In all my rock climbing discussions I don’t think I have touched on rappelling. If you’re going up you’ve gotta come down… as they say, and rappelling is the way to do it. Remember though that although it seems easy and fun it is still extreme and dangerous.
The alternative to rappelling is a walk-down route,. Of course you could jump… but I don’t think that would be a very good idea!
Rappelling is where you hook a rope to the top of a rock and bounce down letting a little bit of rope out on each bounce. You will have seen people doing this in all sorts of cops and robber programmes on TV, movies, etc.
Rappelling can be a dangerous part of the climb, but some people consider it the most enjoyable too.
During the ascent, the rope is present as a safeguard, but during the descent, the rope becomes the means of movement, and a safeguard no longer exists.
To begin rappelling, the rope is run from the anchor on the rock through a screw gate carabiner on the harness over the shoulder and to the opposite hand. The rope is held behind the body by one hand to control the friction generated and thus the speed of descent.
Friction devices such as the figure eight descender (where the rope runs through the descender and belay plate), have made rappelling safer and easier, but be wary. Make sure that each element of the rappel is secure before beginning to move down the rock face.
And remember, if the idea of rappelling freaks you out you can always take the walk-down route. Most, but not all, climbs offer this alternative – be sure to check it out before you go up!
For your entertainment here is an extremely illegal rappell – if you try it you might well end up in a cell for the night! However, it shows you what rappelling looks like:
and I’ll follow that one up with a more cautionary lesson: