5 Essential Steps for Safe Rappelling

5 Essential Steps for Safe Rappelling

Rappelling is the essential skill of descending a rope in a controlled manner. You must attach yourself to the rappel rope using friction-generating apparatus to rappel. This lets you safely descend to the earth by lowering yourself to the ground in a controlled manner.

To carry out the tasks above, you'll need to employ a rappelling apparatus. A rappelling device is just a gadget that connects to the climbing rope and provides varying friction levels depending on the setting.

The user controls the level of friction. This allows you to maintain your grip on the rope (high friction), descend gently through tough terrain (mid friction), or accelerate your fall (low friction).

In the following guide, we'll describe what rappelling is, how to do it and what gear you'll require. Keep reading to know more about how to rappel safely.

What Does Rappelling Mean

Rappelling is the practice of descending oneself down a cable in a controlled manner. As a result, you'll be able to descend difficult terrain quickly and safely. Rock climbing, alpinism, canyoneering, and several climbing pursuits benefit from this. If you're seeking a safe but enjoyable method to explore the outdoors, you can enjoy rappelling as a stand-alone activity.

Rappelling helps one to descend safely from steep terrain. While other techniques may allow you to descend the same terrain, they all have disadvantages-they are either more dangerous than rappelling or require the assistance of a climbing companion. Rappelling allows you to do the task entirely independently and more safely.

Rappelling vs Its Alternatives

Rappelling vs Its Alternatives

Let's compare rappelling to some similar activities to grasp better what it is and why people use it:

  •  Rappelling vs. lowering: A companion will lower in a climbing gym. This, on the other hand, only functions if one person makes it to the surface, so you won't be able to utilize it in every circumstance. Furthermore, you will need a companion to perform this, whereas you can rappel alone.

  •  Rappelling vs. down climbing: Down climbing is a viable alternative to rappelling if the terrain permits. However, doing so is significantly riskier because you're continuously at risk of falling. Furthermore, rappelling takes far less time than down climbing.

Rappelling became fashionable in the 1800s as climbing grew in popularity. It was originally a technique employed by alpinists to lower themselves where they didn't want to 'down-climb' because of the hazard. These men and women developed the technique of rappelling as a safer and speedier alternative.

However, today rappelling is a technique used when you want to have a better grip on something.

When Can One Do Rappelling

Now that you know how to rappel let's discuss when you would want to do so. Some of the most popular ones are listed below:

Rappelling Climbers regularly rappel while climbing. You have three alternatives after reaching the route's summit: rappel, get lowered, or walk down. Because going off the top of a climb isn't always an option, you have to choose between rappelling and lowering.

Whether to rappel or descend is divisive, and everyone has an opinion on which method is best. It's often just as simple to have your belayer lower you down once you've reached the top of a single-pitch sports climb. Setting this up on multi-pitch climbs, on the other hand, may not be feasible, and rappelling is frequently your only alternative.

#1 Mountaineering


Rappelling is similar to rock climbing in mountaineering or alpinism: it occurs on the descent after you've either summited the mountain or elected to turn back.

The most significant distinction is that most alpine routes do not have established anchor sites where you can tie in. The procedure becomes more complicated as a result of this. There's a chance you'll have to cope with snow and ice on the road.

#2 Canyoneering

Rappelling is one of the key things you would like to do when canyoneering. You'll almost certainly run into a position where the surface is too difficult to walk or downclimb if you're descending a canyon.

In these circumstances, you must rappel past the cave's most challenging sections to reach the cave's bottom. You may be able to rappel from bolts in the wall, but you may also need to make your anchors.

Rappels in canyoneering are more challenging than typical rappels. However, beware of natural calamities such as falling boulders, waterfall slips, and wet rocks.

We highly request our readers to plan their trip on clear days.

 Before going canyoneering, make sure you're comfortable with different rappels. You should also bring the appropriate equipment, such as a dry-treated rope and a canyoneering-specific rappel device.

#3 Caving

There isn't much difference between rappelling while canyoneering and caving. You'll be rappelling down sections of the cave that are too tough to walk through. You'll employ pre-existing anchors, geological areas, or makeshift protection to keep your ropes tight.

Although waterfalls are less likely to be encountered (although some caverns do have running water), caving rappels provide challenges. It will be quite dark for starters, making it difficult to see everything.

The rock will most likely be wet and slippery due to humidity, and there will be muck everywhere, which will get on your rope and make controlling your rappel more difficult. In this situation, we recommend specialized equipment.

How Should One Rappel Safely

How Should One Rappel Safely

Now that we've established what rappelling is and why you'll utilize it let's discuss how you rappel. First, let's go over the equipment you'll require:

  •  A piece of rope

  •  A safety harness

  •  A rappel or belay device of some sort.

We will know about those materials (and a few more) later in this guide, but that's roughly everything you'll need to complete your rappel. Let's take a look at how those three devices interact.

One can understand how to repel if one imagines themselves standing on a short cliff. You have the three items indicated in your backpack. What's the best way to set up the rappel?


It starts with the rope. The rope is tied to an anchor at the cliff's top (such as drilled-in rappel rings) and swings down the entire length of the cliff. You'll be rappelling down from this piece of rope.

Safety Harness

The harness is the next step. Your harness encircles your waist and legs. The harness keeps you safe when you are floating in mid-air.

Belay Device And Other Equipment

Last but not least, there's the rappel equipment. The rappel gadget connects to the rope to create friction. The rappel gadget connects to your harness and keeps you attached to the rope.

In conclusion:

  •  The rappel device is attached to the rope and adjusts the rope's speed and your descent.

  •  The rappel gadget connects to your harness.

  •  You fasten your harness to your body. You're now ready to lower the rope.

You can always picture using a metaphor if that helps. Because it creates a path from point A to point B, your rope is similar to a road.

The rappel device works similarly to an automobile in that it regulates the speed at which you drive down the road. Finally, the harness functions similarly to a seatbelt in that it allows you to safely and securely utilize the car (rappel device).

Steps To Rappel

So now we have a better understanding of how everything works. Rappelling is a familiar concept. What's the best way to do a rappel?

Please be aware that this list contains additional technical jargon that might not be familiar. That's fine! If that's the case, look it up in my glossary or use Google to find out what it means.

The step-by-step rappelling procedure is as follows:

  1.  Use a PAS or a daisy chain to secure yourself to the anchors.

  2.  Tie an overhand knot on the rope and tie it to your gear with a carabiner.

  3.  Thread each of the rappelling rings with one end of the rope.

  4.  Pull the ropes properly until you center the middle point between rappel rings.

  5.  Secure both ends of the rope with a stopper knot.

  6.  Use your belay device to hold the rope.

  7.  Use a locking carabiner to secure the belay device to your harness.

  8.  Remove the overhand knot by unclipping and untying it.

  9.  Toss down the rope

  10.  Ensure that both ends of the rope contact the ground.

  11.  Use a backup knot to connect the rope to your harness.

  12.  Weigh the rope with your PAS still linked to the anchors.

  13.  Ensure that the rope is aligned, you have locked the carabiner, secure your backup knot to your harness, both rope ends are on the surface, and your stopper knots are tied.

  14.  Release your grip on the anchors.

  15.  Slowly release friction in the gadget until it moves.

  16.  Disconnect the rappel device from the rope and lower yourself to the ground.

  17.  Untangle your backup knot

  18.  Untie the stopper knots on both ends.

  19.  Take the rope from the anchors and pull it down.

That's all there is to it! That's how one should do a rappel from start to finish.

The rappel described above is for a two-strand, single-pitch rappel commonly performed by most rappellers. Different conditions will necessitate minor adjustments to the methods I just described.

Techniques for Rappelling

Techniques for Rappelling

We've gone through how to rappel and why you'd want to do it. Let's look at the various rappel tactics you'll be employing.

#1 Rappel on both strands

The double-strand rappel is the most straightforward technique for rappelling. You will have to pass two parallel ropes through the belay device. Then, with your face and torso pointed upwards, you grab both ropes simultaneously as you lower yourself to the ground.

Rappels with two strands offer several benefits. Because the anchor holds the two strands of rope, you'll be able to pull your rope down later quickly. There are no knots or blocking mechanisms, making the rappels safer. Finally, the two ropes are simpler to hold, making the rappel more smooth.

The main drawback of double-strand rappels is that it doesn't work with every piece of equipment. Some rappelling systems like Petzl GriGri work best with the single strand rappelling method but not with the double strand one. Furthermore, doubling your rope reduces the distance you can rappel, so this may not be a possibility for lengthy sections.

#2 Rappel with a single strand

Single strand rappels are analogous to double-strand rappels, except that you only have one length of rope to loop through the belay device. This can reduce friction in the system, making the rappel more difficult to manage.

A single-strand rappel can be compatible with almost any rappel or belay device on the market, so you'll never be left stranded without a route down. Additionally, because you don't have to double your rope via the rappel anchors, you can double the length of your rappel.

 However, this comes with a cost: it's far more difficult to link your rope to the anchors in a method that allows you to retrieve them. You'll need to utilize a blocking technique or a tagline rappel to get past this. These factors increase the likelihood of your rope dislodging from the anchor, making your rappel slightly riskier.

Ropes for rappelling

The type of rappel rope you want to use while rappelling is highly dependent on the activity you're undertaking. Any mountaineering rope will generally work for rappelling because it will be strong enough to support your weight and will most likely be the right size to fit through your rappelling equipment.

However, you should know a few details. For rappelling-specific tasks, static ropes will outperform dynamic ropes. Since static ropes do not stretch as much as dynamic ropes, they are considerably easier to control your speed on the descent. They're also less expensive than dynamic ropes.

Harnesses for rappelling

When picking a rappel harness, the most important considerations are safety and comfort. Choosing a suitable harness can make the difference between a pleasurable outing and a blister-ridden nightmare if you're sitting in it for the entire day.

Spend a little more: Beginners harnesses aren't as comfortable and of good quality as some of the higher-priced options.

Don't Overprioritize the comfort: Manufacturers make light and comfortable harnesses for mountaineering. People can wear them over multiple layers of loose clothing, so comfort isn't one of the top priorities. Take inventory of your clothing: The legwear you're wearing impacts how comfortable the harness fits. If you try it on in pants but climb in shorts, you may discover that the harness isn't as comfy as you anticipated.

Aside from that, choosing a harness is largely a matter of personal taste. Most individuals use regular waist-and-leg climbing harnesses for rappelling. If you want a bit of extra security, or if you're traveling with children, a chest harness can make long rappels more comfortable.

Safety Advice & Tips For Rock Climbing And Rappelling

Safety Advice & Tips For Rock Climbing And Rappelling

Although the dangers of rock climbing can be scary, many rock climbers worldwide do so without accident.

Due to careful devotion to rock climbing safety precautions, these climbers, who range in experience from novices to advanced climbers, can scale tough routes with no deaths.

#1 Prepare Your Gear

Climbers who have never climbed before often begin their journey to becoming advanced climbers in a climbing gym. As a result, people choose to hire climbing equipment, which quickly becomes the standard.

Meanwhile, climbers would have to purchase all appropriate equipment if they wanted to move outside.

Climbers should accomplish this with the assistance of an experienced climber to guarantee that quality gear at reasonable pricing is obtained.

In rock climbing, especially outdoor climbing, having your gear is important because it can save your life. When gears are shared, the quality quickly degrades.

Climbers who utilize such gear run the danger of serious harm if the gear fails. Another thing to remember about gear is that one should count every piece of gear and neatly pack before climbing.

Using a climbing equipment checklist is a potential alternative.

#2 Always Check Harnesses

Make sure your harness is in a good state and is not falling apart from anywhere.

#3 Always Check Knots

Tie all the knots slowly and carefully; loose knots may open up and disbalance you.

#4 Wear A Helmet

Helmets with sturdy shells are a must for all types of outdoor climbing. Helmets protect climbers' heads against falling loose boulders of varied sizes, which can be life-threatening.

A climber's head is protected from impact by the helmet in the case of a fall. The consequences of not wearing a helmet are lethal and life-altering.

Climbers should wear helmets that provide them a clear view when looking up.

#5 Pick The Right Companion To Climb With.

Climbing with the correct climbing partner is necessary for some types of climbing. Climbers with more experience are the perfect partners in this case.

Using a trainee climber as your belayer rather than an experienced climber might be dangerous when top-roping. The climber's only defense against a fatal fall is the belayer.

Climbers who are new to the sport would undoubtedly want an experienced advanced climber to be in this position. It's essential to let an experienced climber lead the way while leading climbing.

#6 Always Check The Rope And Belay Device

Look for scratches and cuts developing in the rope and so in the belay device. Equipment failure is not at all acceptable. If the ropes are being rugged, you should discard them. If so happens while rappelling, climb down as soon as possible (if you are in mid-way).

#7 Make Sure The Rope Is Not Traveling Over Any Dangerous Edges

If the rope is rubbing against sharp edges, then there are high chances that it can get damaged.

#9 Use A Friction Hitch Like A Prusik Below The Rappel Device

Many accidents take place during rappelling. The major reason is the climber loses control over the rope. To avoid this mishappening, one should use a friction hitch below the rappel device to grip on for sliding down slowly.

#10 Extend Your Rappel Device About Cm Foot Off Your Harness

Many climbers and guides prefer to rappel using rappel extension, which means the rappel equipment is slung or corded away from the harness. This system comes with a lot of benefits. Multiple people can set up their rappels simultaneously, cutting down on overall decent time and allowing people to double-check each other before rappelling.

It's also possible to mount the friction hitch backup directly on the belay loop, improving security and reducing the chance that the friction hitch will come into contact with the rappel device and disengage.

The command indicates to both climbers that they are ready to belay.

#11 Fully Weight The Rappel Setup Before Unclipping Yourself From The Anchor With Your Personal Tether

It is crucial to pay attention to every knot and carabiner attached to the anchors before sliding down. Take your time and look for everything you can as many times as you can until you are sure that everything is safe.

Never unclip yourself before you crosscheck the rappel setup. Any slip can cause damage to your life.

#12 Always Double-Check Everything

No matter how skilled a climber is, human nature will always rear its ugly head. As a result, climbers should double-check equipment while packing and strapping to avoid deadly injuries caused by mistakes.

#13 Build Your Next Anchor Before Unclipping From The Rappel

Always be cautious about unclipping yourself from the anchor, as a mistake could be fatal. It is better first to hook yourself to the next anchor and do the unclipping part later.

#14 The First Person Down Should Make Sure The Ropes Pull Well Before The Second Person Sets Up

Your companion or team leader who has lately reached the ground or was at the ground should be a good supervisor for everyone in mid-air. It is possible that you cannot catch the issue at the moment due to stress/fear or anxiety. Thus, it's always helpful when one on the ground guides you through the way while descending.


From top to bottom, that's my whole rappelling guide. Rappelling is a hazardous pastime, so keep that in mind. You can never prevent casualties even if you take necessary measures. Furthermore, reading an internet guide in no way, shape, or form qualifies you to go rappelling.

Make your checklist and do some research from your end. If it seems difficult, consult a rappelling expert.

Please check out our other blogs on our website for more such content! Stay safe and happy rappelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should be my hand position while rappelling?

When rappelling, your dominant or active hand should serve as a brake hand while the other hand should grip you against the rope and your legs. The brake hand should maintain the tension with the rope while you are sliding down the rope.

How don't professional rappellers fall?

It takes a lot of practice and teamwork to become a professional—the rappeler trails down the rope to avoid any injuries while the belayer stays on the ground. If a team is climbing, the leader bolts some protection like stoppers or clips to avoid any fatalities.

Kevin Macey
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