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On Rappel


On Rappel, what does that mean? It is a command that is used to signify someone is about to slide down a rope using a mechanical rappelling device.

It is important to remember when doing any type of adventuring that one should get proper training and should always have a partner that has at least some experience when doing the activity. Do not attempt to do these activities without the proper training.

So today we will talk about the proper method of rappelling, absailing or sliding down a rope using mechanical equipment i.e. Belay/Rappelling Device.

If you are planning to do a hike that you know has some cliffs or waterfalls that need to be descended, here is what you need to do to prepare.

> Have the proper length of static line rope, assorted sizes of slings, harnesses, carabiners and a figure 8 or belay device for each person on the hiking trip

> Know how to tie some basic knots like Bowline, Prusik and Figure 8 on a bight.

Necessary Knots To Know For Rappelling


When you arrive at the cliff –

> The first thing you do is put on your harnesses make sure that the buckle is properly secured. This means weaving strap back through the buckle so it will not slip. This is very important as I have experienced this myself and with some of my friends where the straps have slipped out of the buckles.

> Next is to locate a solid anchor point like the base of a tree that is at least 6 to 12 inches in diameter. Two anchors are better than one especially if the anchors are questionable.


> Wrap sling around the anchor and attach 2 carabiners with the gates opposite and apposing this way incase the carabiner bumps up against another object and it pops open then the other carabiner will stay closed always good to backup all your gear and anchor points. Refer to the pictures above showing that you can use a single locking carabiner, but still it is safer to use 2 carabiners.

> After you have secured your anchor points you can now tie your rope to the anchor. Depending on if you plan on taking the rope with you after the rappel or you are going to leave it there for the return trip, using ascenders to climb back up the rope. (Ascenders – mechanical rope grab devices and used to assist in climbing ropes).

> If you are going to be taking the rope with you, you can wrap your rope around or through the anchor so you will have 2 ropes hanging down the cliff. You will have to rappel using both ropes.  After you and your partner reach the bottom of the cliff, you can un-tie your knot at the end of the rope and proceed to pull one end of your rope to retrieve it.

> It is important always tie a knot at the end of your ropes whether it is single or double this will keep you from sliding off the end of the rope if your rope ends up being short.


> If you are going to leave it for the return trip make sure you tie the rope using either the Bowline or the figure 8 on a bight.

> Now that you have secured your rope to the anchor, you are ready for your rappel.  Hookup your figure 8 onto the rope and clip in for safety so as not to fall off the cliff while chucking rope over the edge of the cliff.

> Everyone rappelling should have a belayer at the bottom of the cliff except for the first person rappelling.  It is good practice to use a Prusik knot while rappelling.  This is a great backup for your rappel device. The Prusik is tied onto the rope just below the figure 8 device and clipped into the harness.  This will make your rappel more secure.

(Belayer is the person that holds the bottom of the rope and pulls tension on the rope to either slow down or stop the person rappelling in case of accidental falling out of control).


> For the 2nd and 3rd person rappelling, you will use these important commands. The person rappelling will call out “On Rappel” .  This means he or she is hooked up on rappel (connected rappel device to rope and harness).  The person on the bottom of cliff holding the bottom of the rope he or she is called the (Belayer) and they call out “On Belay”.  The person rappelling will then call out “Rappelling”, Then and only then the Belay person call out “Rappel”, to let the person on rappel know it is safe to start their descent.

> When the person starts rappelling, he/she holds the rope in either hand keeping the other hand behind his/her back while pressing into the small of his/her back creating a friction on the rappel/belay device. The other hand holds onto the rope in front for balance purposes only. When the person is ready to descend,  he/she releases some tension on the rope and start sliding down keeping one's self in a seated position with the feet up against the cliff face.

> It is best to take your time rappelling. Sliding down the rope too fast can cause accidents and also can burn the rope since the rappel/belay device heats up, especially on big rappels. When the person rappelling reaches the bottom of the cliff and disconnects from the rope, he/she calls out “off-rappel” and the belayer calls out “off belay”. This lets the next person know it is his/her turn to hookup and rappel.

Watch the following instructional video on rappelling for beginners. Although the video does not use the commands, the above basics of rappelling  are necessary to ensure a safe and fun rappelling activity.

This is the proper way to rappel.


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