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Long rappel tips?

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by LonePeak, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. LonePeak

    LonePeak

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    A friend of mine has a spool that we're itching to use before it gets cut, so we're planning on rappelling the Angel Cove base jump and End of Hidden. Anyone have information on these routes, esp recently? Is the log/stump still at End of Hidden? Google Earth shows elevation options at Angel's Cove to range from ~500-650' depending on anchor locations, but there is an unfortunate local aberration. Can anyone confirm the length and slope?

    I want to make sure we're prepared to do it as safely as possible, even if something goes wrong. Can you help me refine my list of gear and skills needed? Here it is so far.
    • Gear
      • Bunny strap
      • Radios, whistle
      • Chest harness
      • Escape line
      • Extended Critr
      • Rope, pull cord, webbing, rapides, helmet, harness, gloves, the usual.
      • Pulley
      • Monocular
      • Safety (distal hitch)
      • Knife and pliers
      • Fresh accessory prusik cords. Grippy, aramid sheath, pEster core.
      • Biners
      • Bolt kit (emergency backup)
      • Weather-appropriate clothing (no wetsuit)
    • Skills
      • Hang pack- what are your preferences and why: off front, back. side, or Critr?
      • Anchor building
      • Tie off Critr and restart without jamming
      • Add friction: Critr, (Leg biner/Z-rig friction backup options)
      • Unweight Critr or prusik (one step prusik ascent)
      • Pass knot
      • Transfer to escape line
      • Free hanging efficient rope ascent- double, single, &/or bare bones
      • Fireman belay- & slight tension to reduce spin
      • Signals http://uberadventures.net/post-portfolio/commands-signals/
      • Test everything with same rope and cord
      • Muscle and nerve
    • Knots
      • Distal hitch for descent safety
      • Prussic for passing knot
      • Bachman for ascent
      • Triple Clove hitch
      • 2x Fish bend for skinny escape rope. Offset overhand 1.5 otherwise.
      • Perfection loop for Prusik ends
    Any other useful pointers would be appreciated. Thanks.
    hank moon likes this.
  2. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    Suggest:

    - Take care to protect the full length of the rope from abrasion and rockfall exposure
    - Use a full size (14”) brake bar rack with steel bars for descending (more fun that way)
    - Take a “real” ascending system and be prepared to use it
    - Consider using a pigtail* to facilitate edge transitions
    - Ideally, do the raps in good weather

    Practice with any new techniques or gear in a safe environment before using them at height. The rope weight of a long drop may be simulated using weighted rope (weight suspended on the end of a shorter rope).

    *short length of rope, anchored adjacent to main rope

    Prior discussion:

    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/for-the-big-ones-rappel-tips-and-devices.20297/
    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/physics-on-long-rappells.21862/

    p.s. what is "escape line" ?
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
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  3. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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  4. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    The End of Hidden is in the full sight of the public, so if you are going to drop the rope in a rope bag (ie, pack), you need to have a spotter in the parking lot with a radio, conspicuously not concerned that someone just fell off.

    For long drops, I have usually put a pulley at the top to make pulling it easier. The cheapest real Petzl Pulley (used to be Oscillante, about 12$. Maybe still is.) There might be one up there, but after a few years I would not count on it being functional.

    That stump was in there pretty good. The rock up there was super-hard (when we drilled a single 3/8" bolt for the penultimate anchor) so be sure to bring both 3/8" and 1/2" bolts and tools.

    • Distal hitch for descent safety
    • Prussic for passing knot
    • Bachman for ascent
    • Triple Clove hitch
    • 2x Fish bend for skinny escape rope. Offset overhand 1.5 otherwise.
    • Perfection loop for Prusik ends
    This list of "safety knots" tends to indicate you are not prepared for this project. Planning on using Bachmans and Prusiks for climbing 400' of rope indicates a lack of respect for the situation. Or of understanding. Each rappeller will want a REAL rope-climbing system, but certainly the first person. REAL means using handled ascenders and being able to climb 200' of free-hanging rope. Cavers traditionally have a handled ascender attached to a cow's tail ready to clip onto the rope one-handed very quickly. I have used an autobloc type "rappel backup" and would not use it on a super-long rappel, because it takes time, energy and strength to run the thing, which is not a smart move on a super-long rappel. Instead, recruit an extra person to hike to the bottom and provide a bottom-belay for the first person.

    I would not use a skinny rope for the pull cord. I would use real ropes tied together, perhaps some 6mm static pull cord in there somewhere but... the pull is hard enough using real rope. Using skinny might make it impossible, even with a pulley at the top. The rap is about 450 feet, so if you are using a 600 foot rope, and adjust it before the last person, that only requires another 300 feet or so of rope to set up the pull.

    Using Prussic Acid for passing the knot is not a standard technique. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_cyanide

    (a snarky reference to spelling the word wrong, though you spelled it right lower down).

    :moses: :moses: :moses:
  5. LonePeak

    LonePeak

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    Thanks for the tips. I figured I'd have to allay some concerns--and extra concerns if I discussed more contigency options thant I bet are generally prepared--but I still appreciate the insight because it really could help catch oversights. I did a link search previously, but Hank mentioned one I hadn't seen yet.

    Who's planning on ascending 400' of rope? Not me, with or without handled ascenders, though I certainly agree they would be easier for such a monumental task. No, the Bachman is for ascents of shorter fixed ropes or backing up a short ways on a longer rap to address a pull cord tangle, jammed rig, etc, and I find it works reasonably well on that scale. I've been considering ascenders anyway. The escape line is a strong, but lighter-weight rope to be used only in an emergency to get to the ground on the bottom half of a long rappel, preferably doubled. I'm not trying to start a skinny rope discussion in this thread. I agree that a pull cord should be particularly robust for long raps, but that's a different, weaker line.

    I very briefly discussed my slide grip knot testing in the Winter Knot Practice thread. The Prusik grips super well--too well for descending--, the Bachman is easy to move up but needs a grippy cord with a good diameter ratio, and the Distal is a super efficient safety for descents without jamming, slowing you down, or adding effort. I abandoned other recommended options for various weaknesses after practicing with them.

    No passing knots on acid, huh? Well, I suppose that's prudent. I do use pig tails/slings. I guess a spotter would be helpful. What else should I be addressing? Thanks again.

    Edit:spelling
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    If you are planning on rappelling a 450' rappel, then you are implicitly also planning on the possibility of ascending 445 feet of that. What if there is a nest of pissed off rattlesnakes at the bottom????

    Carrying a second half-length rope while rappelling sounds like a safety measure that detracts (rather than adds) to the overall safety of the system.

    Tom
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  7. LonePeak

    LonePeak

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    Yeah, at that point I'd probably take the rattlesnakes over a 445' ascent, dedicated ascenders or no. I do feel more comfortable with a bit of extra lightweight emergency line on hand, but I agree efficient ascending techniques are important and probably often-neglected skills. I've tried a few and found what I like.

    @Kuenn The spool is Canyonero, about 9.2mm if I remember right, so some ascenders should fit, SRT.

    So Tom, your beta is the only info I have on End of Hidden, and I'd like to be more clear about the final anchor location. I'm guessing it's just above the "X" I drew in red on these 3D satellite reconstructions, which should be a little over 400'. How about the first rap location into End of Hidden? I haven't seen it marked on a map. I did the trail up from the bottom a ways into Hidden a few years ago, but wasn't watching for a rappel in spot. Any indicators of the right spot? The trail marking goes haywire with all the vertical relief on the 3D reconstruction.

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  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Yeah, about there. 450' is what we "measured". Certainly longer than 400.

    Hike up the trail to hidden canyon. Where you first cross the watercourse, find a tree. Rap in. Don't leave a sling (can usually enroll a hiker to remove the sling, or your spotter can hike up to the spot with you, and hike down after you pull that first rappel rope).

    Your questions cause one to (facepalm)...

    Tom :moses;
  9. LonePeak

    LonePeak

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    @ratagonia And your replies come with more condescending assumptions than friendliness, but I still appreciate the wealth of information you offer and would like to get off on a better foot. If there really are important safety problems with the plans, as opposed to extended debates about preferences among workable methods, I really do want to hear about them.
  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I guess I don't understand why you ask questions that are answered well in the available beta. I assume you found this:

    http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/utah/zion/technical/end-of-hidden-canyon/

    You are looking to do a rarely-done (as in twice that I know of since 2007) route with an exceptionally long rappel. I appreciate that you want to be well-prepared, and you have asked some very reasonable questions here. But you have also asked some beginner questions and thus I have concerns that you are biting off more than you ought to. Thus the condescension.

    The beta says:

    "From the Weeping Rock picnic area, ascend the East Rim Trail, then right on the Hidden Canyon Trail to the "mouth" of Hidden Canyon. This adventure descends from the "mouth" where the trail crosses Hidden to the ground.

    It may be a good idea to leave a "spotter" at the Weeping Rock parking lot, so he can tell people "No, that was not a body" when you huck the big rope off (and to make sure the rope reaches the ground without tangles).

    Select a tree, and rap in. There are several short rappels (up to 100 feet or so) to get to the final perch. The raps are into potholes which might have water, but they tend to be no more than knee deep. Have someone in your party remove the webbing for the first anchor, or enroll one of the many hikers loitering about to clean up this piece of litter."


    > I think that is pretty clear on where to start in.

    Dan's Photos http://www.danransom.com/2007/06/holy-shot-rap/ give a reasonable view of the area around the final rappel.

    Since the canyon is rarely done, and could be different, this is kinda like a first descent, and it seems unlikely to be a good adventure for you and your crew if you cannot figure out the route from the beta and pictures available. Although, perhaps I should say, once you get there, it will be clear that the information provided will be sufficient.

    Have you and your team practiced long rappels and simulated various things going wrong? We almost lost some people on the rap out of Heaps this spring, people who were really sure they knew what they were doing. They did not. Thankfully a helping hand from a nearby competent team prevented blood from being spilled. This is what comes to mind when you ask these questions, and when you list prusiks (various forms) as your appropriate ascending system when doing a really big rappel.

    I hope the answers to your questions and the snark and condescension will inspire you to acquire the training, equipment and experience to complete this adventure safely (including with an adequate safety margin). My discerning ear tells me that at the moment, there's a reasonable chance you are not up for this adventure, yet. On extra-long rappels like this, there is less range of 'personal preference'. Things that work on short rappels (like prusiks) are not appropriate for this situation. Etc. etc. etc... Sorry if too snarky... Jan 31 is a big tax return day in the small-business sphere.

    Tom :moses:
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  11. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Ah, but it's been done... many times... with or without a "pissed-off" nest of vipers. But if I'm looking at the prospects of ascending 400'+ on prusiks? Snakes beware!! I just may be more pee'd than they are! (caveat Viperidae)

    Some really good points added by Tom in his last post to Physics on long rappells. One I'd like to give a loud SECOND.
    This IS the most common mistake I have observed (and experienced) on long rappels!

    Feeding rope or what my group odiously refers to as "jacking rope" has many very bad side effects.
    • Rope bounce as Tom mentioned - as in sawing effect - both physically and mentally dangerous.
    • The sheer fatigue factor - vastly under-rated. Had a friend ascend out of 1000'er mid-rappel due to this very thing. He knew (as do we all) that fatigue is the forerunner adding risk to MORE bad things could happen.
    • "Rope jacking" is also a sign of either not being prepared, too lazy or too afraid to adjust friction... all inexperience warning flags.
    • Don't convince yourself that I'll just muscle through this temporary inconvenience. Stop and fix it! (There may just be a partner to follow that really doesn't want to pass a 2 inch core-shot... they, too, may be more belligerent than a nest of vipers.)
    Last point - know your center of gravity. Observe the pictures in Dan's Photos http://www.danransom.com/2007/06/holy-shot-rap/. The bottom two pics of Greg. Notice his rappel posture... NOT good. It might look relaxing (like lounging in the dentist's chair), but it's not. Lot of unnecessary effort being expended to try to maintain a more upright position. More fatigue, portends of bad stuff could happen, especially if/when you hit a sure-enough show stopper that requires your best self - as in fatigued-less.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
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  12. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    Can you give details on the scenario(s) where the escape line would be necessary?
  13. LonePeak

    LonePeak

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    @ratagonia Thank you, Tom, I sincerely appreciate your efforts on behalf of my welfare and that of the public. I do try to prepare with unusually thorough analysis and then to stay within my abilities, but I acknowledge the oversights of the learning process, among other variables, and therefore seek more experienced perspective here. It can be difficult to accurately distinguish cerebral caution from visceral lack of confidence or ignorant over-confidence. Similarly it can be difficult to discern when I'm getting the generic over-conservative response (e.g. "Never canyon in Zion from Dec through April") and when the advice is at the relevant level (E.g. "Well, the water is cold but so 7mm wetsuits are required, but there really isn't any problematic snow or ice yet at the lower altitudes on 12/10/16. However after the storm you should definitely avoid it by Christmas this year." This assumes the information or probable conditions are known to the adviser.) You definitely volunteer more detailed and personalized info than a ranger.

    Yes, as I've tried to imply, I have practiced these techniques among others until they work well for me, and of course I'll keep current and be sure that others are up to the task as well. I mostly use legs not arms on an ascent; an ascender or Bachmann just lets me slide the sling/tail up the rope easily. The former has a convenient handle, extends reach slightly, has an easy slide and secure grip, isn't always available, and can't grip smaller diameter or double ropes. After reading what I could find online, I've prepared for the scenarios that sound potentially relevant, but it's nice to check in here for feedback and potential pitfalls. I've got more to learn, but I expect I'm ready for this. I should work on my signals a bit.

    For some obvious rap in points, "Pick a tree" would be plenty of information. Others might have possible wrong turns. I do see at least two cracks in relative proximity to the "mouth of Hidden" on the satellite, but I'm glad to hear your implication that the correct one down the main water course is as obvious in this case as it might appear from bird's-eye-view. I am comfortable with navigation.

    Thanks for the useful pictures. Dan sure takes some beauties. To me that core shot is another reminder of why it's better to try to avoid the inevitable bouncing that ascending far up a rope would cause, and also to inspect rope, pad rub points, and creep it along between raps. I glad you were okay. It would have been a major loss for the entire community as well as yourselves had it gone worse. As it turned out, it makes for a great story.


    @Kuenn Yep, your and Tom's good point about rope jacking is another reason not to use a safety that doesn't slide along as controllably as the distal hitch, and even to remove it if the slight added friction is too much trouble when dealing with lots of rope weight below. I'll start with the lowest CRITR setting of course.

    Center of gravity- I'll bet Greg's abs were sore the next day. That's why I kind of like to hang the pack in front so it pulls me into the rope, despite the awkwardness. An impromptu chest harness may help too.

    "Caveat Viperidae" - Nice one


    @hank moon
    • A needed rope got damaged or stuck previously so you had to cut it shorter or leave it behind.
    • Amid a long rappel the rope just below somehow got badly tangled and it's more trouble than it's worth to sort it all out.
    • Hmm, this rappel from this particular anchor is longer than expected
    • Oops, looks like you made a wrong turn and you're in Not-Imlay instead of Imlay so the rap is much longer
    • Welp, it looks like either a 400' ascent and a long wait for SAR, or I quickly pull out an escape line to extend the rope
    • You've cliffed out on a sketchy traverse while looking for some good powder to ski on
    • The ski lift really broke down and it's going to be a long, cold wait for rescue
    • Imagination
    Thanks, guys. Anything else important I should factor in?
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  14. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Thanks for the recommended knot list, @ratagonia .

    Curious about your preference on the Perfection Loop knot, since I've never used it. Is it mainly due to the high breaking %? (Google search says it comes in around 95%, which is IMPRESSIVE - almost unbelievable.) Are there other reasons you prefer it?
  15. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    That was a quote from the OP. :moses:
  16. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    My mistake, I assumed your re-quoting/posting was a quasi-endorsement.

    Next question, it's an interesting knot - very bowline-ish. Do you use it?
  17. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Never heard of it. I assumed it was a commercial product or a splice kinda thing. I have little use for prusiks, so less interest than my general interest in USEFUL knots.

    T
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  18. LonePeak

    LonePeak

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    @ratagonia
    I'd say slide grip knots like the Prusik are not only useful, but vital if you don't have ascenders on your person anytime you need to un-weight your rappel device or ascend a ways for some reason. The need can and does arise when stopping to undo a rope tangle, especially if you didn't notice it coming or your device doesn't tie off as well as a CRITR. A mule hitch on an ATC can jam, for example, then you're stuck on a rope. I doubt a high fraction of canyoneers always carry ascenders. A contingency anchor could also solve the problem, at the cost of rope wear and carrying lots of extra rope weight, but I'll bet their usage is more uncommon than ubiquitous except in class C canyons.

    I'm confident that many people would be safer if they knew and used the Distel Hitch and related techniques as a safety, especially as first person down when you can't have a fireman's belay. All it takes is a falling rock or a moment of distraction and it's game over, no continues unless you're backed up. As you mentioned your unfamiliarity with the Distel Hitch, Tom, I gather that you haven't experienced how smoothly and controllably it descends when properly adjusted or how well it catches when needed. Many give up on safeties because other knots can either grab too much or too little. I suggest that this should be considered for endorsement by community leaders. Look to the professional arborists' example. http://www.climbingarborist.com/distel.php Spell check: "Distel" is correct; despite it's apparently relevant meaning, "distal" is incorrect.

    @Kuenn I'm confident that the 95% strength rating you saw for the perfection loop was not applicable to rope, but probably wetted fishing line. It's useful for securely holding a loop with a minimum of rope usage for the knot, and it's even secure for stubborn bungee cord. Ideally but more expensively, your safety can be sewn with end loops.

    Incidentally, knot tying is a bit of a hobby for me. See my long post on http://canyoncollective.com/threads/winter-time-to-practice-and-learn-knots.23996/#post-102873. It has been up for a while and well viewed. I've slightly updated it and will get around to doing so more extensively.
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