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Closing System With Large Opening Descenders

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by ErishbOa, Aug 16, 2019 at 1:55 AM.

  1. ErishbOa

    ErishbOa

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    Hello, new to the canyoneering world and trying to soak up information! Is there a recommendation for closing your system when using larger descenders like a Critr2? It seems something like a triple barrel knot would slip right through. I was wondering if a figure eight on a bight with a backup biner on the loop would do the trick, but wondering if there are better options. What about for a double strand rappel?

    Thanks!
  2. garthkevin1

    garthkevin1

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    Erishboa,
    Couple things. When rappelling into water you never close the system and you always adjust the rope. This allows you to get off rope and swim away.
    Your concern about the knot going thru a descender shouldn't be a big concern your brake hand will find the knot first.


    Sent from my GT-N8013 using Tapatalk
  3. hank moon

    hank moon kinetically bulbous

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    2 general solutions:

    - big stopper thing in end of rope (e.g. potato knot, securely hanked rope, rope bag...)
    - autobloc technique + standard stopper knot
  4. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    "Closing the system"

    That seems an odd way to characterize tying a knot in the end of the rope, a Technique for reducing risk should the rope not reach the ground... ie, it "discourages" rappelling off the end of the rope.

    Just talking "dry" canyons (non-flowing canyons) - two Techniques come to mind:

    A. Make sure the rope reaches the ground. Notes: don't assume the beta is correct; don't measure out the rope based on the beta. Set the rope length after the first person rappels. Bring long enough ropes. If you cannot see the bottom, listen for when the ropebag hits the ground, or find a place where you can see the bottom. Or rappel until you can see the bottom and make sure the rope reaches at that time. If unsure the rope is long enough, set a contingency anchor and, when you can see the bottom, have your buddy lower you until the rope reaches the ground.

    B. Pay attention to what you are doing. Notes: know where the end of the rope is, and what you are going to do when you get there.

    Double-strand: same applies, especially the not-measuring out. Seems like people get in trouble when they place the midpoint of the rope on the ring, and rappel, and find out that the midpoint was not at the ring. Don't do that. (We usually only do double-strand, if at all, on short rappels where we can easily see the bottom.)

    As an old-as-dirt climber, I never tie knots in the end of the rope. I have seen too many people have a bad day when that knot got stuck in a crack or behind a tree or bush and created problems. Well, actually, I have tied knots, but I did it when I was about 20 feet above the end, locked off, pulled the rope up, tied knots - when rappelling down a big wall and just making it to the next station (although, in this case, still being 10 feet short).

    Tom
  5. hank moon

    hank moon kinetically bulbous

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    I have heard of a few incidents of difficulty with knotted ends, but mostly due to improper rope management (e.g. simply tossing a coiled rope in high winds vs. saddlebagging or similar). Given the number of rap-off-rope-end accidents on multi pitch climbing routes, knotting the end(s) can be a useful precaution for certain canyon situations (e.g. Heaps Canyon bird perch rap).
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019 at 9:45 PM
    Scott Patterson likes this.
  6. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    I tie a small, compact bight in the rope as my preferred knot. Would give me an option to clip to it if need be. And, on some canyoning rappel devices, a knot might pass through instead of jamming (OP's concern) and in some cases, a knot may have come undone.

    I'm not sure the data supports "a large number" of accidents on multi pitch routes, but, there's plenty for single pitch (way more, if I'm parsing the data correctly). Single or multi, some good lessons out there.

    Useful to peruse the information. The ANAC (formerly ANAM) is a great database and much learning can be had from it.

    I'll toss out a summary of the first 9 referenced in your nifty google search tool. Most are single pitch accidents. See below:

    Jim in 2005
    Many climbers use an autoblock to get into hands-free mode. Jim may have been locked off while exploring where and how to place a bolt to protect the roof move in this climb. Lifting his leg to move or bumping his leg upwards in a fall could have rendered his autoblock ineffective. A bump of his autoblock would have caused a quick descent, which may not have been recoverable so close to the end of the rope.

    RRG in 2011
    There were two classic errors and one related problem here.
    First, the climber did not make sure that both ends of his rope were on the ground before rigging his rappel device. Second, he did not tie a knot in the end of this rope, which would have prevented him from rappelling off the end.
    The woman who had belayed him did not remain attentive until her climber was back on the ground. Had she not been distracted by other climbers in the area, she may have noticed that one strand of the rappel rope had not reached the ground and could have let her partner know that fact.

    Daks in 2013:
    A 40-year climbing veteran improperly rigged his rappel in such a way that the ends were grossly uneven and there were no end knots in the rope. The scene was a 90-foot ice cliff, and the climber was using a 60-meter, 7.8mm rope. There was no halfway mark on the rope. The climber had poor communication with climbers on ground. There was no line of sight, so only voice communication. The climber relied on mistaken voice communication that ropes were even and down at the bottom. Lessons:
    1. Never climb on a rope that doesn’t have the halfway point clearly marked.
    2. Never rely on questionable voice-only communication with the ground.
    3. Always be mindful of the pie graph showing that 29 percent (highest of all) of rappelling accidents occur because of uneven ropes.
    4. Always bring both ends of the rappel rope to the top anchor if ever there is a question of rope unevenness.
    5. Always tie separate knots at each end of the rope and feed the rope evenly through the top anchor until the halfway mark is reached.
    6. Always use a backup in case the ropes begin to run out of control through the rappel device.

    Zion in 1999:
    Darkness was clearly a factor in this incident, since M. C. could not see the next (correct) anchors on his first rappel nor could he see that his rope didn’t touch down on his second. However, the accident could have been easily avoided had the topos been consulted, as many of them clearly show three distinct sets of anchors. (It is possible to reach the ground using three 50 meter ropes or two 60 meter ropes.) This combined with the fact that he had too much rope left on his first rappel should have tipped him off to the fact that he was not at the correct anchors. Finally, a simple knot at the ends of the ropes would have averted the incident entirely.

    NRG in 2017:
    Frigidator Crack is located between the main wall of Junkyard and a large detached flake that creates a narrow cave. The anchors for this route are easily accessible from the top of the cliff and are often used by climbers and guides to rappel. While the rappel is not difficult to set up, the bottom of the cave can be difficult to see clearly in low light conditions, and this likely contributed to the climber’s rope ends being uneven.
    If a rope does not have an accurate midpoint marked, climbers should ask people below if both ends are on the ground before committing to a rappel. When this isn’t an option, the two rope ends should be lowered together so you can be certain the rope’s midpoint is at the anchor. This is also yet another example of the value of stopper knots in both ends of rappel ropes. Although some climbers feel the placement of stopper knots is unnecessary in single-pitch terrain, doing so in this instance would have prevented the accident.

    Tetons in 2017:
    This particular rappel transitions from blockier terrain to a final bulge that would have made the ends of the rope difficult to see from above. The climber likely would not have been able to observe the disparity in rope lengths until very shortly before his fall.
    One of two scenarios likely occurred. One, the victim tied stopper knots in both ends of the rope, but one knot perhaps came undone during the rappel. The other scenario is that, while stationed at his last rappel anchor, he fed rope through the anchor, tied a stopper knot in that end of the rope, and fed it down the cliff as he pulled the rope from the previous rappel. In this scenario, he did not put a knot in the end that fell from above and did not pull the rope ends up to ensure they were even. Either way, when he reached the unknotted end, approximately 75 feet below the anchor, the rope end would have pulled through his device and he would have fallen about 25 feet and then tumbled another 40 feet down ledge-filled terrain.
    When rigging rappels where the rope ends are not visible below, be sure the rope’s middle mark is centered at the anchor. If the rope is not marked (or if there is any chance the rope has been cut so the middle mark is incorrect), lower the two ends together to ensure they remain even. Either way, place stopper knots in both ends and use a friction-hitch backup.

    Index in 1992:
    RAPPEL OFF UNEQUAL ROPES
    Washington, Index Town Wall
    In early August, Greg Child had one of the more exciting rappelling experiences possible. He reported it as follows:
    If I had a penny for every rappel I’d done, I’d be a rich man. After 22 years of climbing, my rappel odometer has rolled over a few times. And every descent of that nylon spider-line—be it at night, in rain or blizzard, at 8000 meters when you can’t think straight, on tatty 6 mm bootlace, down all kinds of rock and ice and snow, often for thousands of consecutive feet—has been uneventful. Until this summer, when percentages caught up with me...
    I was alone, rappelling down the Upper Town Wall of Index, having just completed a multi-pitch, multi-day orgy of rappel bolting and moss scrubbing. At the last rappel (which I’d made a dozen times in recent weeks), I threaded the rope through the anchors, tossed the ends off, clipped a rappel device to the rope and set off. My mental checklist for any rappel includes making sure that the rope ends are equalized and reach the ground or the next anchors, as well as examining my harness buckle, anchor and rappel device. If I can’t see whether the rope reaches, I always tie the ends on the rope together.
    But not this time. I was tired, weighed down with gear and preoccupation. I failed to look down this familiar rappel and didn’t notice that one end of the rope was 40 feet shorter than the other. But when I felt the rope slip through my rappel device and felt the rush of acceleration, I knew what had happened—and that the next few moments could dramatically affect my life.
    Falling happens quickly, but the release of those fear-triggered chemicals— adrenaline, endorphins, etc.—slows the experience so that you have time to think, though seldom to react. Primarily, I thought about the bony crunch I knew was fast approaching. I anticipated it as an ugly, jarring sensation that would explode through the top of my skull like a starburst. I was right. My ankle buckled on a ledge and my knees folded into my face, splitting my upper lip. Then I catapulted backwards into the air and began ripping through trees, over boulders and down a steep gully. The karma of rappel bolting had caught up with me.
    (Editor’s Note: Child figured out that he has done about 410,000 feet of rappelling in the last decade, and has therefore set up 3,733 rappels. He estimates his casualty rate at .036%. He calls this “food for thought”)

    NRG in 2013:
    A pre-rappel check should always include you and your partner(s) double-checking the anchor and visually inspecting the ropes to be sure they reach their intended destination, and that the rope ends are even and each have stopper knots. Check the rappel device to make sure that it is set up and oriented correctly; check the carabiner gate (locked); and assess the need for a back-up.

    Eldo in 1999:
    Just Another Girl’s Climb (5.12) on Lower Peanuts Wall begins on a ledge about fifty feet off the ground requiring a scramble for access. On September 6, a forty-two year old male experienced climber had lowered his partner who unsuccessfully attempted a lead on this route back down to the ledge. The victim then decided to scramble to the top of the route and rappel down. The victim ran his rope through the fixed anchor and successfully rappelled for the first forty to fifty feet until he rappelled off one end of the rope. The victim then fell about twenty to thirty feet down to the ledge where his partner was still positioned. The victim fell to the ledge and continued falling the additional fifty feet to the ground. The victim did not check to see if the ends were even nor did he tie knots in the ends of the rope prior to rappelling. He was not wearing a helmet. The victim suffered multiple abrasions and lacerations over his body as well as severe fractures to his shoulder and left leg.
  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    WHEN will this totally unsafe style of rappelling double-rope be outlawed by the Gov't.???? Think of the Children!!!
  8. hank moon

    hank moon kinetically bulbous

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    Good point - "large number" is entirely subjective - post edited. Also updated the accident report link to be more multi-pitch focused.
  9. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    'Bout the same time rappelling single strand without rigging for contingency gets outlawed (need one of Hank's nifty links to folks rapping off the wrong side of their block, or, having their block come apart). Ha ha.

    Unequal ropes is probably the biggest risk to double rope rappels, I'd guess. When a Greg Child (I thought the reference to his 410k feet of rappelling was interesting) and some personal friends have done it, it begs one to be a bit more vigilant. For me, I'm not (knot?) sure its to always add a knot to the end of the rappel ropes, but, certainly in high angle multi pitch environs I might consider it. Match the rope ends. Watch both ends hit the ground. Make sure I'm clipped into both sides (another risk) properly. As a safety check, I always load up prior to launch to check the system. Single or double, its a good idear and should be best practice.

    For climbers, another risk for single pitch routes, is to make sure the "blunt" end of the rope is knotted. I've done this for over ten years as SOP but still find folks who don't. Lowering a partner off a route and having the end of the rope go through the belay device. Pretty preventable accident. Certainly has been fatal and recently in the Salt Lake climbing community.

    Limit and manage risk. Employ best practices. Incorporate "lessons learned". Be aware and vigilant. Stay safe!
    ratagonia likes this.
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