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Rappel Modes TESTED!!!

Episode 8 of 10

Canyon Rope Systems

Rappel Friction Modes Tested

This is a free course featuring Brent Roth about different ways to set up rappels through a canyon. This considers ease of rigging, abrasion, ease of rescue and how efficient it is to move people through the canyon.

Our courses are A-Z content in blog format, glued together with an overarching blog we call a textbook. A blog format is easy to read, easy to update, and easy to translate. Be sure to begin at the TEXTBOOK and at the end of each episode we'll point you to the next.


Rappel Friction Tests

Brent set up a mechanical disadvantage so he could put more weight than himself on different lowering devices in different modes. How much friction do the different RAPPEL devices using the same 8mm rope on every device. The tail of the rope was weighted with a 5lb weight to simulate you lightly holding the loose tail during a rappel.

For example, if you rappelled with a Palikoa Pivot in the fastest mode, it only takes 30lbs but with it set behind the carabiner, or high friction mode, (not counting the “on the fly” options you have), it took 110 lbs or almost 4x as much. We tested 7 devices over 20 different ways total. Since you have to see the context for it to make sense, you'll have to watch the video instead of reading each of the results.

If you watched to the end of our video you saw how the Petzl Pirana catches the end of the rope in the spur of the device. This may not seem like an issue, but it is a very real danger in canyons with moving water. It's especially dangerous when you expect to come off the end of your rope and swim out of a water hazard.

Death Valley Mosaic Canyon Accident

From a FB post by Adolfo Isassi

Sad fatality in Death Valley.

As with many accidents, an opportunity to learn and avoid future accidents under similar circumstances. In this case, it looks like the accident was due to a combination of:

  • Canyoneering solo

  • Rappel rope was short

  • Error or mishap while passing a knot

If you have a teammate in a situation like this, where a rope is, or may be short, all you have to do is rig releasable, set the rope length, add more webbing/rope/cord to the pull side....Done.

If you are solo, now you need to decide if you are doubling your rope, or blocking it for a single strand rappel. It is unclear what the victim decided. Whatever the decision, webbing was added to the rope to attempt a "knot pass".

This particular situation brings 3 unusual tasks:

  • Joining rope and webbing for a live load bearing purpose (rappelling)

  • Rigging a rappel device with webbing and locking it off

  • Rappelling on webbing

Given that the fall was about 30 feet, there is a good chance that the fall itself did not result in death. The combination of canyoneering solo and no Satellite SOS device resulted in no chance for prompt first responder assistance.

Condolences to family and friends.

The system may have been rigged by joining the two materials with an overhand on a bight for the webbing and a sheath-bend on the rope side. This is probably the most economic way to connect the rope with the webbing. I have never thought about doing this, but once someone has ended up in this situation, joining webbing and rappelling on it, I wanted to know what the friction would be...

So I ran it through the same test we did before...

Compare this test to the previous one with the SQWUREL in the same friction mode at 14:26 of this episode!!!


What's Next?

You can always go back to the main part of HOW NOT 2 CANYON HERE

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