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When rapping off, do you ever depend on a friction knot to hold you?
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By Eamon Doyle
From Sierra Madre, CA
Oct 4, 2012
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Hi all. I've had numerous experiences sport climbing where, due to the overhang of the wall, I've had to retrieve quickdraws by rapping down to them, and then using one hand to pull myself into the rock and the other hand to unclip the draw. Obviously, this leaves my belay unprotected by anything other than the friction knot (I use a Klemheist most of the time). I suppose in retrospect I might find this sketchy, but it wasn't until another climber said he thought it was dangerous that I considered it. I've never had it slip on me, but my anecdotal experience is hardly enough for me to call something safe climbing practice.

Anyway, is the bad practice? Should I always rap on one side of the rope and have my belayer do a fireman's belay on the other when I'm in the situation of needing assistance staying near the rock to get the draws out of the bolts on the way down?

Thanks!

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By johnthethird
Oct 4, 2012
Why dont you just get lowered off instead of rapping?

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By Truck13
Oct 4, 2012
The friction not should hold. If you're uncomfortable, tie off your repel device or take a few leg wraps. Leg wraps are quick and safe, if done properly.

Truck13

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By Dan Flynn
Administrator
From MA
Oct 4, 2012
5b upper pitch in the clouds
That is the point of a friction hitch. If it didn't hold you, it wouldn't be much good!!

edit: yeah, I've never had a need to rap off a sport climb -- lower and deal with the swing.

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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Oct 4, 2012
Stabby
Rapping and cleaning sport draws are a bad combination in the first place; worse on an OH route. Best practice would be for someone to climb up under and clean them, 2nd would be to get lowered and do it. A 3rd option still better than what you are doing is self-lower w/ a GriGri and use a safety knot down rope when stopping. 4th, add a prusik to your rig.

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By BWIce
From Carlisle, PA
Oct 4, 2012
North face of long's.
As long as your friction hitch is below your belay device you're fine. If it is clipped closely to your leg loop, the sharp angle to your belay device is what creates the locking-off friction and puts little stress on the friction hitch itself. The only time I've seen that fail is when you raise your leg high enough to let the friction hitch release when it bumps up against the barrel of the belay device. To prevent this, extend your rappel from your harness using a sling. Or you can save yourself the trouble and just get lowered off with a QD clipped between your harness and the belay line. That way you stay with your clips as you get lowered, making cleaning much easier.

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By portercassidy
From UT/CO
Oct 4, 2012
Deep in a slot canyon, somewhere on the colorado p...
Wrap the leg!!!

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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Oct 4, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!
Only gumbies rap off sport routes. And it is especially gumby-ish to rap a steep sport route. It is unnecessary, time-consuming, dangerous.

Unless you are in a solo situation with no partner, just lower to clean.

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By Jacob Neathawk
From Nederland, CO
Oct 4, 2012
I like rapping off some steepish sport climbs to save wear on my rope. This is usefull if the anchor is back over the lip and there is a chance to rub(saw) the rope. I use an autoblock rigged to my leg loop and this seems to work pretty well for going hands free. Also have your partner there for a fireman belay as a backup.

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By Jfriday1
From Denver, CO
Oct 4, 2012
TR
I agree with the leg wraps, then the friction knot is still your back up.

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By DannyUncanny
From Vancouver
Oct 4, 2012
I generally prefer rappelling to lowering. It saves your rope and there is one less person who can kill me.

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Oct 4, 2012
Bocan
It's all personal preference, but I only rap when the route dictates it, such as anchors set back etc.

I couldn't imagine how slow a day of clibming would go where you are rapping every route.

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By Crisco Jackass
From Grand Junction, CO
Oct 4, 2012
Eamon Doyle wrote:
...Should I always rap on one side of the rope and have my belayer do a fireman's belay on the other...

I'm having a hard time understanding that. Are you rappelling off of one strand of your rope, and the other is attached to your belayer's belay device? I would assume not, but that's how I read it.

Rappelling with a fireman's belay might negate the freedom of movement you need to reach your draws, and a couple of leg wraps could potentially come unwound if you need to do any contortioning to reach your draws. I've never heard of a properly rigged friction hitch rappel backup described as "dangerous" from any source of authority, it's always described as the opposite of "dangerous".

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By Jeff J
From Bozeman
Oct 4, 2012
You are doing some really wierd stuff here.

explain to me why are you not just.

1. lead the rout
2. set the anchor
3. lower off
4. pull the rope through enough so the next climber will tie in to the end of the rope that runs through the draws.
5. Climber two cleans the draws as S/he climbs and then lowers off.
6. run a few laps and find another route
7. wash rinse and repeat.

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By Sir Wanksalot
From County Jail
Oct 4, 2012
Jeff J wrote:
You are doing some really wierd stuff here. explain to me why are you not just. 1. lead the rout 2. set the anchor 3. lower off 4. pull the rope through enough so the next climber will tie in to the end of the rope that runs through the draws. 5. Climber two cleans the draws as S/he climbs and then lowers off. 6. run a few laps and find another route 7. wash rinse and repeat.


Seems to be standard sport protocol. Quick and easy... lead... clip anchors... screw lockers tight... Take... Lower... yippee!

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By BighornAdams
Oct 4, 2012
For the good of anchor longevity, it is standard to rappel off a route when you clean it. Getting lowered straight through the anchors is inconsiderate in my opinion. If you know what you're doing, the process shouldn't take much more time at all.

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By Ben Gordon
From La Canada, CA
Oct 4, 2012
For what it is worth, freedom of the hills (insofar as I recall) endorses a friction knot backed up by leg wraps for safely stopping mid rappel.

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By 20 kN
Administrator
From Hawaii
Oct 4, 2012
I have had an autoblock slip on me a number of times. I am not really that surprised though, the autoblock just involves warping cordlette around the rope, it is not really a knot per se. The klemheist can slip under some situations. I have been able to get a poorly dressed klemheist tied into a Dyneema sling to slip. If you are looking for maximum security, go with the prusik, it is the most secure of the three options I have mentioned. But, above all, just get lowered, that completely eliminates the risk of you dropping yourself. That way if you deck, you can blame it on your partner instead of yourself.

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By sanz
From Raleigh, NC
Oct 4, 2012
One of my first trad leads, on Ooga Chocka at Crow...
Folks advocating lowering - what about the issue of wear on the fixed gear? I have personally seen rings and shuts that have some serious notches from lowering/TRing, and I we've all seen the pics. I know some people say that's what they're made for and you just have to replace them from time to time, but it seems wasteful to me when rapping is almost as easy on most routes.

Jeff J - your method implies top roping. What if more than one person wants to lead the route? For the super steep stuff without fixed draws, I guess someone has to second and clean the route? I don't climb that kind of route too often, so far from an expert.

Finally, to actually answer the question, I hang on prussiks plenty. I have never had mine fail dramatically, although it does sometimes start to slip a bit if you raise your leg. I have always been able to just reach down and apply friction when this happens. Like other people suggested, wrap your leg a couple of times if you are really going to be thrashing around, and you're good.

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By M Sprague
Administrator
From New England
Oct 4, 2012
Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lich...
BighornAdams wrote:
For the good of anchor longevity, it is standard to rappel off a route when you clean it. Getting lowered straight through the anchors is inconsiderate in my opinion. If you know what you're doing, the process shouldn't take much more time at all.

Rapping is not standard on a sport route in usual circumstances. The first person should lower off their own draws, the last directly through the anchors if there is a proper beefy sport anchor. The saved wear on your rope and anchors is not worth the added danger and time. Sport anchors should have beefy, easely replacable steel at the rope contact points. TRing and lowering repeatedly directly on the anchors should be avoided though. It is better that people contribute replacement 1/2" quicklinks or something similar to anchors regularly than rap off all the time. In a sport scenerio rapping should be saved for set back anchors or very sandy wear inducing conditions IMO.

The scenerio in the OP seems like an accident waiting to happen to me and I see no good reason for it.

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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Oct 4, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!
BighornAdams wrote:
For the good of anchor longevity, it is standard to rappel off a route when you clean it. Getting lowered straight through the anchors is inconsiderate in my opinion. If you know what you're doing, the process shouldn't take much more time at all.


Actually, even if you rap, the action of pulling your rope still puts minute wear on the anchors, and over time is REALLY selfish.

The considerate thing to do is to lower through your own draws, then when the last person does the route, he just unclips the draws and jumps to his death. No wear on the anchors whatsoever.

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Oct 4, 2012
Bocan
M Sprague wrote:
Rapping is not standard on a sport route in usual circumstances. The first person should lower off their own draws, the last directly through the anchors if there is a proper beefy sport anchor. The saved wear on your rope and anchors is not worth the added danger and time. Sport anchors should have beefy, easely replacable steel at the rope contact points. TRing and lowering repeatedly directly on the anchors should be avoided though. It is better that people contribute replacement 1/2" quicklinks or something similar to anchors regularly than rap off all the time. In a sport scenerio rapping should be saved for set back anchors or very sandy wear inducing conditions IMO. The scenerio in the OP seems like an accident waiting to happen to me and I see no good reason for it.


This has always been what I've followed, except for I never TR or lower repeatedly through the anchors. Even if we are taking turns leading, we leave the anchor draws up till we are finished.

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By cdec
From SLC and Moab, ut
Oct 4, 2012
Not going to touch the lowering vs. rapping debate.
To answer the OP question about using a friction hitch or 3rd hand to go hands free, is totally legit. If you can transfer a load onto one of these hitches in a belay escape or knot pass why wouldn't it work to back up a rappel? (assuming the friction hitch has a back up of some sort)
True they are not Knots and they can slip if tied incorrectly. Any knot or hitch tied incorrectly can fail to work.

So what to do?
Choose your hitch, Autoblock, Kliemheist or Prusik then tie and dress it correctly. Lastly before you unclip from the anchor TEST IT TO MAKE SURE IT BITES! If it slips retie it with an additional wrap.

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Oct 4, 2012
El Chorro
Jacob Neathawk wrote:
I like rapping off some steepish sport climbs to save wear on my rope. This is usefull if the anchor is back over the lip and there is a chance to rub(saw) the rope. I use an autoblock rigged to my leg loop and this seems to work pretty well for going hands free. Also have your partner there for a fireman belay as a backup.


FAIL. If the anchos is back over the lip, it is safer to lower. If you rap, you are subjecting one small portion of the rope to an edge. You are bouncing up and down on a dynamic rope. THAT is sawing.

If you lower, you are never subjecting one section of the rope to wear for more than a second.

The ethics will be different in every area. If it makes sense to rap, I usually try to. It does put less wear on the anchors. But there are many reasons why I choose to lower instead. Steep route, wandering route, I'm tired (which is usually the case as I am usually only cleaning a route at the end of the day).


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By Mark Lewis
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Oct 4, 2012
rockclimbing.com/cgi-bin/forum...

There are some more thoughts if anyone is interesting in rapping vs. lowering. My thoughts on the topic - it depends on the route.

To answer the OP's question about frition knots - I've never had one fail or slip. I usually use a Prusik tied with cord, or lacking that some nylon webbing. I don't consider using a friction knot with Dyneema, don't use friction knots with that material if you can at all avoid it.

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By Boots Ylectric
From Roselle IL
Oct 4, 2012
Goofin on the Frogs Head Arch before I rap off.
Rather than debate the semantics of what he's doing here because it really doesn't matter how he cleans the route (and we don't know all the details) I'm going to toss a suggestion into the ring...cuz I'm on lunch, and bored lol.


Carry a prusik. If you rappel carry a prusik. Heck actually if you rappel carry two. I just keep a prusik loop on each leg loop at all times. They're there if you need it. When you rig the rappel rig the prusik. If you have to take both hands off the rope tie a stopper knot as close your setup as you can (I just toss a quick figure eight in it). The prusik should hold just fine, but it's not redundant and let's just say freak movement and the prusik slips you're effed in the ay. Stopper knot isn't going to slip, and it isn't going through your belay device. This is the safest way to do what you're describing. The leg wrap others mentioned works too, but to me this is the safest. I'd swing around like a kid on a playground on rapel rigged like that and feel just fine. If I'm rapping I pretty much ALWAYS rig a prusik unless I know I have a solid fireman's belay, and even still I'll often rig it as good practice.

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