How To Retrieve A Single Strand Rappel Rope

How to retrieve a single strand rappel rope

Getting to the top of a mountain or a tall cliff is a thrilling experience all climbers long for, but once you are up, you are actually only halfway there. Getting back down to the base of the mountain safe and sound is the real challenge, and rappelling seems to be an excellent option, as it allows for a quick descent and causes minimal wear on your equipment. One of the most common ways to rappel your way down is by using a single strand rappel rope – threading your rope through a specialized rappel device attached to your harness with a locking carabiner, and using one strand to get down. But how can you retrieve your single strand rappel rope once you have safely reached the ground?

If your rope’s length is at least twice the cliff’s height, you can simply pull one end through the fixed anchor at the top of the cliff, until the rope’s middle is centered, and set up a single strand rappel. To retrieve your single strand rappel rope once you have reached the ground, you just pull one end, causing the other end to pass through the fixed anchor until it is back with you.

Rappelling is an exciting, yet dangerous part of climbing. While trying to make your way down to the ground safe and sound, your life literally depends on your gear and whether you use it the right way. Just one small mistake can lead to an accident, which could be fatal. You need to make sure that you have the appropriate equipment and that you are using it correctly. So before even worrying about how to retrieve your single strand rappel rope in the first place, you need to ask yourself if you are completely safe.

Pre-Descent Safety Check

First of all, after threading the rope through the anchor at the top, you should tie a secure knot on one side of the rope, a few inches away from the anchor. The knot will serve as a stopper – and probably a life-saver – ensuring that this side of the rope will not accidentally fit through the anchor, while you are rappelling your way down the cliff using the other side of the rope. Another knot on the end of the side you are supposed to use to descend will help you further safeguard against that risk.

This way, if you wish to retrieve your single strand rappel rope, once you have safely reached the ground, you will first have to undo the knot on the side you were holding onto while rappelling. This is so that the other side of the rope can fit through the anchor. Then pull the other side down.

Double-checking everything before starting to rappel is certainly a step you do not want to skip.

  1. Begin with inspecting your rappel rope and ensuring that it is free of any damage or entanglements so that it can move unhindered.
  2. Going on with the safety check, make sure that the rope is properly threaded both through the fixed anchor and through your rappel device. The carabiner connecting the rappel device to your harness should be securely locked.
  3. Last, but not least, you should detect any obstructions, such as branches or protrusions on the rock face, which could make your descent more complicated and dangerous, or in the best-case scenario, make it difficult to retrieve your single strand rappel rope after a successful rappel.

Things To Consider When Beginning Descent

When you are done with all the security checks, you are good to go. But safety comes first throughout the whole procedure, so it is essential to remember a few things while descending too.

Always keep one hand – your brake hand – on your rope. To start lowering yourself, use your guide hand to gradually feed the rope through the rappel device. Try to keep a steady pace, while turning your head from time to time to see if there are any odd obstacles around. Once you have safely made your way down, before trying to retrieve your single strand rappel rope, make sure that you thoroughly check once more for any tricky spots. You definitely do not want to risk seeing any loose rocks falling in your direction!

Once you are certain that there is no potential danger, you can proceed with retrieving your single strand rappel rope by untying the knot on one end of the rope and pulling the other end down until the rope is back in your hands. You might need to pull firmly or shake it a little bit in case it gets stuck on its way down. Just make sure that you do so carefully.

Multiple Stops Down

Sometimes, instead of getting down to the base of the mountain at once, you might need to make a few stops in between. In that case, you would be rappelling from the top to a lower point and you would need to retrieve your single strand rappel rope in order to reuse it to continue descending. The process would be exactly the same as described above.

A retrievable rope would be all a climber could need, to be able to gradually move down from one rappel station to the next one, until they have finally reached the base.

If you somehow fail to retrieve your single strand rappel rope, you will probably end up stuck somewhere halfway down, unless you have some backup gear.

How to retrieve a single strand rappel rope

What Is A Single Line Rappel With A Retrievable Anchor?

Some of you may be wondering how one can rappel without leaving any gear behind, either because of your environmental concerns or because you just want to retain your equipment. There are several ways one can build a retrievable rappel, with each one having its own advantages and disadvantages, so it is important for the climber to weigh the situation before deciding upon the technique they are going to use.

Choosing a single line rappel with a retrievable anchor allows for retrieving both your rappel rope and your anchor once you have successfully reached the ground or a lower rappel station. The 2-ring retrievable anchor and the so-called macramé knot are two of the most common methods used for setting up a single line rappel with a retrievable anchor. Let’s take a look at how they work.

Method: 2-Ring Retrievable Anchor

Out of the multiple ways to retrieve your anchor equipment, the 2-ring retrievable anchor is the easiest, safest, and most widely-used method. In order to set it up, you first need to scout for a strong, well-positioned anchor, like a tree or a rock, where you can tie your 2-ring sling, a single or double strand sling with a ring on each one of its ends.

After placing your sling around the object you have chosen, you will have to pull your rope through both rings and prepare it for a single line rappel.

Tie a pull cord on one side of your sling, preferably avoiding to do so on one of the rings, as you could risk having the pull cord tangled with your rappel rope. And your single line rappel with a retrievable anchor is all set.

Once you are down, you can retrieve your rappel rope, as well as the sling, using the pull cord.

Method: Macramé Knot (Ghost Knot)

Another popular, but a little trickier method is the macramé knot, which is also known as the ghost knot. In this case, you prepare your single line rappel by pulling your rope through the fixed anchor until you reach its middle and both ends of the rope are on the ground.

Then, you basically braid your rope for a few inches, ensuring that you pull it tight each time. Once you are done, you can start descending by using the rappelling side of the rope.

In order to finally be able to reunite with your DIY single line rappel with a retrievable anchor, you will need to pull the other side of the rope first, then the rappelling side of the rope, continuing this way until you completely untie the macramé knot.

What is a Double Rope Rappel Figure 8?

A double rope rappel is – just as it sounds – rappelling down using two strands of rope. An important advantage of rappelling double strand is the fact that it builds more friction than rappelling single strand, which allows for having some added control while going down. A figure 8 is one of the simplest, yet effective rappel devices in the shape of an 8. These two combined give you the double rope rappel figure 8 technique.

To set up a double rope rappel figure 8, pull both strands of your anchored rope through the figure 8 device’s big ring and secure them around its neck.

Lock your carabiner on the small ring and hold both strands behind your back with your brake hand.

You can either rappel slowly or accelerate by loosening your hand.

Once down you can release the carabiner and figure 8 and retrieve your rope.

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