To get the rope ready for rappel ling, you attach it to an anchor. In the simplest case, you would untie a runner and retie it around a tree as a rappel sling. Then the midpoint of the rope is suspended from the sling (fig. 8-1 la).
If you're using just one rope, put one end of the rope through the sling and pull it until you reach the midpoint. Or you can put the sling around the midpoint before you retie it around the tree. If
you're joining two ropes together for the rappel, put one end of a rope through the sling and tie it to the other rope with a double fisherman's knot, backed up with overhand knots.
You could put the rope directly around the tree (fig. 8-1 lb), without use of a rappel sling—but this causes rope abrasion, makes it harder to retrieve the rope and, if done enough times, can kill the tree.
If your anchor is a rock feature or bolts or pi-tons, always attach a sling to the anchor, then run the rappel rope through the sling. Never put the rope directly around the rock or through the eye of the bolt hanger or piton, because the friction may make it impossible to pull the rope back down from below. Some climbers prefer to use two slings instead of one for added security. If you normally carry only sewn runners (which cannot be untied), you may want to bring along some 9/i6-inch webbing to cut and tie as needed for rappel slings.
On popular climbs, you will find established rappel anchors encircled with the slings that must be left behind when a rappel rope is retrieved. Some of the older slings will feel dry and less supple. It's a good idea to cut out a couple of the oldest slings and add a new one before running your rappel rope around them. If you are using
more than one sling, try to use the same length to help distribute the load.
When using two anchors to support the rappel, the most common method is to run a separate sling from each anchor, with the slings meeting at the rappel rope. Generally try to adjust the slings so the force is the same on each anchor. For the strongest setup, keep a narrow angle between the two slings (fig. 8-12). (You can also use just a single sling run through the two anchors, employing either self-equalization or the triangle method. Both are described in Chapter 7.)
You can help to avoid binding and abrasion of the rappel rope by making sure the point of connection between the rappel sling and the rope is away from the rock (fig. 8-13).
You can use a tiny piece of rappel hardware known as a descending ring to help reduce rope wear and make retrieval easier. It's simply a metal ring, l'/2 inches or so in diameter. Thread the rappel sling through the ring before tying the sling.
Then thread the rappel rope through the ring until you reach the rope's midpoint (fig. 8-14). When you pull the rope down later, it slides more easily through the descending ring than it would directly over the sling, which also can be weakened by rope friction.
The descending ring, however, does add another possible point of failure. Newer rings are continuous non-welded designs, much better than the welded type, which cannot be trusted. Some
climbers insist on two rings, even if both are non-welded. An alternative is a single ring, backed up by a non-weight-bearing sling from the anchor through the rope, ready to hold the rope in case the ring fails.
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