Rappels

time and the terrain permit. Sometimes you can find a photo of the route before you leave on the climb and bring it with you. Keep in mind that the first couple of rappels down an unfamiliar route may commit you to it all the way, for better or for worse.

If you can't see to the bottom of an unfamiliar rappel pitch, the first person down has got to be prepared to climb back up in case the rappel leads nowhere. This rappeller should carry prusik slings or mechanical ascenders for going up the rope. As additional preparation, the rappeller can tie both strands of the rappel rope to the anchor with figure-8 knots before starting the rappel. This secures the strands so the rappeller can climb up either strand if necessary. The next rappeller unties the knots before heading down.

Rappelling down unfamiliar terrain brings an increased risk of getting the ropes hung up. You can minimize the problem by downclimbing as much of the route as possible, instead of rappelling. You might also consider doing rappels using just one rope, even if two ropes are available, be cause one rope is easier to retrieve and less likely to hang up than two.

Even though it's nice to gain the maximum distance from each rappel, don't bypass a good rappel spot even 40 feet or so from the end of the rope if there are doubts about finding a good place farther down.

As a party moves through a series of rappels, the first person down each pitch usually carries gear to use in setting up the next rappel (after tying into an anchor at the bottom and trying to find shelter from rockfall). Climbers can take turns being first and last, though it's best for beginners to be somewhere in the middle.

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