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Retrievable rappel: knot passing and small pull cord

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by Ty Kom, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. Ty Kom

    Ty Kom

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    I have the following ropes:
    (1) 65m 6mm static
    (1) 40m 10mm static
    (1) 25m 10mm static

    I'm doing a canyon this weekend with a 170 foot rappel and I'm working on the best way to do it with those ropes. After a lot of reading and research I can't figure out a way to do it other than rapping on the 6mm pull cord (Black Diamond brand). If I were to rap on the thick rope the biner block would have to go on the "thin" side of the rope and the knot connecting the two larger ropes would jam in the quick link during retrieval. Any help is greatly appreciated! The answer may just be that we need to skip this canyon until we have the proper gear but if there is a safe method to do it I'd love to know! Thanks
  2. Evan Christensen

    Evan Christensen Evan C

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    If it was me in your situation, I would pick another canyon to do. I would never plan to rappel on 6mm rope, I'm saving that for an unanticipated situation where it is my last option. A 6mm line can be cut very easily on an edge. Passing a knot on rappel is an important skill to know how to do but introduces some unnecessary risk in my opinion. I'd do that canyon another day when you have the right rope.
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  3. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    +1 for what Evan said......... BUT if you're really set on this canyon then tie the two 10mm ropes together for the rap side and rig the rap with a fiddlestick, then the knot won't be an issue for the pull. This still requires everyone to pass a knot so make sure everyone in the group knows how to do this and is ok with the plan before you go. You also have the added risk of rappelling on a fiddlestick, not a major concern in my opinion, but it is an added risk if you aren't experienced in its use (which it sounds like you aren't).
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  4. GravityWins

    GravityWins

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    Additional theoretical methods to accomplish what you want.
    1. Tie the two 10mm ropes together for the rap side then do a lower and rap with appropriate safties while lowering and while the rope is weighted. Retrieval using the most reliable releasable method you have practiced and are comfortable with.
    2. Invite a friend with a 200 ft rope and the skills to deploy, use, possibly ascend, and retrieve it safely
    I listed those as theoretical because I don't know you, your party, the canyon, your skills, your risk comfort level, additional gear, your network of canyoneering friends, or extenuating factors. I concur with Evan above: "If it was me in your situation, I would pick another canyon to do."

    I have a whole list of canyons I want to do but have not done because I recognize I lack critical skills. I have a plan to acquire the skills I know I need, and those skills I haven't identified which are valuable. There are many canyons out there, picking one that matches your skills, your party, available gear, and the weather is a valuable skill. Be safe, enjoy the canyons. :)
    Ty Kom likes this.
  5. Ty Kom

    Ty Kom

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    Thank for the replies. I have decided against the knot passing. I have a 60 meter dynamic rope, is that a viable option? I should add that I ordered some static rope but it might not arrive on time. If dynamic rope is a bust and the other rope doesn't arrive then the canyon will have to wait.
  6. GravityWins

    GravityWins

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  7. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    Hi Ty Kom, welcome to the collective. It's good to hear you've abandoned the knot passing. Hopefully rapping on 6mm cord is out as well. Both of those techniques are generally reserved only for emergencies, due to the significant added risk associated with them. Your questions and comments so far would seem to indicate that you are a beginner and have little experience canyoneering. Would you care to comment on that? Knowing where a new member is at, knowledge and/or experience-wise, helps us better moderate content and tone when interacting with strangers on the internet. :)
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  8. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    This plan has a few warning signs:
    • Basing the decision to do a specific canyon because of being "set on" it. Is this a good basis for decision-making? A good general plan is to 1) properly assess your team's abilities, equipment, desire, etc. then 2) locate a canyoneering objective that can done with what you have, with a reasonable safety margin, and 3) Have a plan B in case plan A doesn't work out due to changes in weather or other conditions, ppl bailing on the trip, etc.
    • Zero margin for error with the ropes originally proposed. Best practice would be to take 3X the length of the longest drop, which in this case would be 510' of rope*, ideally two of those ropes being at least 170'. I'd likely go with 2 x 200' ropes plus a few shorter ropes to make up the difference. *real rope, not counting pull cords
    • Toggle systems (e.g. Smooth Operator, Fiddlestick) carry significant added risk, even for competent users. It's certainly not a technique with which one can become proficient in a few days (i.e. before this weekend).
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
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  9. Ty Kom

    Ty Kom

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    Yes rapping on 6mm is most certainly out of the question. I come from a climbing background, mostly clean aid and trad. I did Purgatory canyon in Death Valley about a month ago and that is the extent of my canyoneering experience. We had planned on doing Helios this weekend but after the discussion here and lots of research I decided we don't have the gear or experience to attempt it. I was thinking the Deimos sneak route is a good alternative as the longest rap is 125'.

    Thank you for the discussion and advice, it has been beyond helpful (and potentially life-saving!)
    hank moon likes this.
  10. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    In general, dynamic ropes are not good for canyoneering. That said, some older canyoneers started out using semi-retired (e.g. for top-rope only) dynamic ropes, mostly to avoid spending money on real canyoneering rope before deciding whether they liked the activity at all. If you have such a rope, it can work, but isn't ideal. More on this:

    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/static-dynamic-rope-combo.21919/#post-97864
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  11. Evan Christensen

    Evan Christensen Evan C

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    Ty,
    A lot of great information can be found on this website, canyoneeringusa.com, and one with great videos is https://canyonsandcrags.com
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  12. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Hi Ky Tom, welcome to the Collective.

    Alas, this conversation has come around to reason so my rapier wit is not required. But I do have a few small comments:

    1. I was surprised that Black Diamond was making a 6mm ROPE. Alas, this is not the case. They offer a 6mm static cord. Within the climbing and canyoneering community, the term "rope" is used for something intended for rappelling, and "cord" is used for something not intended for rappelling. Accessory cord of whatever size makes a poor "rope", and our community has had at least one accident due to accessory cord being sold off the spool to an unsuspecting beginner canyoneer, with the "rope" failing in use some years later. Accessory cord is not rope.

    Black Diamond Static.

    2. I disagree with earlier posters. Dynamic climbing ropes are perfectly acceptable for descending dry canyons. They perform poorly in wet canyons. They are not ideal for several reasons: A. their bounciness in some places is annoying; B. that bounciness and generally not being made for that environment results in them not being durable when canyoneering; and C. being used for canyoneering compromises the integrity of the rope to some extent, and it should no longer be used as a lead-climbing line. Retired. It is now retired.

    Tom
  13. Ty Kom

    Ty Kom

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    Thank you everyone for your posts, a lot of great information here. We did the canyon Sunday and all went well, no knot passing, no sketchy raps.
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  14. NM Ben

    NM Ben

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    Agreed, Hank - Rapping on 6mm is no bueno unless it's really the only option, and only with great care even then. I am surprised, though, to see knot passing put in the same category of emergency. Is knot passing universally regarded as such? I'm new to the forum and only a year in to canyoneering very seriously, so I'm curious to get some of you more "in the know" people's input.

    In my experience, if you have a tibloc or a few prusik cords and an afternoon to practice, passing a knot doesn't have to add much risk at all. If you have a modern canyoneering descender, or even a figure 8, combined with a VT, knot passing barely has to slow you down at all (And since you can cram the knot through your device, you don't ever have to take it off of the rope)

    I suppose the amount of risk added is directly related to how many times you've done it, though, so not something to try to figure out right before you leave for a canyon. Curious to see your thoughts on more experienced canyon folk planning on knot passes.

    Ben
  15. Ty Kom

    Ty Kom

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    Hi Ben, I think one of the issues with knot of passing is related to anchors. Knot passing can involve some bouncing and potential rapid weighting of the rope. On a solid anchor this isn't an issue but the last 2 canyons I did had a lot of deadman and cairn anchors which may not stand up to a lot of bouncing and movement.
  16. NM Ben

    NM Ben

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    Ty, That makes perfect sense, I hadn't thought of anchor conditions. Armchair quarterbacking is so much simpler than reality :)

    Ben
  17. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    While many of us are clear that passing a knot is a skill that all/most canyoneers should have and practice on a regular basis, in the real world the percentage of canyoneers that could do this "under fire" successfully is probably pretty low. Personally, I have NEVER passed a knot in an actual canyon, though have practiced many times in class and practice.

    Probably better to deal with reality, than with some idealized canyoneering populace.

    Tom
  18. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    I started canyoneering with dynamic ropes. While I don't recommend it, it certainly works.

    I also started canyoneering with just enough rope to do the canyon. I don't do that any more either. Ropes get core shots, get stuck etc. Lots of rope and lots of (preferably experienced) people to carry it can solve a lot of problems.
  19. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Not to mention the even less solid anchors being used these days to ghost canyons. Best to put a little extra sand in that trap if you'll be passing a knot as the last guy, and make sure someone else took your pack.
  20. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    I agree it doesn't have to be terribly risky, especially with back-up knots tied before you start fooling around, but to say it isn't significantly more time consuming is bunk. More importantly, it's just poor form to PLAN on passing a knot for a 170 foot rappel. I mean, if it's a 500 foot rappel or you've already core shot the rope or something that's one thing, but for a relatively routine rappel? Go buy a 200 footer. It's not like you're never going to use it again. Amazon Prime will get it to you tomorrow.

    I haven't tried rapping on a 6mm cord, but I also don't go with anyone who carries one. The pull cords we use are 3 mm and nobody is ever going to rap on those. (I hope).
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