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Reepschnur Rappel Inquiry
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By Morgan Patterson
Administrator
Feb 4, 2013
Stoked...

TWK wrote:
Maybe it's just too "old school", but on long trad routes where multiple rappels might be encountered for any variety of reasons, we simply trail a second rope off the second's harness. Can't tell you how many times this simple solution was helpful, but certainly often enough to keep doing it. You're already more than halfway there if you're carrying a 6 or 6.5 around. Why not use a real rope?


That's my problem with the whole concept... I've seen enough accidental core shots rapping that I'm completely comfortable carrying a little extra weight to make sure I get home. I can count at least one situation where I'm 100% sure I'd already be dead if I used this technique at that point. Not to say it doesn't have it's merits (fast and light) but knowing I'd be dead already kinda makes it a lopsided decision in my mind right off the bat. I get a little nervous these days rapping on even a 9.8 if the rock is sharp.

I guess if you have a problem rapping with a thin tag line you likely won't be around to talk about it after the fact either though, will you?


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By TWK
Feb 4, 2013

Yeah I shouldn't admit it, but we've rapped off plenty of stuff on various epics using double 11s or 10.5s, and the added security and ease of setting and pulling the ropes more than makes up for the "extra" weight.
You never know on long all day routes when you're gonna get lost, who's gonna get sick or hurt, when the weather's gonna go to hell, when your partner's gonna drop the lead rack (seriously), if you're gonna run out of daylight, or who's just gonna chicken out and bail. I always like having two ropes--makes things like reepschnur raps seem gimmicky.


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By mark felber
From Frisco, CO,USA
Feb 4, 2013

TWK wrote:
I always like having two ropes--makes things like reepschnur raps seem gimmicky.


"Gimmicky" sums up my reaction to this technique. When the first link to come up in a Google search on "reepschnur rappel" refers to a fatal accident involving this technique, I guess my buttons got pushed a little.


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By Davis Stevenson
From Flagstaff, Arizona
Feb 4, 2013
Following up a new route out in the Mojave Desert.  Info coming soon maybe?  Fun 5.10 hands and fingers.

I've used this method often. I've even strung together 40' of various slings and cord with girth hitches before to do this when I was rappelling further than half a rope length (120' feet down, 60m rope) and didn't have a second rope with me... There's nothing unsafe about it if you do it right. Just like everything else, if you don't do it right... YER GONNA DIE!

There's nothing inherently unsafe about this method. Yes, a knot could pull through with the right knot and anchor. If you're concerned about it pulling through, back it up with a biner block. Someone already posted that method. If you're concerned about a biner hurtling 100s of feet and bouncing off rocks, dedicate a biner to that purpose. It will never see more than a couple hundred pounds of force. Or go even lighter and girth hitch a nice rap ring in there with a knot right behind it. A 6mm cord is a helluva lot lighter than another rope.

EDIT: Regardless of if you think it's unsafe, gimmicky, stupid, or whatever... LEARN HOW TO DO IT. What happens when you stick a rope and can't get it back? What if you get a core shot and don't know how to pass a knot? You could even string together P cord, shoelaces, webbing... anything. It just needs to hold enough force to pull your rope to you. It just might save you in an emergency.


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By TWK
Feb 5, 2013

Davis Stevenson wrote:
Regardless of if you think it's unsafe, gimmicky, stupid, or whatever... LEARN HOW TO DO IT. What happens when you stick a rope and can't get it back? What if you get a core shot and don't know how to pass a knot? You could even string together P cord, shoelaces, webbing... anything. It just needs to hold enough force to pull your rope to you. It just might save you in an emergency.


Agreed--packing this knowledge into your bag of tricks will give you one more tool when the shi'ite hits the fan. But if you don't practice it over and over--yer gonna die!

And I'm still gonna trail that extra rope.


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By bearbreeder
Feb 5, 2013

mark felber wrote:
"Gimmicky" sums up my reaction to this technique. When the first link to come up in a Google search on "reepschnur rappel" refers to a fatal accident involving this technique, I guess my buttons got pushed a little.


The accident was without the biner block which is essential for safety

Petzl isnt usually the kind of company to post gimmicks in their technical documentation ...

This type of rappel is not uncommon amoung alpinists or gri gri users


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By TWK
Feb 5, 2013

For me, it adds unnecessary layers of complexity which may become difficult to implement safely under adverse or unexpected conditions.

Most mountaineering accidents occur on descent.

I'm sticking with two ropes. Have fun with the rope tricks.


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By bearbreeder
Feb 5, 2013

TWK wrote:
For me, it adds unnecessary layers of complexity which may become difficult to implement safely under adverse or unexpected conditions. Most mountaineering accidents occur on descent. I'm sticking with two ropes. Have fun with the rope tricks.


As long as MPers dont go off about "unsafe, unsafe, unsafe"

When petzl and houston/cosley who have more experience with sketchy descents than most here use it and teach it just fine

Just remember just cause it aint the way you skin a cat doesnt mean that the cat doesnt get skinned

But then again this is the intrawebs where anyone who doesnt do it my way is gonna die unsafely ;)


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By Davis Stevenson
From Flagstaff, Arizona
Feb 5, 2013
Following up a new route out in the Mojave Desert.  Info coming soon maybe?  Fun 5.10 hands and fingers.

Unnecessary levels of complexity? Really? Best case scenario it's the SAME rig as a typical rappel, just with cord. Worst case you add ONE biner.


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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Feb 5, 2013
Day Lily.

I played with this last night. Of course testing/practicing on bolts on a home wall isn't remotely the same as actually being out in the elements, fatigued, sharp rock, etc.

With that said an alpine butterfly (for the biner block) and a locking carabiner together worked nicely (again at ground level with me jumping and pulling to test doesn't mean much in the way of overall experience). It pulled easier than 2 ropes joined as in the usual setup (I tested for ease of pull for comparison).

I'm not saying ill use this in any environment all the time but it'll be used by me I'm sure. A good method to have "in your tool belt."

I'm going to practice this weekend outside on bolts at Old Rag to see and if it works Ill bring it to the gunks and seneca and see how that goes.

If you wrap your friction hitch around both strands (6mm and rappel line) or just control the pull line really carefully somehow and with an alpine butterfly biner block this setup appears to be smooth (not gonna comment on safe as I havent used it yet).


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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Feb 5, 2013
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard

The reepschnur method is nearly as old as rappelling. Nowadays, as Scott points out clearly, it is a poor alternative to twins and even half ropes, but of course not everyone wants to invest in the extra cordage and double ropes have never caught on in the U.S. anyway.

The recent Yosemite accident with the method involved a tragic lapse of technique and is not evidence of any intrinsic lack of safety. Set it up as in the Petzl diagram (which, as I said, is considerably older than Petzl) and its fine from a safety point of view.

Which is not to say that it doesn't have significant drawbacks. There are three main ones:

1. You are pulling your rappel with a 6mm line. If the rappel is hard to pull, gripping and pulling such a thin cord will make everything much harder, and yes, the biner around the bigger line can add friction to the system and so make everything a lot worse. How much worse depends on the angle of pull; diagonal rappels will have the most resistance. You might have to install prussiks on the 6mm line to enable you to pull on it effectively.

2. If your rappel hangs up after it comes free of the anchor, you are left with a 6mm line, which is to say you are left with nothing and may then need a rescue.

3. I'm always amused that people who complain that 8.5mm half ropes tangle too much then go out and use the reepschnur method with a 6mm tag line. When it comes to tangling, you ain't seen nothin' until you get a tag line properly clusterf#cked.

Of course, twins and halfs provide all kinds of additional features and margins of safety that are not available with a full-size rope and a tag line. The reepschnur system is probably best adapted to low-key populated settings on small crags where help is nearby, time is not of the essence, pull-downs are clean and unlikely to snag, and the consequences of a hung rappel are in any case not serious.

Yeah, people use it on Alpine routes too, especially when lots of rappelling isn't anticipated but the need for one or two full length rappels in an emergency seems real. A situation with a single rappel with a walk-off at the base, such as the normal rap on the Grand Teton descent route, is a good candidate for the reepschnur method. But if you use the method for multiple raps in a remote alpine setting, you should do it with your eyes open about the problems you could face and their consequences.


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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Feb 5, 2013
Day Lily.

Good stuff rgold. Good points.


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By wivanoff
Feb 5, 2013
High Exposure

The Stoned Master wrote:
...and if it works Ill bring it to the gunks and seneca and see how that goes.


Dunno about Seneca but most of the bolted rap anchors at the Gunks are spaced for one 60meter rope, multiple rappels. Are you trying to bypass a rap station?

There's also a nice, pleasant walk along the top of the cliff at the Trapps and then an easy climb down the Uberfall. Just saying.


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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Feb 5, 2013
Day Lily.

No passing. Just training. How do army soldiers train for battle when there isn't one? They "train as they fight." Seneca and gunks are where I "train" for bigger mountains and longer routes.


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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Feb 5, 2013
Me on Supercrack

I can think of at least one reason why every climber should learn and practice the Reepschnur and the Carabiner Block. Let's say you're climbing with a single rope (60 meter) on routes with single rope rappels. You start to set up your rappel and notice that your rope is damaged about (15 meters) from the end. You will have to isolate the damaged section with an alpine butterfly. This will force you to pass the knot on rappel (yuck) or simply rig a single rope rappel with the Reepschur or the Carabiner Block. Both methods work, and the Reepschnur is the method shown by Petzel for use with the Gri-Gri. But; in my experience the Carabiner Block is easier to set up, has no chance of jamming in your rapid link/rap ring, and is much easier to pull.


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By Brian in SLC
Feb 5, 2013
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch

rgold wrote:
The reepschnur method is nearly as old as rappelling.


Spot on, rgold.


pull cord in 1872 edition of Scrambles Amongst the Alps by Whymper
pull cord in 1872 edition of Scrambles Amongst the Alps by Whymper


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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Feb 5, 2013
Day Lily.

That's wild. Those early climbers were smart if someone hadn't brought the reepschnur to my attention I dont think I would have ever thought of it.


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By bearbreeder
Feb 5, 2013

The Stoned Master wrote:
I played with this last night. Of course testing/practicing on bolts on a home wall isn't remotely the same as actually being out in the elements, fatigued, sharp rock, etc. With that said an alpine butterfly (for the biner block) and a locking carabiner together worked nicely (again at ground level with me jumping and pulling to test doesn't mean much in the way of overall experience). It pulled easier than 2 ropes joined as in the usual setup (I tested for ease of pull for comparison). I'm not saying ill use this in any environment all the time but it'll be used by me I'm sure. A good method to have "in your tool belt." I'm going to practice this weekend outside on bolts at Old Rag to see and if it works Ill bring it to the gunks and seneca and see how that goes. If you wrap your friction hitch around both strands (6mm and rappel line) or just control the pull line really carefully somehow and with an alpine butterfly biner block this setup appears to be smooth (not gonna comment on safe as I havent used it yet).


the prussic should only be on the loaded strand,below the ATC, if you use one

HOWEVER one safety issue is that on diagonal, overhanging rappels ... make sure to clip the pull line to yourself somehow ... otherwise it might swing out of reach

also when cutting the pull line at the store ... remember to get it 10% longer than your rope ... as the rope will stretch under body weight anywhere form 5-10%


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By patto
Feb 5, 2013

If I ever carry an extra rope, I make it a thin half rope. Why carry 60m 6mm of accessory cord when you can carry 60m of 7.5mm cord and have the ability to climb on it. If you really want to go light then full half rope technique is best.


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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Feb 5, 2013
Day Lily.

Solid point patto.


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By Hard Landin' Brandon
From Happy Camp, CA
Mar 10, 2014
Gneiss day for climbing in Western Massachusetts!  Time to put some scratches on that new #4 cam.

mark felber wrote:


Sadly, the image labeled "right" shows the backup knot tied in the tag line.


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By Jon Rhoderick
Mar 10, 2014

rgold wrote:
1. You are pulling your rappel with a 6mm line. If the rappel is hard to pull, gripping and pulling such a thin cord will make everything much harder, and yes, the biner around the bigger line can add friction to the system and so make everything a lot worse. How much worse depends on the angle of pull; diagonal rappels will have the most resistance. You might have to install prussiks on the 6mm line to enable you to pull on it effectively. 2. If your rappel hangs up after it comes free of the anchor, you are left with a 6mm line, which is to say you are left with nothing and may then need a rescue. 3. I'm always amused that people who complain that 8.5mm half ropes tangle too much then go out and use the reepschnur method with a 6mm tag line. When it comes to tangling, you ain't seen nothin' until you get a tag line properly clusterf#cked.

I have tried this technique twice, and my ropes got stuck twice. The first time the wind blew the tag line around a bulge creating impossible friction. The second I clipped a directional 25ft below the anchors on a 100ft climb, when the time came to pull it, the carabiner clipped round the rap line hung up on the directional. It leads me to believe that the technique where you clip the rope back onto itself cannot be used with directionals, the method where just the carabiner stops the rope from going through the chains would work much better.
I'm getting rid of mine, I'd prefer a half rope in these situations for next time.


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By Kirby1013
From Baltimore Maryland
Mar 10, 2014
Me eating a cliff bar walking back from Frankenstein Amphitheater

Maybe you're already doing this but I'll throw it out there since the three of us last weekend did it. Why not lead on one single and have the second trail the the second rope? I've always used doubles but thought this was a great idea of you don't have doubles and need to do 60M raps.


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By David Coley
From UK
Mar 10, 2014

My thoughts:

1. I have used the method many times.
2. I would only do it with the blocking safety carabiner, and that needs to be a locker (unlike the one in the first photo in the thread).
3. I don't tie a fig 8 or a butterfly but a clove hitch onto the carabiner itself.
4. I've used everything from 5mm static to the other half of an 11mm single - the thinner the pull line the more of a pain it is to pull and not to get a mess in any wind.
5. On long complex raps in the hills it is a joke.
6. On a single rap of the back of a summit, it can be just the job.
7. I often use it when rope soloing as weight can be a real issue.
8. To me, twins are a better solution unless you are belaying with a grigri and using a microtrax to simul-climb.


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By kevin deweese
From walnut creek, ca
Mar 10, 2014
don't throw rocks

I use this method for rapping with a grigri during or after bigwalls most of the time, both with a thin tag line or a second full-sized rope. As long as you alway tie to rope to itself as a backup (as has been shown upthread) this works through biners, rap-links, slings, etc. (Slings are less desireable because it's much harder to pull the cord back through if the knot passes through the sling and engages the backup)

Main problem I've had is what Rgold posted,

rgold wrote:
When it comes to tangling, you ain't seen nothin' until you get a tag line properly clusterf#cked.


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