Rappelling is the controlled descent down a rock face using a rope. Climbers use this technique when a cliff or slope is too steep and/or dangerous to descend without protection. Rappelling is a technique that allows you to do a controlled descent down a rope from a cliff. Climbers use this technique when a cliff or slope is too steep and/or dangerous to descend without protection. Many climbers use this technique to protect established anchors from damage. Rope access technicians also use this as a method to access difficult-to-reach areas from above for various industrial applications like maintenance, construction, inspection and welding. Rescue teams are also known for using this method as a way to access injured or stranded victims.
Types of Rappelling
Tandem or spider rappelling :
Involves two climbers descending on the same belay device. This is done in some rescue situations when one of the climbers is incapacitated or the descent needs to be done quickly. The set-up is similar to a regular rappelling set-up with the first climber is girth hitched off a sling into the descender on the carabiner, and has an auto-block from belay loop of the harness to the rope as a backup. The second rappeller is also girth hitched into the belay device on the carabiner and also anchored into the main rappeller's harness as a back-up.
Simul-rappelling or simultaneously rappelling :
Advanced technique where two climbers at the same time descend the same rope, or two ropes tied together, and one climber’s weight counterbalances the other. Generally the technique is considered less safe than the regular repelling; however, it’s useful in case of emergencies, or for rapping off opposite sides of a fin or spire where there are no anchor points.
Counterbalance rappelling :
Used typically by a leader to reach an injured second. Idea is to rappel off on one strand of rope, using the incapacitated second's weight on the other strand of the rope to counterbalance.
Releasable abseil :
Used by some guides with inexperienced abseilers. A rope is set up by anchoring it with a munter hitch and locking off the non-rappelling strand of the rope. The client descends on the non-locked strand of the rope. The guide unlocks the other strand and lowers the client or the rappeller if the client gets into trouble. Useful with an inexperienced rappeller or when the rappeller gets into trouble, for example, by getting a piece of clothing or hair entangled in the descender.
Classical (non-mechanical methods) :
Generally more dangerous and used only in emergencies when no other option is available. They involve descending without aid of mechanical devices, by wrapping the rope around the body, and were used before the advent of harnesses and hardware.
South African classical abseil (double-roped) :
This method is less dangerous as it provides better body support than the classical abseil.
Fireman's Belay :
A method to backup an abseil by a partner on the ground who is able to pull down on the rope from below to arrest the descent. This is a useful safety technique, particularly for inexperienced abseilers.