Dr. Passthepetonpete

[ This Message was edited by: larryclimb on 2002-01-12 14:34 ]


Dec 14, 2002, 7:18 PM
Post #5 of 8 (19660 views)

Registered: Oct 9, 2001
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Ask Dr. Piton ...... about how to rappel with a very heavy l [In reply to]
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The next episode has arrived.

Dear Readers,

Never assume that simply because something technical is published in a mainstream climbing magazine, that it is necessarily the Better Way.

Often, magazines publish the Traditional Way because they do not know any better.

Not everyone is as smart and experienced as Dr. Piton. And evidently not everyone values their bollocks as much as Dr. Piton, since they publish stuff like that to which I am about to link you.

If you would like to see the traditional way to rappel with a heavy load, then

click here to see how to crush your gonads and destroy your future family life.

Have a look - stupid, eh?

While this way will work, it is NOT the Better Way.

This way is a way favoured by magazine editors and Big Wall Theorists.
If you are a new reader of Dr. Piton and do not know what a Big Wall Theorist is, then please click here to read about Big Wall Theorists.

If you are a fan of Dr. Piton, you would never wish to be labelled a Big Wall Theorist.

[Although there are worse monikers with which you could be labelled...]

If you are a new reader of Dr. Piton and do not know what the term "traditional big wall technology" really means around here, then you should hit your "PgUp" button eight times.

I am Dr. Piton

and I consider my bollocks to be of immeasurable worth

P.S. Never once did I suggest that the author of the tripe linked above has no idea what he is doing.

In no way do I believe that he has obviously never rappelled with a REALLY HEAVY LOAD twice his body weight, including crossing a knot in the rappel rope, like Dr. Piton has done successfully on any number of occasions.

If I have [HINT]ed in any way that this may be so, then I apologize, for it was never my intent to say precisely that.

[Note: I revised this old chestnut, stuck in some fancy-shmancy drawings, and threw it to the head of the class. It's worth another look-see just to see the squirrel!]


Jul 7, 2003, 2:02 PM
Post #6 of 8 (19660 views)

Registered: Oct 9, 2001
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Don't Get Caught Short! [In reply to]
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Once upon an East Ledges descent as I was riding my pig down the fixed ropes, I was a little surprised [and disconcerted!] to see a knot below me!

Do you know how to pass a knot on rappel while riding the pig?

*I* had to figure it out the hard way - in the field, as it were.

Fortunately there is a Better Way - read about it and learn it ahead of time! - and you can click here to Ask Dr. Pee'd ... how to cross a knot while riding the pig. It's the second post down, just below the knot photo.

Also, if you ever plan to follow the East Ledges Descent from El Cap, may I suggest you read my description? It is the most detailed ever written, and will help you avoid the "no-fall zones" and the killer manzanita tunnels, places you and your pig really don't belong!

Please click here to read Dr. Piton's East Ledges Descent Beta, which was UPDATED JUNE, 2003 with current handline and fixed rope status.


Dr. Piton


Jul 8, 2003, 10:19 PM
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Registered: Jun 4, 2002
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Re: Don't Get Caught Short! [In reply to]
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Dr. Piton...Your the would we ever be able to climb without you ... :shock:

Hugs an Kisses from all the boys in the valley :shock:


Jul 8, 2003, 11:07 PM
Post #8 of 8 (19660 views)

Registered: Feb 18, 2002
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Re: Don't Get Caught Short! [In reply to]
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That knot on the last fixed line was/is about 3 or 4 feet below the anchors. I passed it by simply tethering the pig to it, instead of the bolts. That way, it became the Power Point, and was easily bypassed.

Someone with a heart of gold should trust that there is enough rope at the bottom to pull some up and retie into the anchors to get rid of that knot. I was too frazzled to do it. Or even think about doing it.

Even better, someone with an old 60m x 10.5 or better rope should replace that scary looking fuzzy one. For what it's worth, the laziest way to the summit of El Cap is to walk up the trail from the Manure Pile picnic ground (stay in the creek bed, not up and to the right on the M.P. Buttress walk-off), do a few 3rd class moves and then jug up those three fixed lines. You can belly-slither your face out over the brink of the Diving Board (top of Dawn Wall) for a cheap vertigo high.

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