Tech Tip – Snag Free Rappels

Imagine this: you and your partner are hanging from a belay at the top of a deep, dark maw of a chimney that you need to rappel through. On the walls of the chimney are monstrous patina flakes and chicken heads you swear are licking their lithified lips for a taste of your rope. So how can you stack the odds in your favor for getting your rope back, snag-free?

Saddle Up, Cowboy

How many times have you thrown a rope, only to have it end up in a bush, or hung up somewhere? Instead of chucking your lifeline and hoping for the best, consider saddle-bagging the ropes. Do this by coiling either side of the rope (or both ropes, if you are rappelling with two) and hanging them with a doubled-over shoulder sling on either hip, off your gear loops. Make sure to match up the left side your rappel device with the rope on your left hip, and vice versa so as not to twist the ropes. As you rappel, pull loops off each coil to feed them through the rappel device. This way, the ropes end up hanging where you rappelled, and the ends stay nicely coiled with you at the next anchor.

Pull Smarter, Not Harder

When pulling the ropes down, move out from the wall as far back as you can, as this separates the rope from the rock. If you feel the rope snag on anything, and if both ends are still in reach, flossing the rope a bit can move the knot out of a crack or flake. You can also try flicking the rope out away from the rock, which is generally more effective than your last resort option of simply pulling harder, which may actually worsen the problem.

A Flick of the Wrist

When pulling the rope, right as you feel the end of the cord start to slide through the anchor and come down under its own weight, give it a final, hard flick away from the rock. If you time this right, the end of the rope should whip out away from any potential snags and sail freely into space.

Hopefully these tips will help you on your next trip to any rope-hungry crag, keeping you safe and efficient on the way down. Got any extra tips? Leave them in the comments section!

Ethan Newman is a climber and writer living in Springdale, UT, just outside Zion National Park, the home of many rope eating descents.

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