How To Rappel Without A Harness: Ultimate Guide

Suppose you are in a situation where you descend a cliff, but just before that, your harness is out of state and no longer in function. All you have is a rappel rope and other equipment with you. You might be thinking of creating a harness from the rope, but thick cables are pretty challenging to tie and knot around.

We have created this guide to help you out in such situations. This lesson will go through two distinct approaches to rappelling with just a rappel rope. We'll go into great depth on the Dülfersitz rappel. We'll also provide a South African rappel option. Before you begin your makeshift rappel, take a few safety precautions.

Why Rappel With Just A Rope?

Why Rappel With Just A Rope?

Rappelling with just a rope should only be attempted in an emergency. It will significantly increase your chances of survival. If you want to rappel down a cliff or glacier or even escape a tall structure, and you don't have all of the appropriate equipment, it might save your life. It is, however, more challenging to set up than the munter hitch approach. When you only have a locking carabiner, the munter hitch could be used as a backup belay and rappel method. Rappelling without a typical belay device can be done in three ways: Just using one belay loop and a solitary rope rappel alongside your companion. By just using one locking carabiner and also the climbing rope, a munter hitch is used. Four carabiners are used in a double carabiner brake rappel.

#1 Pick A Right Rope

Hopefully, you brought along a static rope. Rappelling with a dynamic rope is only done in an emergency. When rappelling without a harness, more strain equals more danger and agony.

 #2 Lower Your Gear

You don't want anything substantial in your way because you'll be wrapping the rope around your torso. Bring your equipment to the bottom, so you don't have anything large to maneuver around while descending.

#3 Wrap The Rope And Attach It To The Anchor

Choose a massive rock, substantial boulder, or a thick, deeply rooted tree. Check that your object is sturdy and won't move and that the rope won't slip around it. Wrap the rope around the sturdy anchor in the midsection but don't tie it. 

After coiling the rope, hurl both ends over the edge. They're long enough to get to the bottom without becoming stuck.

Types of Rappelling Methods

Types of Rappelling Methods

Rappelling without a harness is similar to carrying your life on sleeves, especially when you don't know the correct technique. 

This section has mentioned how to ascend to descend without a harness.

Dulfersitz Method Of Rappelling

The Dulfersitz Rappel (sometimes referred to as Traditional Abseil or Body Rappel) is non-mechanical rappelling (abseiling) method that does not require any equipment or rappel gadgets. However, it is no longer recommendable because of the widespread availability of rappel/belay systems. The Dulfersitz Rappel approach involves twisting the rope around the climber's body, which causes the rope to grind against the climber's body, slowing the climber's descent.

 A carabiner and belay device harness makes the technique much safer, more consistent, and more pleasant. Wrap the rope around the body since it regulates the pace of the fall.

If your active hand is your right hand, follow these steps. However, proceed with the following steps using your left side if left-handed.

#1 Grab both cables from your anchor as you face upward. Meanwhile, pull the ropes between your legs toward your back while holding both ropes together.

 #2 Bring the ropes to the front of your right hip/thigh.

 #3 Cross your arms over your left shoulder and across your chest.

 #4 Make a loop at the nape of your neck.

 #5 Make a loop with your right arm.

 #6 Grasp the rope tightly with your right hand.


Return to the cliff's edge by walking backward. Take a few practice steps to get a feel for the space if you have it before stepping over the edge. Maintain a firm grasp on the rope with your braking hand, which is your dominant hand.

This is the downhill side of the rope, with your free hand mostly used for balance on the uphill side. Allow gravity to drag you down slowly while feeding the rope out. Control your speed by controlling how fast the rope runs through your dominant hand. With your dominant hand, don't let go of the rope.

Pull-on one end of your rope to collect it once you've reached the ground and are stable on your feet.

The Dülfersitz can be handy, but it is not as secure as other rappel methods. A fall is unavoidable unless the right hand remains securely on the rope at all times. A backup knot, such as a prusik, will provide further protection if you have another strand of rope available.

It's a good idea to know how to conduct this style of rappel if you're ever in an emergency. It's worth performing the Dülfersitz on a short, safe rappel. If you don't have to, We wouldn't recommend employing this type of rappelling.

Arm Rappel

Arm Rappel

Arm Rappel is a common method that uses ropes to climb down a mildly steep terrain without using a harness, friction device, or any other piece of equipment. The system uses friction along the person's arms to control the descent speed. To increase friction, place rope coils around the arms.

The South African Method

The South African Method is another option for rappelling without a harness. Andrew Friedemann, a South African climbing instructor, invented the South African rappel method, employed for descending steeply perpendicular or sloped terrain. The rope is looped around your torso to create self-friction and slow your descent. The rope does not cut into the body and creates as much rope burn. This method is less painful.

#1 Make a loop with the rope around a solid anchor.

#2 Turn your back on the anchor (uphill). Take each rope line and place it beneath your armpits.

#3 Bring the ropes back to the front by passing them around your back and under your armpits.

#4 Keep holding one end of the rope with one hand. Draw both ends of the rope across your legs toward your back while straddling the rope.

#5 Slide both cables to the sides near your dominant "braking hand" when rappelling to ensure a firm grip. You can loop the rope once around your wrist and then tightly clasp it.

#6 Before you start rappelling, slowly walk backward to gain a feel for the rope movement via your "improvised" climbing gear. To descend, feed the rope smoothly through your brake hand. With your left hand on the uphill rope, keep yourself steady.

Swiss Seat Rappelling Harness Technique

When you miss out on the harness but have some webbing or rope, you can improvise and make your harness using the Swiss Seat method. You'll need a carabiner for this technique.

#1 Hold one end of the rope in each hand, with the same length of rope coming from either side and wrap the rope around your waist.

#2 Make a half hitch by crossing the ropes across your waist and dragging one side under the other. Repeat. Later, you'll attach the carabiner here.

#3 Pull the ropes' ends beneath your legs and towards your back.

#4 Tuck each loose end under the rope wrapped around your waist along both sides.

#5 Pull the free ropes down tight to tighten the harness.

#6 Attach a hitch to the hook before rappelling.

Australian Rappelling

#1 An Australian rappel is a face-first descent to the ground with the rope secured to your waistline and your feet against the ground. 

#2 You may acquire a lot more speed with this method. You could even walk down the wall's surface, letting the cable play out as much as possible.

#3 You have a few alternatives for performing this type of rappel. You can either wear your harness backward or attach the belay device and then spin your body, relying on your core and feet to keep you in position. However, doing so increases your chance of back injury and places unnecessary strain on your equipment.

Because of these disadvantages, Australian rappelling is considered a bad idea by the climbing community. Australian rappels aren't particularly popular in a risk-averse sport where many individuals want to eliminate as much risk as possible. On the other hand, Australian rappels may be fun if you're quite confident in your abilities and looking for a little adrenaline. They're also helpful in situations where you need to get down fast.


Simul-rappels are a complex, risky, and difficult method used by the world's top experienced climbers to speed up the descent of a multi-pitch route.

The rope is put up similarly to a typical double-strand rappel in a simul rappel, but one of the strands ties your rappel device. Your companion joins the other thread, and you both descend simultaneously, with each person counterbalancing the other to keep the system balanced.

This allows both people to descend simultaneously, saving time and ensuring you don't spend too much time clipped into anchors. These benefits, however, are not without danger. If one climber makes a mistake, the implications might be devastating for their companion.

Brad Gobright, one of the known experts of rappelling, recently passed away after his partner failed to tighten a stopper knot and abseiled down the end of the cable during a simul-rappel.

Simul-rappels save time on hand and make blocking much easier, but before committing to one, make sure you and your companion understand what you're doing.



However, each method has its own set of drawbacks as follows:


While this is the most common form, it isn't always the best or safest. It has the effect of causing the body to rotate and become less stable. You should use it only as a last resort.

South African Method

This method gives the rappeler more control. The rope cuts less into the body and causes fewer rope burns, although being more challenging to learn. It gives extra back support and some resistance, taking longer to descend. However, you can utilize the South African approach with two strands of a doubled rope.

Swiss Seat Rappelling

Although the Swiss Seat requires additional gear, it is the safest in a crisis since you have more than simply a rope looped around your chest and clasped tightly in one hand.

Disadvantages are also to be added, as mentioned in brief.


Remember, continuous practice is the only way to ensure no accidents in these methods. Thus, prepare for the worst with these techniques to ensure a safer landing in the initial stage itself.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements for abseiling?

You will require a rope, a climbing harness, and something to create friction for standard abseiling. Your rope should be identical to the rope used for rock climbing. The harness is in the same boat. Most individuals now utilize a device called a belay device to reduce friction.

Can I abseil with the help of a single rope?

Drop one end of the rope through the abseil point if you're abseiling with just one rope. Pull the ropes through till the half of the rope is at the abseil point, holding both ends together. Some ropes contain a middle marker to make it easier. You'll need to knot two ropes together if you're using two.

Is it difficult to abseil?

You are quite aware of the technique, have some experience and training then it will be easier for you to abseil.

Abseiling can be complicated and risky, depending on the situation. Thus, it requires knowledge and practice before being attempted.

How do you come down yourself if you're on your own?

First, throw both ends of the cable over the cliff's edge, ensuring they land on the ground. To rappel both strands of the rope, tie into your rappel, and you're off! The Toss' n Go technique is ideal for shorter rappels and rappels when your rope is at a minimum twice as long as the descent.

Can I Climb Glaciers Alone?

There's just one way to practice solo ice climbing properly:

  • Find a sheet of ice.

  • Climb about 3 feet above the ground.

  • Start traversing sideways.

This will teach your body to move on ice while acclimating you to the sensation of not being tied to a top rope.

Is it mandatory to be strictly fit to abseil?

You must be in reasonably decent physical and mental health. We recommend that you visit your doctor if you have any medical concerns or are unsure about your fitness level. Anybody with a medical condition who wants to abseil must show a doctor's certificate certifying that they are competent.

Which type of rope should I purchase for rappelling?

The type of rope you use will depend on the activity you plan to do, but the ideal ropes for solo rappels are lightweight static ropes with a diameter of at least 7.7mm. In picking a rappelling rope, the thickness of the rope is the essential aspect to consider.

Kevin Macey
Follow me

Leave a Comment