Canyoning, Ropework


Rappelling (originated from the French word rappeler) or abseiling is a technique that helps a person descend on a vertical scale by using a rope and specific gear to do so. While rappelling the only direction you can go is down – a cliff, a rock face, a wall, a waterfall, a steep terrain, a gorge, a quarry, a building, a bridge, getting into a hole, cave or crevasse. It is a rather controlled, fast and moderately safe way to descend, actually the opposite of climbing. It is a valuable skill in canyoning and therefore practicing and mastering abseiling will give you confidence in the canyons.

Rappelling is the use of friction against a rope, as gravity is pulling you down, while the rope is attached to a secure anchor/crag/bolt. By correctly using your gear you can increase the friction and move slowly or decrease the friction and move fast. With no friction at all you will fall uncontrollably and you could risk a serious injury or lose your life, depending on the height and relief of the surroundings.

Back in the old days people were abseiling just with a rope. Google “Angel Wings”, “South African” and “The classic Abseil” techniques just to have a clue. Nowadays apart from the canyoning (better wet) rope you will use a harness and a belay device. In canyoning there are many belay devices, the so called descenders to use: Figure 8/ATC, Pirana, Sqwurel 2, Canyonwerks CRITR2, Sterling ATS, Rock Exotica Totem, Double Figure 8, Eroica Snail, Hydrobot and Phoenix LRT. A good helmet to protect your head and a set of leather/neoprene gloves to protect your hands are also essential. As you descend the rope passes through your hands especially your dominant hand that you use to control your speed. Last but not least a screwlockcarabiner will conclude your rappelling equipment.

How to use your gear to abseil

If you are a beginner don’t try it alone.It is wiser to enroll in an initiation canyoning course and learn the technique correctly. The actual practice in real life will make you comprehend the steps much better than the written description below.

• Put on your harness and make it comfortably tight around your waist.

• Put on your helmet and gloves.

• Put a screwlock carabiner to the gear loop on your harness.

• Put the descender of your choice in the carabiner and lock it.

• Tie one end of the rope to an unquestionably sound and solid anchor that could hold an elephant should he wished to abseil.

• Thread the rope through your descender after reading very carefully the instructions.

• Put your dominant hand on the canyoning rope at a point after it has been through the descender. It holds your safety and you should never let go the rope – only after your feet have touched the bottom ground safely.

• Check your anchor and your knots. Make sure everything is in the correct position.

• Face your anchor and start walking backwards, holding the rope and placing your weight on your harness towards the edge.

• Slowly walk down the vertical face, respecting your rope, in a good and balanced speed.

• When your reach the bottom place your feet carefully on the ground walking a couple of meters before un-attaching yourself from the rope.

 • Once you are done un-attach yourself from the rope. This description applies for a low practice rappel, for example from a low position where you could climb up again easily to untie the rope from the anchor. In canyoning we need to be able to retrieve the rope after we get to the bottom of the rappel and we use various rope rigging techniques in order to do so. We strongly advise you to attend a canyoning course or participate in a guided canyoning tour for beginners if abseiling in a canyon is something that excites you. holds no responsibility if you try rappelling on your own for the first time and hurt yourself by misusing your gear and the rope.

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