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Rapping with a tagline - tips?
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By C. Archibald
Jul 22, 2014
Me on some bolted 10 in boulder canyon
My girlfriend and I recently bought a tag line. It's a 60 meter piece of 7mm accessory cord. We got it for alpine routes requiring full rope rappels and for emergency bails in thunder storms. We would have preferred to buy half ropes but couldn't afford it this summer. The tag line was $60. Maybe next year we'll get doubles.

We used the tag line for the first time on Petit Grepon, which requires 6 raps to get off. The raps were heinous. We threaded the lead line through the anchor and tied it to the tag line with two EDKs. I clove hitched a locking biner into the tag line and clipped the lead line through it. I was told that this was the "biner block."

When we went to pull the ropes, (we pulled the tag line) the lead line and the tag line started twisting around each other. The twists were above the knots, so we couldn't untangle them. We had to re-ascend the rope to fix this.

On the next five raps we didn't use a biner block. We just threaded the lead line through the anchors and tied it to the tag line with two EDKs. We didn't die. The knot didn't get stuck in the anchor, but I'm still not totally happy with our set-up.

So tips? How do you set up raps when using a lead line and a tag line? What knots do you use? How of you avoid death and tangles?

Thanks for your responses. And for the record, I've already read Freedom of the Hills ;)

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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Jul 22, 2014
You only rapped on the fatter line, right?

I don't understand how the twists occurred. You didn't have any free-hanging rappels, did you?

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By mark felber
From Wheat Ridge, CO
Jul 22, 2014
I've always understood the blocking binder to be for a "reepschnur" setup, where the lead line bears all the weight of the rappeller and the tag line not only isn't threaded through the rappel device, it may not even be strong enough to hold body weight. I've seen the reepschnur described and diagrammed here on MP, and what I saw looked kind of scary.

I used a 7mm accessory cord tag line the way you described many years ago, but I never used a blocking biner. I just tied the tag line and my lead rope together using either a double fisherman's or a EDK, and left a long tail if I was using a EDK. If we were doing multiple rappers We would feed the side we were pulling into the next rap anchor to save time, so half the time the tag line was through the anchor and half the time the lead line was through the anchor. The only problems I recall we're that the 7mm was more susceptible to abrasion than a fatter line, and I it was more likely to jam in a crack while being pulled after a rappel. The light weight and low cost were really nice, but rapping on a 7mm line so many partners nervous that I went to an 8mm tag line. The other problem was that, if the tag line was through the anchor, the knot would creep down from the anchor because of the difference in friction between the tag line and the lead line. We had to watch the ends carefully to keep from going off the end of the 7mm line, even if we started the rappel with the rope ends perfectly even.

People get nervous about rapping on a 7mm line, but the truth is that it's plenty strong. When hexes were still widely used, it was normal to sling them with 7mm accessory cord or smaller.

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By Old Sag
Jul 22, 2014
I think if the rope is pulled over a tight angle as it pulls, it will twist and kink up like that. I have only seen that if you thread the rope through the bolt directly, but I'm sure you didn't do that.

What tag line did you get? I'm in the same boat and need to buy a tag line but I can't find one for that cheap. A link would be great.

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By Steve Jones
Jul 22, 2014
on belay
We have used the 7 mil static tag line + lead rope system for years. Since the tag line goes through the rap device easier, it will creep unless you thread the lead line through the anchor as you did. As for a knots, we just tie a figure 8 in one rope and connect it to a figure 8 in the other (figure 8 to figure 8). The only drawback is that you always have to pull down the tag line on multi-raps, so if a rope gets stuck on the way down it's likely to be the lead line. Our system has never twisted up as you described.

What was so heinous about the raps on the Petit?

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By matt c.
Jul 22, 2014
i use the biner block you have described all the time i have never had an issue with tangling that you described.

What this the first time that you used the 7 mm cord? because the new cords often come in a spool and need some time to get the kinks out.

also, I have comment about using two EDK, although it would have nothing to do with the tagle. The EDK is a good knot to use on rappel because it is compact and can flip. The down side of the knot is that is a relatively weak knot and the tails do slip. Adding a second EDK make the knot way more prone to getting stuck and have little effect on tail slippage. So it is best to make a decision either go with a knot that is less likely to get stuck (EDK)or use a strong knot (double fishermen).
Presently you are using a weak knot that is most likely to get stuck.

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By wfscot
From Boulder, CO
Jul 22, 2014
It sounds like you're mixing two different methods.

Method 1: normal two-rope rap. Thread the single rope, join to tag line (EDK), rap on both strands, pull tag line.

Method 2: biner block. Thread the single rope, tie to locker (overhand/figure-8 on bight), lock back to single rope on other side of anchor (note that single is now self-secure), tie tag line to locker, rap on single rope only, keep control of tag line (clip to draw on gear loop, for example), pull tag line.

It sounds like you did a little bit of both. With the EDKs and biner up there, I'm not surprised that you had problems.

I personally do method 2. Method 1 seems odd and perhaps unsafe due to the different rope diameters and types (static vs dynamic) through the rap device.

Regardless, you're pulling big knots and potentially a big biner. There's definitely potential to get stuck. Always good to do the test pull while your partner is still up there.

Also, it's totally up to you, but you might want to reconsider two EDKs. For me, one properly-dressed EDK with plenty of tail is safe enough and much less prone to snagging.

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By wfscot
From Boulder, CO
Jul 22, 2014
Also, EDKs don't slip, they roll. There are some really good tests out there that IMO show that a properly-dressed single EDK with tail is bomber.

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By bearbreeder
Jul 22, 2014
Did you tie both ends of the rap line together for a stopper knot? ... Or did you throw them down independently?

;)

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By Jeff Maurin
Jul 22, 2014
Jeff's head on Yvon's Body (Thanks Marty(r))
Only marginally off topic, an overhand knot is only an EDK if the tails are so short that when the knot rolls over on itself, the tails roll in and the knot comes undone.

Like someone else said, consider using only one overhand knot to join the ropes or switch to using a double fisherman's. You will have a less tangle-prone setup.

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By George Bell
From Boulder, CO
Jul 22, 2014
Hip trouble ...
I have always rigged the rap so that I pull on the lead line. This is easier to pull since the lead line is heavier and also if a rope hangs up it is likely to be the tag line. The disadvantage is that the ropes creep, but this isn't a problem rapping off a metal ring. Just never rappel this way off webbing.

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By Brian in SLC
Jul 22, 2014
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch
George Bell wrote:
I have always rigged the rap so that I pull on the lead line. This is easier to pull since the lead line is heavier and also if a rope hangs up it is likely to be the tag line. The disadvantage is that the ropes creep, but this isn't a problem rapping off a metal ring. Just never rappel this way off webbing.


Can be a problem if the tag line creeps and you suddenly find yourself short on the fast side of your rappel set up (fatality in Zion on Prodigal Sun I seem to remember).

I've rappelled this way, but, control the friction on each rope separately (two brake hands, two rope ends, voila). Take a bit of payin' attention, but, not hard.

I typically rap with the fat rope through the anchor and just suffer by having to pull the skinny cord down. Feed out of a small rope bag for the tag line, and, I'll rappel it too mostly to keep it in tension and aligned with my lead rope. When I pull the skinny cord, I feed it back into the rope bag so its ready to go on round two (or three...). And, I have the end in a figure eight on a bite clipped to a locker and attached to me.

Edit to add: Pulling the tag line can be a bummer if you get it back but stick your lead rope. The option of having to re-lead a pitch on a 6 or 7mm static cord kinda sucks.

Twin ropes solve all these issues...

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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 22, 2014
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
C. Archibald wrote:
When we went to pull the ropes, (we pulled the tag line) the lead line and the tag line started twisting around each other. The twists were above the knots, so we couldn't untangle them. We had to re-ascend the rope to fix this.


I've argued that the reepschnur method is far from optimal, but this is a new one for me. Biner blocks are a standard procedure in csnyoneering and I've never heard of this twisting problem there (but I'm not even remotely an expert at that stuff). I'm also not sure I understand what happened. The fact that you were able to ascend the ropes to fix the problem means that the twisting happened while you still had both ropes in hand at the base of the rappel. In this case just weighting both ropes might force them to untwist again if there isn't too much rock friction, because there can't be any net twist in the ropes unless the rings at the top can move. This might also be a clue. Were the rappel anchors fabricated with longish slings that would be capable of twisting themselves? That would allow the portion of rope above the carabiner to twist by twisting the rap slings. Is this what happened?

If not, then I'm also perplexed by the role of the carabiner in creating the twists. It does seem as if the rappel would have to be free-hanging for this even to be a possibility, and that in other cases the carabiner would actually prevent such things from happening, but even in that case what is it about the carabiner that makes twists when there are no twists without the carabiner?

Bearbreeder mentioned knoting the two ropes together, but that should produce twists below the rappeller, not above.

The real problem would be if such twisting happened after the lead line had been pulled up a bit and was no longer accessible, because then you wouldn't be able to reascend---you'd be super up the creek then.

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By C. Archibald
Jul 22, 2014
Me on some bolted 10 in boulder canyon
Thanks for your responses.

To answer a few questions. I bought the line at outdoor recreation in SLC. They only charged us $0.30 a foot and I think it was a favor.

The line was brand new, which may have contributed to the twisting.

The raps were heinous just bc of tangle. Repairing that situation lost us time getting back to the ground. When I got back down I discovered that marmots ate the tongues off my hiking shoes. But that's a different story.

What y'all are saying about one edk or double fishermens makes sense. I think I will use a double fishermens and no biner block. Last time I put both strands through the ATC. I think I will continue with that.

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By C. Archibald
Jul 22, 2014
Me on some bolted 10 in boulder canyon
I also like the idea of not throwing the tag line, but just moving it in and out of a small rope bag or stuff sack.

As for the tangling... Man I really don't understand it. We started pulling the tag line. The knot came of the edge towards us. I could see the knot moving. After a few feet, the tagline became impossible to pull and I could see the ropes tangled around each other high up on the rope. The lead line was still near us, which means we probably didn't pull down more than 15 ft of tagline. We ended up securing the tag line to me and the anchor, then my partner climbed and self-belayed up the lead line with a GriGri. When she got to the tangles, she built an anchor, went off rappel, untangles the ropes and then rapped back down the lead line taking the anchor with her.

Maybe we threaded the ropes through the anchor in some weird way. I don't know. The whole things was baffling.

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By George Bell
From Boulder, CO
Jul 22, 2014
Hip trouble ...
Could it be that accessory cord is wound onto a narrow spool, and this tight winding makes it kink like crazy in 60m lengths? I bought a tagline which was a 60m piece of static cord, it was coiled like a new rope with no tight coils.

If you can hang your tagline free from one end, it may get most of the kinks out. Then butterfly it, don't wind it into a coil.

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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Jul 22, 2014
I've seen where pulling a rope through an anchor that has only one rap ring per bolt can twist the rope. If the rap rings are directly attached to the bolt, there should be two per bolt (linked like a chain). Don't know the configuration of your rap anchors. Or if they were even bolted anchors.

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By Old Sag
Jul 22, 2014
FrankPS wrote:
I've seen where pulling a rope through an anchor that has only one rap ring per bolt can twist the rope. If the rap rings are directly attached to the bolt, there should be two per bolt (linked like a chain). Don't know the configuration of your rap anchors. Or if they were even bolted anchors.


+1 I have seen the rope twist and kink when I pulled the rope through anchors in this configuration.

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By Steve Jones
Jul 22, 2014
on belay
We were instructed that the methods suggested here weren't as safe as two figure 8s. Are you guys sure about the EDK or double fishermans with two different diameters and types of rope?

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By matt c.
Jul 22, 2014
yes, I am sure. but don't take my word for it...

user.xmission.com/~tmoyer/test...
blackdiamondequipment.com/en/q...



figure 8
figure 8


overhand
overhand

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By matt c.
Jul 22, 2014
Steve Jones wrote:
We were instructed that the methods suggested here weren't as safe as two figure 8s. Are you guys sure about the EDK or double fishermans with two different diameters and types of rope?


you need to ask: what is the biggest risk during rappelling? you have two competing risks. first, the rope can come untied. second, the knot might get stuck.

If you use figure 8, the stronger knot reduces the likelihood of the rope will come untied but it increases chance of the rope getting stuck while pulling it.
Since it is unlikely/impossible to generate enough force cause the EDK to fail, there is an advantage of using it because it is less likely to get stuck. For me, the rope getting stuck is by far the most pressing risk while rappelling.

oh, if you use the EDK keep them tails nice and long! keep in mind this was at like 3000 pounds of force



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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Jul 22, 2014
matt c. wrote:
yes, I am sure. but don't take my word for it... user.xmission.com/~tmoyer/test... blackdiamondequipment.com/en/q...


The BD website doesn't really address different diameter ropes. The other one has a reference to it in the test results but it isn't discussed by the author.

I think there is merit in tying different diameter ropes together with figure-8's (where only the loops are together, not the knots), but have no data to support that. But that's how I have tied two starkly different diameters (10.5 and 7mm) together.

Edit: I don't use a tagline often. With twins, I use the EDK.

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By Greg D
From Here
Jul 23, 2014
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W.
Alright Mr Archibald. Here is everything you need to know:

EDK is totally good. Different diameter ropes are even stronger than same size 8mm. If you want a small back up because of your comfort level with the knot, that is fine. Just tie the EDK, then put a neat, overhand in one strand and push it up to the EDK to reduce the likelihood of rolling which is next to nil anyway. Also, with different diameter ropes, be sure the skinny one is one the rap side, not the tail side. This makes rolling more difficult. But, EDK's don't fail.

Biner block. Totally unnecessary unless rapping with grigri. Makes pulling ropes a bitch. The only place we need a biner block is on the border.

Tangles on the petit. Let me guess, it was the second rappel. Here, the terrain is a bit slabby and the two ropes can wrap around each other quite easily. Trust me, I've been there, specifically on that rappel. And these twist are super strong and makes it nearly impossible to pull the ropes. Kind of like a prussic with 10 or 20 wraps. Nothing to do with new ropes, etc. To prevent, just keep tension in the tag line once the last person raps to avoid this.

Rope creep with different diameter ropes? No problem. Clip into both ropes for the rappel as normal. Add an additional biner to the skinny rope to increase friction on it. Works well. Have the second rappeller waiting at the achor watch for rope creep, and grab it if necessary to stop it. Then, when the second raps, the first rapper on the ground or at next anchor can hold onto the skinny line to control rope creep.

BTW, the petit can easily be done in 5 raps. From the top, rap to the Fixe anchors 160 down and slightly left. Then, on the second rap, locate the large grassy ledge 210 feet below. Rap carefully to your rope ends and down climb 10 feet of easy terrain (5.2?) to the large grassy ledge. Do the next 3 raps as normal.

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By bearbreeder
Jul 23, 2014
rgold wrote:
Bearbreeder mentioned knoting the two ropes together, but that should produce twists below the rappeller, not above. The real problem would be if such twisting happened after the lead line had been pulled up a bit and was no longer accessible, because then you wouldn't be able to reascend---you'd be super up the creek then.


ive had the exact happen scenario happen once with a biner block rap

i stupidly knotted both ends together, absolutely unnecessary since you only "need" a stopper knot on one strand ... this prevents the rope/tag from unwinding properly

one way to avoid twisting with a biner block rap is to keep the strands separated ... i simply clip the tag line to a quickdraw on my gear loop farthest from the other strand, this also prevents you from losing the strand on diagonal raps

it also pays to make sure that everything is nice and neat before you rap .. if your strands are crossed as you rap, itll twist when you pull

to prevent twist always try to throw down but ends, in this case the rope and the tag, separately in different bundles

one thing that should be noted is that the blocking biner in the OPs case is perhaps better on the main line rather than the tag ... that way the knot wont get stuck in the rings/chains



bigfootmountainguides.com/2012...

as to the joining knot ... just use a snug EDK with enough tail

DAV 2005
DAV 2005



;)

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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 23, 2014
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
Greg D wrote:
Biner block. Totally unnecessary unless rapping with grigri.


The issue is whether or not you are rappelling on both strands or just on one strand with the other strand just for pulldown. In the latter case, taking Greg D's advice could get you killed. Read supertopo.com/climbing/thread.... .

Then have a look at supertopo.com/climbing/thread.... , which illustrates that a knot can pass through seven out of ten rap-ring setups typically found in Yosemite.

bearbreeder wrote:
one thing that should be noted is that the blocking biner in the OPs case is perhaps better on the main line rather than the tag ... that way the knot wont get stuck in the rings/chains


As in

but I think I'd want a locking biner...

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By Murdo
Jul 23, 2014
when pulling your ropes for the next rap I always toss or lower (as im pulling the lead) as much tag line as possible. We found that usually ends up being half or more of the tag line. Then you thread and toss your lead line...having tied off your tag on a bight beforehand so you don't lose is after lowering the majority and pulling yr ropes overhead. This method guarantees that not only will your ropes not wrap each other up when tossing, but (more importantly) keeps the skinny tag from snarling itself something fierce when you try to toss the full 60m at once. Also, whenever tossing any amount of tag always feed out a solid 40 feet of tail off the coil...keeps that tails from threading loops on the way down.

Yer still gonna die though. :)

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