Tech Tip - Trad - Rapping smart

By David Schmidt ,

Use this quick-and-dirty method to loosen a locked-down prusik hitch when rapping through space.

Rapping smart — four quick ways to back yourself upYou’ve just nabbed an epic ascent of Otto’s Route (5.8) on Independence Monument, near Grand Junction, Colorado. The exposed final pitch was heady, but now you’re on the summit, marvelling at the red-rock landscape below. You settle in for a nap while the sun marches steadily west. Suddenly, it’s late evening — you need to rap quickly, but can’t afford to get sloppy. Follow these tips and you’ll soon be swilling brewskis at the local Mexican-food joint, not stuck on some ledge for a long, miserable night. Prusik power. The prusik hitch provides a safety back-up: Should you lose control of your brake hand while rappelling, the prusik will pull tight, checking your fall. Set up a standard rappel. Now take a pre-tied, 24-inch loop of 5mm to 7mm perlon (use a triple fisherman’s knot, and don’t use Spectra webbing) and hitch the prusik loop around both ropes above your rap device. (Hold one end of the perlon loop against the ropes and wrap the other end around the ropes three times, passing it through the first end with each revolution.) Cinch and tidy the prusik, then clip it into a locking biner on your belay loop. As you rappel, keep one hand in braking mode and the other on the prusik to prevent it from cinching down (Figure 1). Lighten up. If you lose braking control of the line and weight the prusik, you’ll need to transfer your weight back onto your rap device to continue your descent. Grab the rope above the prusik and hoist yourself up, simultaneously yarding in the slack with your brake hand. Your weight is now back on your device, allowing you to loosen the prusik and continue rapping. On a free-hanging rappel, you won’t be able to hoist up unless you can do a one-armed pull-up while gripping the ropes. Solve this dilemma by taking the free rope below your device and wrapping it around your foot two or three times as a makeshift foot loop, then standing up in it to loosen the prusik (Figure 2).

Dont be lazy! If you encounter a Death Triangle (left), take a few extra minutes to rig a proper anchor.

Check yourself. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re rushed, so be methodical with your safety checks. While clipped into the anchor, load your rap device, rig your prusik, and pull in the slack until you’re flush with the anchor. Now weight your device to ensure that you’ve loaded everything properly, and conduct another visual check: belay device loaded properly, prusik knot hitched correctly, biners locked, stopper knots tied in the ends of the rap lines, harness doubled back. Once you’re 100-percent confident, unclip from the anchor and rappel. The “American Death Triangle.” Always carry a few spare rap rings, extra webbing, and a knife. Should you encounter a sling-less anchor, or one rigged in the “American Death Triangle” — whereby the same piece of webbing is run, unequalized, through both bolts and the rap ring — cut off the old webbing and correct the situation with your spare gear. Slide a piece of webbing through one of the bolt hangers and the rap ring, tying it off with a water knot. Repeat this process for the other hanger (Figure 3). It’s key that the angle between the legs of webbing is less than 40 degrees, as vector forces are dangerously magnified the greater this angle becomes. For added safety, rap rings should be doubled.

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