Rappel Safety Rituals

by
Roger Olsen

 Boulder, Colorado

Double check the anchor!

If webbing, is it sound? If in doubt, reinforce with a another runner
- (you do carry extra slings, don't you?)
Cut away any dubious worn webbing to keep the anchor from becoming a rat's nest.
- (You do carry a small knife for this purpose, don't you?)

Consider leaving hardware for a backup if you have any doubts about the safety of the anchor.

If you are doing a two-rope rappel, double check the knot.
Is the knot tied properly?
Is the knot tight?
Are the tails long enough?
If you are the last one down, is the knot positioned to clear any obstructions when you pull the rope?

Double check your harness.
Is it secure? Is the tail doubled back as it should be?

Double check the rope attachment to your rappel device!!!!
Are both strands of rope through the device?
Is the rope oriented in the proper direction?

If you use a carabiner brake rappel or a Seilbremse Is your locking carabiner locked?

Check for loose clothing, long hair, or slings that could get caught in the rappel device.
Make sure clothing is tucked in, hair and slings are out of the way.
Watch out if you have a beard -- I've heard horror stories of people almost getting their faces ripped off from getting facial hair caught in a rappel device.

If you are unfamiliar with the rappel route, and have any doubt about where the rope ends up, tie a knot in the end of the rope to make sure you don't rappel off the end.


Check the rope down below.
Is it hung up on anything, like a tree or a flake of rock off to the side?
If in doubt, pull it back up and throw it again.

If you are the first one down, make sure you clear snags and tangles in the rope before you get your rappel device locked up on them.
Wrap the rope around your thigh if you have to fiddle with the rope to unsnag it.
If you get your rappel device locked up on a knot or snag in the rope, you'd better have prussiks (or slings for Heddon knots) and know how to use them.

Lastly, check everything again, and have a safe and boring rappel.
Oh....watch for loose rock as you're descending...
Make sure you don't knock anything off.


Roger Olsen Boulder, Colorado

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