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We were climbing at Stone Mountain in North Carolina for the first time. We were at the bottom of one of the easier cracks and asked someone what the rappel was like from the tree ledge at the top. We hadn’t realized that our single 70-meter rope wasn’t long enough. The guy, who claimed he’d been climbing for 10+ years, told us to rappel down our rope, unclip 10-15 feet off the ground, and “Batman hang” from the rope end to swing to a ledge and downclimb the last 10 feet. Now, I want to make it clear that I was one of two kids in my group, and my father (the only adult) is obviously not the most physically fit person. The “veteran” climber started acting like a crag douchebag when we said that didn’t sound like a good idea.
—Daniel Rosengarth, via email
LESSON: Anyone that suggests swinging from the rope by your bare hands is not someone that you should take advice from. Good job recognizing that, Daniel. Even short ground falls can be dangerous. True story: A friend of mine once shattered his heel after slipping off a downclimb just three feet off the ground. The ground is hard, and climbing shoes do little to soften impact.
So, how do you avoid this Batman-style decent? Do your research. A quick glance at the Mountain Project page for Stone Mountain will tell you that the rappels require two ropes, and that there’s also a walk off descent. Had you known that in advanced, you wouldn’t have needed to rely on the advice of a climber willing to accept much more risk than your group.
Of course, there may be times when you don’t know the exact length of a rappel. For those situations, I’ll defer to one of our previously published articles, Long Rappel, Short Rope, which has some useful tricks.