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Thread: Edge Negotiation for Rappelling

  1. #1

    Edge Negotiation for Rappelling

    I come from a climbing background, so generally, I'm in a good position to begin rappelling when I'm at an anchor. (Although, this same issue sometimes applies to walk-up-the-back topropes...but only for the guy who first sets up the anchor and raps down. The rest of the group is generally lowered/walks off.)

    Anyway, I've now been on a handful of group Canyoneering trips and one thing I've repeatedly noticed is that anchors are often low, and there is oftentimes a slanted/broken/uneven edge to navigate.

    I believe most people know many of the principles involved here: direction of pull, protect the rope from the edge(s), don't shock weight the anchor, etc. However, I've witnessed (and participated in) all sorts of unceremonious *rough* starts... (I don't know any stats here, but I'd venture a good number of accidents happen at "the edge" when people let go with the brake hand to push off, protect face in a slip, or "skooch away" from a wall.)

    In any event, it seems the rescue/fire folks may place an ascender above the rappel device, and "pivot" into position (easily done with a nice, flat ledge). While climbing, we'd sometimes place a directional piece with a sling (I'm guessing not possible in most canyons) up high or angled to ease into a good rappel position.

    Is there an obvious trick am I missing? I'm guessing there may be a move or maneuver that I just haven't seen anyone execute consistently? (...tons of variables here, but if not a single "move" or "trick" what are some of the, "mental algorithms" people use to consistently initiate a rappel?)

    Thanks,

    Scott

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  4. #2
    Great question -- especially as a first post.

    For me, I like to mimic the method you mentioned with the ascender above the rap device. I use an ATC, and once I've pulled the rope through the device, I'll clamp the rope off at the belay device and/or wrap the rappel strand around my waist or a leg. At that point I can maneuver into place and ease into the rappel from there.
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    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Edge Negotiation for Rappelling

    Something quick that came to mind is that often people are not perpendicular (best they can, anyways) to the wall when they rappel.

    Itís almost as if they are trying to downclimb the rappel rather than lean back at a perpendicular angle to the rock and go from there.

    That may be the simplest thing beginners can learn at a young canyoneering age.


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    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Slither over the edge.

    Yeah I know, not as simple as the four-word sentence. Helps to wear Kneepads. Often helpful to go to the knees right away.

    This is a skill we call "Soft rappelling". As the anchors get more dubious, it becomes more important. Helps to watch a bunch of skilled people do it several times.

    Tom

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  10. #5
    Many times it is more comfortable and safer to sit down and slide off the edge on your hip until you can fully weight the rope. This has become pretty standard practice on a lot of raps for taller people like me that would require a lot of distance before the rap touches the leading edge of the rock.

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  12. #6
    Yep, kneepads are critical canyoneering gear for me. Not only do they aid soft starts, I use them on really slippery rappels instead of trying to keep my feet on the wall. Plus if you need to kneel for a while due set an anchor or provide first aid you will really appreciate them!

  13. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by skelley View Post
    Yep, kneepads are critical canyoneering gear
    Knee pads are for chicks!

    ROFLMAO

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  15. #8
    I took this video in a canyon a week and a half ago. I think it can add to this discussion. Keep in mind this is not for questionable anchors or beginner rappellers. But for going over an underhung lip without getting your rappel device or fingers wedged in the crack, this is by far the fastest and easiest way we've found to get over a lip.


  16. #9
    As long as there aren't any sharp edges anywhere. Good way to ruin a rope

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  18. #10
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by burnsdye View Post
    I took this video in a canyon a week and a half ago. I think it can add to this discussion. Keep in mind this is not for questionable anchors or beginner rappellers. But for going over an underhung lip without getting your rappel device or fingers wedged in the crack, this is by far the fastest and easiest way we've found to get over a lip.
    Yup. Actually, if you're gonna do that, you might as well just jump down into the sand. That would be even faster and easier.













    Actually, I hope you are joking.

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  19. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by ratagonia View Post
    Actually, I hope you are joking.

    Sometimes it is hard to tell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law
    Nope.

    I had a feeling you wouldn't be too keen on this method. But I stand by what I said. When I find more time, I'll have to go digging through the video archives to find some more examples. Hate it if you want, but it really does work well.

  20. #12
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by burnsdye View Post
    Nope.

    I had a feeling you wouldn't be too keen on this method. But I stand by what I said. When I find more time, I'll have to go digging through the video archives to find some more examples. Hate it if you want, but it really does work well.
    ... like many things, until it doesn't.

    (kids these days...)

    Tom

    ps. GET OFF MY LAWN! ;-)

  21. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by burnsdye View Post
    I took this video in a canyon a week and a half ago. I think it can add to this discussion. Keep in mind this is not for questionable anchors or beginner rappellers. But for going over an underhung lip without getting your rappel device or fingers wedged in the crack, this is by far the fastest and easiest way we've found to get over a lip.
    Comment:


    • Fastest and easiest may not be the safest way: jumping *can* work in this situation, as shown in the video, but is un-necessary and considerably riskier than a controlled rappel.
    • A safer technique (again, with a solid anchor) is to rappel until rap device and vulnerable body parts are clear of the lip, then release the feet w/o jumping.
    • If one must jump, it's best to not have a hand on the rope above the device: risk of serious injury if the hand gets trapped between the rope and the rock.
    • X2 what @2065toyota said
    • A less-solid anchor calls for different technique altogether


    Prudent jumping for fun is one thing; jumping to make travel faster and/or easier can be a technical cop-out: i.e. "I'm just gonna jump because doing this statically is too hard." Static edge negotiation is a basic skill that should be well-developed before trying to jump past tricky lips.

  22. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by hank moon View Post
    Comment:


    • Fastest and easiest may not be the safest way: jumping *can* work in this situation, as shown in the video, but is un-necessary and considerably riskier than a controlled rappel.
    • A safer technique (again, with a solid anchor) is to rappel until rap device and vulnerable body parts are clear of the lip, then release the feet w/o jumping.
    • If one must jump, it's best to not have a hand on the rope above the device: risk of serious injury if the hand gets trapped between the rope and the rock.
    • X2 what @2065toyota said
    • A less-solid anchor calls for different technique altogether


    Prudent jumping for fun is one thing; jumping to make travel faster and/or easier can be a technical cop-out: i.e. "I'm just gonna jump because doing this statically is too hard." Static edge negotiation is a basic skill that should be well-developed before trying to jump past tricky lips.
    Hank, excellent comments! I agree completely with what you're saying.

    I went back and found some videos that demonstrate a little better what I was trying to explain. These are from a while ago, and we have since repented and begun wearing helmets on all our trips, so please forgive that obvious safety infraction.


    I understand what you're saying about rappelling as low as you can, then stepping off the edge. This is the "static edge negotiation" way of doing things, and it is actually easier than the "dynamic" way, for beginners. Done correctly, the dynamic way takes a lot of experience and muscle memory. The "static" way often works very well and is the way I recommend for most beginner or intermediate rappellers.


    The videos below were taken in Wife 4 canyon. The anchor at this particular rappel is a deadman anchor. We tested the anchor and backed it up for all but the last man down. But due to the nature of it being a deadman anchor, the rope starts out at ground level. This means that as you're going over the lip, the rope is mostly pulling sideways and not up. This makes it difficult to lean back very far. If you lean back too far, you end up tipping over backwards and going down "spiderman style".


    "Static" example:


    So in this first video, Brenen (an intermediate rappeller) is going down. As he goes over the edge, he plants his feet as low as he can and then lowers himself down while leaning as far back as he can. When he gets as low as he can, he locks off his rappel device and steps off the lip. Notice this causes his body to "pendulum" under the lip. As he swings under, his face is dangerously close to smacking into the rock. Also notice that his rappel device is only a foot or so under the lip, and that his left hand is very close to getting pinched between the rope and the rock. Either one of those would be extremely painful and could cause him to lose control.





    "Dynamic" example:


    In this second video, Anthony (an advanced rappeller) is going down. As he goes over the edge, he plants his foot and just keeps rappelling down. He kicks off a little from the lip, but he doesn't lock off his rappel device. By the time he "pendulums" under the lip, his entire body is below the lip. There is no danger of smacking his face into the lip, he's not worried about getting his rappel device smashed into the rock, or getting his fingers pinched between the rope and the rock. He's not shock-loading the anchor because his rappel is very smooth.





    I highly doubt that a beginner or even intermediate rappeller could rappel as smoothly over that lip as in the second video, even employing the same techniques. A beginner trying the "dynamic" method would probably mess up in one of 3 ways:

    1. Rappel too slowly and smash into the lip.
    2. Rappel too quickly and lose control.
    3. Rappel too quickly, brake too suddenly, and shock-load the anchor.


    I agree with Hank that


    Quote Originally Posted by hank moon View Post
    Static edge negotiation is a basic skill that should be well-developed before trying to jump past tricky lips.

    And of course the "slither over the edge" method, the "knee-start" method, the "hip slide" method, the "spiderman" (make sure your harness is on tight enough!) method, and the "static" method are all viable options, and they all have their place. But once you know the friction settings by heart and have the muscle memory in place, we've found that the "dynamic" method is by far the fastest and easiest way we've found to get over a lip.

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  24. #15
    In your first video I could see that person easily flipping upside down with how far they are leaning back. I try to never have my body be in a horizontal position while rappelling.

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