Rappelling, also known as abseiling, refers to controlled descent from a cliff, steep slope, or a tall tree, with the help of a rope. It requires some precautions and a lot of practice. You should never try to rappel from any structure, until and unless you are well-versed with its basics, or have a professional expert to guide you in person.
Basics of Rappelling
This technique of descent is most often used by rock climbers when the structure they ascend is too steep to descend without safety gear. In some cases, people are much more interested in rappelling than in rock climbing, so they directly go to the top of the structure by some other mode of transport and rappel all the way down for sheer pleasure. To get the maximum pleasure though, one has to go for both, rock climbing and rappelling.
But obviously, the rappel rope is the most basic requirement of rappelling. Most of the rock climbing stalwarts use their specialized climbing ropes to descend. However, experts recommend the use of static ropes, as these ropes reduce bouncing and make the descend a lot easier. Rappelling anchors can be either natural, like trees and boulders, or artificial, like nuts and hexes. Yet another important gear, the descender facilitates controlled descend from the top.
A climbing harness, used around the waist to secure the person, is another requirement when it comes to this adventure sport. Rappelling knots, such as the Klemheist knot or Bachmann knot, are used as safety measures to bring the situation under control if the rappeller loses control while descending. Other than this rappelling gear, you should also use a helmet, boots, gloves, and knee pads to protect the respective parts of your body.
Basic Tips and Tricks
When done properly, this activity can be great fun. Minor mistakes, on the other hand, can result in dire consequences. You need to secure all the loose clothes and safety gear straps, as there are chances that these loose ends may get caught in your rappel gear and hamper the descend. Choosing the right anchor point is equally important. Ideally, an anchor point should be well grounded. It shouldn't have sharp edges, nor should it have any obstructions. The ropes are thick and strong enough to bruise your hands, so you have to wear gloves. Never use a worn out rope for rappelling. In fact, it is better to check the rope for such worn-out points before you set out.
Ideally, you should start the descend with small and firm steps. When you are in a near horizontal position, you might experience some swaying which may make the descend difficult. In such circumstances, you should plant both your legs firmly, wide apart on the rock wall. Your back should be straight and parallel to the rock wall throughout the descend, while your legs should be perpendicular and feet flat on the rock wall. While going down, you need to make sure that you look where you are heading, and use your guide hand to navigate and ease the friction. Ideally, your left hand will be the guide hand, while your right hand will act as the brake. Once you are in proper position, you can slowly start releasing the rope in your right hand, and you will start descending. When you need to halt, you just have to hold the rope in your right hand firmly; that will make you stop where you are.
The amount of risk involved in rappelling is relatively high when compared to other extreme sports. A fall from 10 meters can cause some serious damage to the human body. Imagine what falling from 100 meters will do. Statistics show that about 25 percent deaths in rock climbing actually happen in the course of rappelling. Irrespective of whether you are an experienced rappeller, or an amateur in the field, you can't afford to take risks when it comes to such extreme sports.