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 rappeling off cliffs 
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Rogue Canuck
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Post rappeling off cliffs
I don't know if any of the members are actually checking on this board anymore, but here goes:

I've been thinking lately about using my ropes and descenders that I use for trees, and trying some rappeling off cliffs. I descend from trees with complete confidence, and haven't had any issues, but I'm feeling less confident about taking it to rock. I've thought it through, and it seems like it shouldn't be a big deal. Obviously there are concerns about preventing or at least minimizing rope chafing, and I'm planning on anchoring to trees on top of the cliff so I don't have to buy a bunch of hardware and do a bunch of learning how to make safe anchors with it. Beyond that, though, I don't know. More specifically, I don't know what I don't know!

Any useful tips for me?


Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:35 pm
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
Where are the tree climbing cavers? Obi, Glenn, there's more out there, they should have some good info.

Are you planning on using a rack?
-AJ


Wed Nov 01, 2017 10:26 pm
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Rogue Canuck
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
moss wrote:
Where are the tree climbing cavers? Obi, Glenn, there's more out there, they should have some good info.-AJ

I know, right? Where is everybody? If I try this rappeling thing without their advice and get hurt, it'll be all their fault! (Then they'll be sorry.)

As a matter of fact, I was thinking about using my rack (well, a mini-rack technically, not one of those huge things the cavers use that look like you could lower a piano with it). It just seems so appropriate, and the poor thing doesn't see much action these days. I'm planning on backing it up with an autobloc below, but I can't think of the proper name for that configuration right now.


Fri Nov 03, 2017 11:28 pm
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Rogue Innovator
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
Ha! I remembered my password!

A rack backed up sounds good!

Grigri would be a fit for that.

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Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:41 pm
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Rogue Canuck
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
JimK, is that really you?? A rack backed up it is, then! (I'll probably try the Grigri, too.)


Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:08 pm
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
BS5 I'd probably use my usual rack set up for long-ish rappels. A small CMI rack with a friction knot (beeline or some such) set up below the rack. Then I can take my hands off the thing if I want to, and the friction knot works to increase friction in the rack rather than taking all the force if you have it above the rack. I read somewhere that that's called a spider rappel.

Big worry would be setting the rope at the top; I have a good feel for the tree species I climb, but not a f-rigging clue how to safely set a rope at the top of a cliff (unless there's a handy well-rooted tree). Other issue is rope abrasion on rock edges, rock climbers seem to have pads and stuff for that.


Fri Nov 17, 2017 10:49 am
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Rogue Canuck
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
Mark! You're back, too! I've been missing you guys!

I'm in full agreement regarding anchors. A good sturdy tree is the only thing I feel confident using at this point, and I'm not particularly interested in learning all about pitons or whatever.

The protection from chafing is one thing I have been thinking about. There are some good ideas in On Rope, plus I'l try my leather cambium savers.

I am starting to lean heavily toward using a backed-up rack. I'd forgotten the name of the system I had in mind, but I think you're right about it being called the spider rappel. It's a great system -- after years of using hitches and Grigris, I'm used to the formula: hands off = staying put. Descending with an unbacked-up rack, fig. 8, or ATC makes me nervous now! The Grigri would work fine, too, but the rack is reassuringly rugged and simple. Another benefit of the spider rappel is that you can safely control it with one hand, unlike the Grigri.

So how are things in Bemidji these days? Pretty wintery already?


Fri Nov 17, 2017 10:07 pm
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Rogue Innovator
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
Could the sport belay work here? Pull a bight through a ring and capture with a carabiner.

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Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:36 pm
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Rogue Canuck
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
I'm sure that would work fine, too.

I've been thinking about these different devices and techniques for rappeling, backed up with a friction hitch below, and it occurs to me that this is very similar to a Rope Wrench system, except the Rope Wrench allows you to ascend, as well.


Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:25 pm
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
It's good to see folks checking back in here. I imagine Joe would be pleased (wait a minute - I can't remember Joe being particularly pleased about much of anything - forget that last aside).

I've lately been climbing a lot on Sterling 9 mm and find that a mini-rack works incredibly smoothly. For a backup I use 8 mm beeline wrapped about 6 times around as an autoblock and connected to a leg strap on my harness.

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Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:05 pm
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
Dietley wrote:
I'm sure that would work fine, too.

I've been thinking about these different devices and techniques for rappeling, backed up with a friction hitch below, and it occurs to me that this is very similar to a Rope Wrench system, except the Rope Wrench allows you to ascend, as well.


Aha, here we go... I think the difference is that with the Rope Wrench the hitch is always engaged sharing the load so for a long rappel you have be aware of glazing on the hitch etc., no fast runs for a long rappel. I've never used an auto block but I imagine the rack or F8 is taking 100% of the load, the auto block is being held "open" by one hand to allow the rope to flow through it. A Rope Runner is essentially a mini rack and goes up or down without a configuration change. The problem with the Rope Runner is that it's finicky about what rope you use, for me anyway it doesn't work well on static kernmatles which I imagine is what you'd want for a long rappel.
-AJ


Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:34 am
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Rogue Canuck
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
Dave_C wrote:
I've lately been climbing a lot on Sterling 9 mm and find that a mini-rack works incredibly smoothly. For a backup I use 8 mm beeline wrapped about 6 times around as an autoblock and connected to a leg strap on my harness.

Same here, except the Sterling is 10mm. It's good to see you back too, Dave!


Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:44 pm
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Rogue Canuck
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
moss wrote:
Aha, here we go... I think the difference is that with the Rope Wrench the hitch is always engaged sharing the load so for a long rappel you have be aware of glazing on the hitch etc., no fast runs for a long rappel. I've never used an auto block but I imagine the rack or F8 is taking 100% of the load, the auto block is being held "open" by one hand to allow the rope to flow through it. -AJ

In theory that's exactly what you do -- the autoblock holds your position, and you release it so you can control the descent on the rack. In practice, though, the action is the same as descent on a Rope Wrench system. You release the hitch until you start moving, and both the device and hitch share the load. Of course the mini-rack delivers much more friction than the Rope Wrench, so the load isn't shared in the same proportions in both systems. You sure won't wear out your autoblock cord any time soon!

Of the descending systems I've tried (not a very exhaustive list, I admit!), a rack with an autoblock under it is the one I feel most confident using one-handed, because your hitch-release hand and your braking hand can be one and the same.


Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:08 pm
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
Cool; hadn't thought of using leather friction savers as chafe guards - that might work even better than what the rock climbers use.

Main problem with the gri-gri on a long rappel is heat buildup; it happens even if I'm sliding 20-30 feet, so I have to stop regularly to let the heat shed onto the rope *before* things hit polyester melting temperature. On the other hand, I've never overheated a rack even on my longer slides of 120 feet (although that might be approaching the upper limits of a fast slide, I can get water to sizzle on the 2nd bar sometimes...). The rack does indeed take most of the friction, so it's also my experience that friction cords last a LONG time used this way (I've had a bit of 8mm beeline that I've used about a decade for this - still the same piece).

Gri-gri heat buildup doesn't matter for the students I climb with. I put them on a yo-yo system with the upper ascender tethered to the saddle - and they thumb the cam of the ascender to inch back down the tree (the ascender is never detached). Slows 'em down, but I prefer that when climbing with a novice. There's no heat build up, and the upper ascender will catch them if they get too aggessive with the lever on the gri-gri. That way I can turn my back on them from time to time when I'm doing other stuff in the tree, and it's hard for anything serious to happen quickly.

Yeah, most tree climbers seem to train-in on "hands off = stop" systems, right from DdRT on. It's an especially helpful convention in trees because of how complex the climbing environment is; I always want a hand - or two - free to move around on a branch or reorient myself to get by a snag. Not an issue you have as often in a cave or on a cliff it seems. I sometimes worry that I get too blasé about rappelling because this kind of system is so easy to get used to, and doesn't ordinarily require much attention.

Nice to see some activity on this site again; this has long been my "go to" site for practical answers to practical climbing questions. Hope to see you all at a Rendezvous sometime.

Kind of mild right now for Bemidji this time of year: the big lakes are only half frozen over, and it's been getting above freezing during the day for Pete's sake. Some snow on the ground but it's been melting. Not too worried; it's still Bemidji, and it'll look more like home in a week or two.


Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:45 pm
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Rogue Innovator
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Post Re: rappeling off cliffs
Hi MarkF...I agree that this has been a delightful place to ponder climbing techniques over the years. :)

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Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:21 pm
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