So you made it to the top of the climb – now what? It is time to wrap off or rappel as some say.

Abseiling is dangerous; there have been many accidents and injuries that have occurred coming back down to the ground. These incidents can be minimized by implementing proper safety guidelines and using the right equipment.

The following equipment is needed for rappelling:

  • Helmet: Climbing helmets have become pretty commonplace in climbing. There have been many instances in which a climber could have avoided serious injury in a fall if they had been wearing their helmet. If you are rappelling at night, you will want to have a headlamp as well on your helmet.
  • Gloves: Gloves are essential in protecting yourself from rope burn. You are also bound to hit your hands and scratch your knuckles on the rock. These are not 100% necessary but can be very helpful.
  • Sturdy shoes: Typically, these will be climbing shoes or approach shoes if you are rappelling down the cliff to setup on a climb.
  • Knee-Pads: These are great for protecting your knees from hits on the rock.
  • Ropes: Climbing ropes with a multi-strand core and abrasion resistant sheath are the best. Low-stretch rope is used to help eliminate bouncing.
  • Harness: Your Harnesses should be comfortable, especially if your descent may take a long time.
  • Belay Device: The belay device is a device designed to allow for the rope to be let out in a controlled fashion. The speed that the rope is allowed to pass through is dependent on the amount of friction applied to the rope by the descender.

Rappelling should not be done alone if at all possible. Another person should be available in the event of an accident. The simple method of rappelling is to have a main rope attached to an anchor, and then the rappeller will attach themselves to the main rope with their belay device, which is attached to their harness through the belay loop.

Rappellers should perform safety checks before making their descent.

Check that ropes are securely anchored and backed-up if required. Check that all buckles are secure and your belay is in place. Ensure that all carabiner gates are closed and secure. Check that your descending device is rigged properly. Check that you have your helmet, gloves, and pads.

The rappeller will hold the main rope below the belay device. This hand is called the “brake hand.”

The rappeller will test the loads of the rope to make sure that everything is properly rigged. The rappeller then begins to make their move toward the edge of the abseil. The line should be kept between themselves and the anchor under load. Once over the edge, the rappeller is able to control their descent speed. It is possible for the descender to become hot so be careful.

Care should be taken that ropes do not become tangled or caught on sharp edges of rock.

There have been incidents in which rope has been cut by rock. If you are new to rappelling, you should do so only under the supervision of an experienced climber.

There are areas in which rappelling is frowned upon and even banned. Be sure to check regulations before attempting to rappel.

All of the gear that you need to rappel can be found at REI Climbing.

Related posts:

  1. Belayer and Climber Communication
  2. Belaying
  3. Climbing Rope Question

This entry was posted on Friday, September 10th, 2010 at and is filed under Rock Climbing Techniques. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Rappelling”

  1. Jamaal Shomaker Says:

    November 6th, 2010 at

    Hi, great article, and thanks for taking the time and work. One point, I believe your images are missing? Or is it my web browser? Anyways, I’ve bookmarked this web site gives thanks!

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