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Tech Tip: Answered Why is an ATC not the best Canyoneering rap device?

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by ratagonia, Mar 26, 2018.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    An ATC-XP works fine for dry canyons, at least as a start. However, most canyoneers find a figure8 style device has distinct advantages.

    Most canyoneers rappel on ropes in the 8mm - 9.5mm range, and single strand; thus they need a device that creates more friction on the rope than a device designed for double-strand 10mm. The Pirana, ATS, and Critr2 are designed for this specific purpose, though the Pirana comes from France where they tend to use fatter ropes, but still single strand. Thus not suitable for us full-size canyoneers.

    Advantages (in addition to greater friction)

    1. In a flowing water canyon, the rope often disappears into the foam of the waterfall, and sometimes picks up strands of moss or other organic material. A Fig8 style device allows this junk to pass through; a slot device does not.

    2. If rappelling double strand in flowing water (not advisable), the two strands in flowing water and hidden from view will INEVITABLY twist around each other. If you are using an ATC, you will be stopped dead, while a Fig8 device will allow the twists to pass through, though perhaps with a bit of effort.

    3. Modern canyoneering rappelling devices allow for easily setting the friction at different levels. Some of the most recent devices also allow for adding friction while the device is weighted. Some better than others. This is a big reason why the Critr2 is currently very popular.

    4. Modern canyoneering rappelling devices allow for a quick, easy and secure tie off, and also levels of friction suitable for 2-person operation. VERY useful in a rescue situation.

    My recommendation is the Critr2. If you are under 150 lbs, the Pirana might be a better choice.

    Tom

    Some additional notes:

    http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips/black-diamond-atc-rappelling/

    http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips/how-to-use-a-petzl-pirana/
  2. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    In dry canyons, using double strand rappelling technique, is there a better device than the ATC and its ilk?

    When rappelling out of Heaps, is there any device smoother that does not twist the rope and rappeller? Besides a rappel rack? A pair of ATC's stack one atop the other is as smooth as it gets.

    Lower bulk, smaller profile, very predictable friction. Easy to carry a back up. Also very usable as a belay device so can be found in most climbers' kits.

    Most canyoneers if not doing a canyon with water flow should perhaps consider rappelling double strand.

    KISS should be applied to canyoneering too. Toss-n-go-4-life!

    Ha ha...
  3. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    KISS indeed!
    Unfortunately, the majority of 'lost control due to lack of friction' incidents in Canyoneering occur on ATCs...
    This is not due to ATC's specifically but a failure to adapt the device to single strand/skinny rope.
    So even the USE of the ATC is not 'simple': you still have to know what the heck you are doing
    when rapping on less than 10mm double ropes.
    Just sayin'
    :D
    Disruptive_Rescue likes this.
  4. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    I remember in the Yahoo Canyons Group where people used to be chastised for using a Figure 8. I believe the phrase of choice was "Ban the eight, before it's too late" or something like that.

    Just for fun, I'll see if I can dig up a few of the old threads. Here's one, but not a chastisement:

    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/figure-8s-preferred-design.2249/

    I don't have an argument here (other than I agree with Brian about KISS and toss-n-go), but it is interesting how things have gone full circle. Of course the CRITR didn't exist back then.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
    Rapterman likes this.
  5. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    do as you oughta
    add 'limbs' to your Prana
    see your canyon outfitter
    they call it a .......
    :greedy:
    ScottM likes this.
  6. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Majority? You have a reference for your statement?

    Most climbers use ropes less than 10mm in diameter...and, their bodies aren't stackin' up like cordwood.

    Here's a couple of accidents due to loss of control on a non-atc device:

    August 2011 West Fork of Oak Creek

    What Went Wrong?
    The 36-year-old patient was one of a group of seven who had started about 1.5 miles up canyon, doing multiple rappels. The accident occurred on the eighth rappel.

    The victim had been about halfway down when he apparently lost control of his rappel, falling about 150 feet to the bottom of the canyon. He had been rappelling on a Petzl Piranha, a descender specially designed for canyoneering. The Piranha descent device is roughly designed like a Figure 8 descender, but with three added “spurs” projecting from the descender waist and top ring. These spurs provide extra options for added friction by wrapping the rope around any of them. But by the time the climber realized that he was in trouble, he was going too fast to maneuver the rope to add friction, and was soon out of control. He did not have a personal belay, such as a Prusik, and did not have a bottom belay, although there was one person already on the bottom. He could not do anything to slow himself, first striking a ledge about 100 feet down, bouncing off that ledge and then falling another 40 feet to be bottom of the canyon.

    January 2014 Insomnia Canyon

    Canyoneer and retired dentist Mike McEntire, 36, was rappelling the last 150 feet of the massive 320 foot Insomnia Canyon drop when he made a mistake. A piece of equipment designed to slow his descent had been set to move too fast and he quickly fell 100 feet, striking a ledge, then plummeting another 40 feet.

    As McEntire went down, he gained speed as he dropped through mid air, without the friction of his contact with the wall to slow him down. The most experienced climber in the group, McEntire liked to descend quickly and knew how to stop by throwing the rope over the rappel device.

    (Not sure on the device from Insomnia, but, doesn't sound like an ATC. Anyone know?

    Anyhoo...I'm sure there are more.

    Here's one I have personal knowledge of. These climbers are long time friends. Pete has the dubious distinction of being the only person I know to cut both double ropes in a climbing fall (50 feet, broken back, early 80's in Montana). Anyhoo...(they'd never rappelled on that skinny a cord before with a figure eight...ugh).

    August 2008 Grand Teton National Park

    The primary cause of this mishap is that for the first time in their mountaineering experiences, the Carneys were rappelling on two 8.2mm ropes using figure-eight devices. They had climbed the route previously (albeit some 25 years ago) and knew that the rappel involved about a 70-foot free-hanging section. A thicker rope, a better rappel setup, use of Prusiks or other self-belay setups on the rappel, or even preliminary practice rappelling with two 8.2-mm ropes, may have prevented this accident. (Source: From a report submitted by Chris Harder, GTNP Ranger)
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  7. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    My guess is that in the history of rappelling in the USA, there are far more rappels on tube devices by rock climbers/mountaineers than modified figure eights from anyone. Number two probably goes to racks used by cavers. Slowly the canyoneers with modified eights will catch up as the sport grows. Meanwhile very busy canyoneers such as Ram, Rich Rudow and Todd Martin have put a lot of miles on tube devices.
    Rapterman likes this.
  8. deathtointernet

    deathtointernet

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    If you screw up the friction on a CRITR and realize it partway down, fixing it is as easy as moving the rope over a single horn. Do the same with an ATC, and unless you already had a leg loop or a Z-rig ready to go, you have to lock it off and fumble with carabiners. And if it's a last second realization, well, with a CRITR maybe you have a chance to add enough friction before you lose it completely. With an ATC, forget it. And oh sure, the top names in canyoneering will always have it rigged correctly and it's lightweight and all. I have one for a backup in case something happens to a primary device. But as we all know a lot of canyoneers are *not* super-experienced veterans who are masters of ropework. And lot of folks out there are not super-serious about the sport. Maybe they go out a few weekends out of the year. I've introduced a number of people to rappelling with a CRITR and all of them have understood it easily and felt very safe with it. Everything necessary to operating the device in almost all conditions is integral to the device itself, i.e., they need no extra gear. It keeps it simple and easy to grasp. Case in point, last year I descended Englestead in the summer. Two of our group were not particularly experienced, having never done rappels over 170 feet, having little to no experience on skinny single line. Yet they had absolutely no trouble on the initial 290 foot rappel, each adding friction where they felt appropriate. The very day before, someone died on that rappel when they lost control with an ATC. Might they have lived if they had had a variable friction device? Can't say for sure but it's hard to see how it would have hurt.
  9. Wes1

    Wes1

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  10. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Deathtointernet-

    Well said! :twothumbs:
    That is EXACTLY why the CRITR was created for canyoneering.

    Interestingly, we are seeing an increasing number of search and rescue folks adopt the CRITR for a personal rappel device.
  11. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Tough to catch up with the runaway climbing train...

    https://www.adventuresportsnetwork....ings-olympic-inclusion-huge-growth-potential/

    http://www.climbingbusinessjournal.com/more-climbers-than-ever/

    https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-climbing.html

    Interesting that the Dawn Wall got "13 billion social media impressions over several month".

    Just look how crowded the gyms in especially SLC are...even though they've added locations and expanded. And, some of those folks are surely hittin' the local crags (at least the crowded crags and parking lots indicate that they are). And, a reasonable number of those same folks are going to dabble in the canyon thing too.

    Good times and good to have gear choices!
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  12. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    I am the vice-president of the International Federation of Canyoning. We have 15 member countries. A few years ago we had a heated discussion about canyoning as an Olympic sport. Some of the European countries are strongly in favor of it, some are equally not in favor. One idea discussed was that if it did become an event, that would stimulate the creation of new equipment and techniques.
  13. townsend

    townsend

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    I don't like the ideal of canyoneering as a "sport". That inevitably leads to competition, and the notion that "faster is better." If it's not speed, then to make it a competition another "metric" will be created. It is unlikely that "preserving the canyon environment" or "treadingly lightly" would be adopted as a metric, but these would be best for the natural environment.

    I think the canyoneering community rightly focuses on efficiency and LNT (= leave no trace). Efficiency isn't about competition -- it is about getting through a canyon in an efficient manner, surely desirable with smaller and larger groups, and as a byproduct, efficiency should lead to "less human footprint", etc.
  14. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    very well said, Townsend...
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  15. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Wow. Interesting. Any idear what a canyoning comp would look like? If you drown you're disqualified? Ha ha.

    Be wild to have like a kayak course with obsticles in a waterfall environment, maybe even with a dry pothole escape tossed in here and there. Siphons and toboggans. Crazy to think about.

    Folks are already competative about canyons. The "trifecta". Fastest Known Times. First winter descents. Competition does breed efficiency and an uptick in skills and gear. And, can move the needle for the whole community. It can also lead to disaster...
  16. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    I have not personally witnessed one. I am told the Portuguese have dabbled a couple times. They set up a course on the walls of a bay, not a canyon. Everyone could watch.The participants ran a circuit. They were judged on technique, safety and time.
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