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Tech Tip: Question Stopper Knots - Bad idea, or the Worst Idea??

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by ratagonia, Oct 10, 2014.

  1. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    Thanks, Terry

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to discuss the purpose(s) of the stopper knot?

    For me, its sole purpose is to help prevent accidentally rapping off the end, when rappelling in control, at relatively slow (near the end-ish) speed. Is is specifically not meant to address the problem of an out-of-control rappel.

    Like the autoblock, the stopper knot can be useful to mitigate a fall hazard in certain situations. Not a good technique to use habitually. If used habitually, that would mean the user is habitually subjecting him/herself to a higher level of risk than necessary. Y'know, like going out with Ram... :)
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  2. Terry LeBlanc

    Terry LeBlanc

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    Mirrors my understanding. Stopper knot used when the "naked" end of the rope (no rope bag) cannot be confirmed as reaching the "ground", allowing a graceful landing. Ostensibly, a precaution to prevent descending past the end of the rope, unaware...due to distractions, fatigue, hypothermia, etc. The other use is tying one below me as a temporary safety stop when I need to go hands-free for a bit...just in case the lockoff, autoblock and whatever else might not work as expected.

    First man down should be cognizant and aware that some things may remain unknown, with skills needed to assess & deal with them. Like untying the stopper knot as soon as confirmed that the rope is long enough, to avoid sending it up and sticking the rope at the anchor, preventing recovery, and setting the length just off the deck to avoid twists on longer free hanging raps, etc. Preaching to the choir here, for sure.<g>
  3. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    Care to elaborate why it would be an illusion to stop you?
  4. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    My observation in the field is that about half the people "out there" set up an "autobloc" that cannot possibly work. Some people set up a prusik above the device, and it is unlikely that this method will work, as when people are starting to go out of control, they are unlikely to let go. Even a properly established autobloc will not work in all circumstances, for instance, if the rappeller flips upside down, and sometimes when the autobloc is attached to a dry portion of rope and then encounters a wet portion of rope (of vice-versa).

    It will work some of the time. That is not a very high standard. Thus I use the provocative word "illusion".

    Tom
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2014
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  5. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    The two most common "out of control" rappel scenarios in my experience:

    A - Rapper descending too fast and cannot slow down but still has brake rope in hand
    B - Rapper lets go of brake rope while stopped on rope, or descending at relatively slow speed

    I have personally witnessed (in guiding) several instances of an autobloc working in scenario B. I have not seen or heard of an autoblock working in scenario A, where the (normally panicked) user must deliberately release the brake rope to activate the stopping mechanism. So the autobloc offers "illusory" protection in A, probably 99% of the time (sometimes the user lets go due to burnt hands). In B, stuff can still go wrong, but it can and does work when properly set up, under relatively controlled conditions.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2017
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  6. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    :confused: I'm confused. Do you add a stopper knot ahead of time knowing you have to go hands free? If you have to go hands free and tie off your device properly it will work as expected so anything else is just more to think about, more things to do, and more things to go wrong. KISS

    If you are unsure if the rope reaches, then an experienced and un-fatigued person should be going first preventing a stopper knot from being needed.
  7. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    Kind of what I figured. I would also think some people probably have the autobloc too loose where it might not catch.
  8. Terry LeBlanc

    Terry LeBlanc

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    No...I would want a temporary stopper knot (middle of the rap), tied after locking off the descender (with autoblock locked) if I needed to go hands free for an extended time on rope, especially if I'm going to be "busy", like rigging for ascent or doing something that requires moving around, doing things. Guess it's just personality, personal preference...I'm a 3-layer guy...<g>

    I'm with you about the responsibilities of the first guy down. People do stupid things.
  9. Terry LeBlanc

    Terry LeBlanc

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    Or don't have enough room between the autoblock and descender...or "hold" the autoblock in their hand instead of "tending" it with the bottom of the hand, with the hand holding the rope, as it should.

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess...but I don't like having my non-brake hand above the descender, I want them both on the rope below the descender, with the bottom hand "minding" the autoblock when I'm using it, behind my hip when I'm not...just habit, how I was taught. Top hand above the descender not as effective above the device as below it.
  10. AW~

    AW~

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    I could have used a better example. All in all ,going much further is an argument about nothing, but...hehehe...to clarify my point, Im going all the way back to the original intent of the stopper knot, not what some climbling rag claims. And I think the military lays claims to it. In addition, the stopper knot predates the autoblock is something I would guess. If we go all the way back to bowlines and body raps.
  11. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    OK, show me the body-rap stopper.

    ABoK - rypha? :)
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  12. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    A tied off device, an autoblock, and a stopper knot? Yikes. :eek: I know how to use an autoblock and teach how to rig an autoblock, but never use them. If you are that worried about your tied off device failing. Instead of a stopper knot, it would be better to tie a butterfly or 8 on a bight and clip it to your belay loop.
    ratagonia likes this.
  13. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    it seems really hard to lock-off a device while an autoblock is also being used to me... with the autoblock sling holding the brake strand that you need to move around to do the lock-off.. o_O
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  14. AW~

    AW~

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    OK...wheres your min 18mm rope?
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  15. Terry LeBlanc

    Terry LeBlanc

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    That would work.<g>
  16. Terry LeBlanc

    Terry LeBlanc

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    Not so much, not with 2 hands below the descender. The autoblock isn't holding the rope, I am. Right hand manages the autoblock, while both hands lock off the descender. Still need the same pressure on the rope, not much difference.
  17. Terry LeBlanc

    Terry LeBlanc

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    Re-reading your post, then re-reading mine...I see what you're saying. My "(with autoblock locked)" comment was meant to indicate the autoblock is locked again "after" locking the descender....have to release the autoblock to lock the descender.

    Sorry, unclear on my part, could have been better.

    COMMENT: What a great forum, I'm enjoying the excellent content and the personalities.<g> I'm drinking at the fountain...trying to throw in a penny or two...
  18. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    Curious, what device are you using for rappel?
  19. Terry LeBlanc

    Terry LeBlanc

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    ATS (with an ATC-Guide in reserve). Both were new, supplanting the ATC-XP and older ATC. Like the ATS a lot.
  20. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    I agree with the Hankster.

    True also is the absence of a stopper altogether, if care is given during the rappel....with maybe this exception. If you are fairly certain a retreat is going to occur due to insufficient rope length, crocodiles, etc.

    In those cases (and as a matter of course when using a stopper), my stopper of choice is a figure 8 on a bight. It makes for a robust stopper (won't pass through most rap devices), plus in the event of a change over it has utility value. I.E. at some point in the change-over procedure you will have to unload the rap device - foot in bight expedites that process. IMO
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