Abseil points - your technique?

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PeterHS
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Abseil points - your technique?

Post by PeterHS » Tue Sep 20, 2016 12:08 pm

Hi. Another thread and question ....

What do you use for your abseil when there's no fixed point to use? Perhaps you've bailed, or on a trad route, or in a situation where there's no bolts to use.

Do you just sacrifice a sling and biner? Or keep an emergency abseil kit handy? Say, tape you can cut for size and a small maillon? Or what else?

I've heard some use accessory cord or a cut-off piece of cordelet. Is it ok to do this? What cord size is safe for 10.5mm rope?

Also, is it safe to pass your rope through a loop of cord? I'd never put rope straight against cord due to the risk of cut through - but I've been told that's ok as there's no movement. There's surely some with any abseil - especially if overhangs or traversing on the way down. If so, would cord or tape be safer? I'm unsure on the price differential. I'm very interested to hear views and practices on this.

Over to you please. Ciao.

Peter

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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Tue Sep 20, 2016 2:01 pm

I put tat on abseil points all the time, usually it is retired 11mm static rope but sometimes it's whatever I have to hand, like 4mm prusik cord.

Rope on rope friction is bad yes, so if you plan on making an abseil point that you are going to use multiple times, then it needs some kind of biner or chain link.

For an emergency abseil, abseiling directly off the tat is fine. It takes a lot of rope on rope friction to cut through a piece of tat. If you want to reduce the rope movement, use a stone knot. Last person takes the biner out.
Image

http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips ... et-weapon/

If you are particularly worried, you can move the tat and rope a bit each time someone abseils so that any wear is distributed over a greater area.

Do not abseil directly off dyneema, its melting point is much lower than nylon.
Happy climbing
Nic

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Brussel » Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:12 pm

I agree with everything Nic says.
I normally use 5mm accessory cord is easiest as I normally have some floating around as I use it for prussiks anyhow. It's also a third of the price of webbing.

FYI You'd have to work quite hard to cut the cord with your rope, I've done abseils off points where there are several pieces of 5mm cord that have been in use for several years with no appreciable wear being visible. If it looks a bit suspect I simply use one of my prussiks to back up the points and make another one when I am home.

If it's going to be in regular use a maillon, locking biner or aluminium ring will work.

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by PeterHS » Tue Sep 20, 2016 4:11 pm

Nic Le Maitre wrote:I put tat on abseil points all the time, usually it is retired 11mm static rope but sometimes it's whatever I have to hand, like 4mm prusik cord.

Rope on rope friction is bad yes, so if you plan on making an abseil point that you are going to use multiple times, then it needs some kind of biner or chain link.

For an emergency abseil, abseiling directly off the tat is fine. It takes a lot of rope on rope friction to cut through a piece of tat. If you want to reduce the rope movement, use a stone knot. Last person takes the biner out.
Image

http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips ... et-weapon/

If you are particularly worried, you can move the tat and rope a bit each time someone abseils so that any wear is distributed over a greater area.

Do not abseil directly off dyneema, its melting point is much lower than nylon.
Much thanks, Nic, as always :). 4 mm prusik cord seems very small to hang one's life on but I trust your judgement totally. I assume you just put the rope through the prusik abseil cord? i.e. no biner or maillon?

Has anyone here ever used any form of `retrievable anchor' using a pull cord?

http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips ... bleanchor/

The theory looks great but one does have to carry up to 30m extra cord - or perhaps use a second rope? It's a neat idea but I am not sure how useful in practice. There's the risk too of something else to get caught up during rope retrieval.

P

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Justin » Tue Sep 20, 2016 4:22 pm

I agree with Nic and Brussel.

But also be sure to watch this video: Rope over rope friction demonstration

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by PeterHS » Tue Sep 20, 2016 4:35 pm

Justin wrote:I agree with Nic and Brussel.

But also be sure to watch this video: Rope over rope friction demonstration

Yes, thanks, Justin. I had seen before and it was in my mind in my original question. It's scary but essential viewing for any climber. P

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by PeterHS » Tue Sep 20, 2016 4:57 pm

Nic Le Maitre wrote:I put tat on abseil points all the time, usually it is retired 11mm static rope but sometimes it's whatever I have to hand, like 4mm prusik cord.

Rope on rope friction is bad yes, so if you plan on making an abseil point that you are going to use multiple times, then it needs some kind of biner or chain link.

For an emergency abseil, abseiling directly off the tat is fine. It takes a lot of rope on rope friction to cut through a piece of tat. If you want to reduce the rope movement, use a stone knot. Last person takes the biner out.
Image

http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips ... et-weapon/

If you are particularly worried, you can move the tat and rope a bit each time someone abseils so that any wear is distributed over a greater area.

Do not abseil directly off dyneema, its melting point is much lower than nylon.
One further comment, Nic. Am I right to conclude that the stone knot is used only to prevent rope movement? It won't prevent any potential lateral movement, for example if there's any traversing during the abseil (unlikely perhaps too)? It doesn't allow pull-down to retrieve any gear when a bolt is not used.

Last, it has the advantage - so I believe - in that two people can abseil independently on a single rope each (so long as the abseil anchor point is strong enough), until the last person descends on the double rope having removed the carabiner, and hence it can be a time-saver too.

Much thanks,

P

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Tue Sep 20, 2016 5:21 pm

It's used to isolate the strands so that two people can abseil simultaneously. The knot (hitch really since it is formed around something) is held together with a carabiner. It can be formed after the rope has been threaded through the abseil anchor. This means that it is very easy to remove the biner after everyone, but one person, has abbed and then the last person comes down on a double rope. You could arguably tie a bowline on a bight in the rope but this is easier.

Just make damn sure that the biner is around both or one of the rope strands above or below the knot.

We use it a lot in kloofing since most of the time is spent abbing, and this halves that time.
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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by SNORT » Tue Sep 20, 2016 6:29 pm

We all have some old slings and leaver biners. Or tat or whatever.

I use old cut offs of skinny ropes and take one up as a sling if I think I may need a rap point. If I think it may be used again a leave a leaver biner Tie your chalkbag on with some oldish tat or 5/6 or 7mm rope as a "cache".

You will never saw through 5mm rope with a standard rapell.

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Wed Sep 21, 2016 8:30 am

As is made clear in the video, the real damage is caused when you have one stationary rope and another moving over it. This happens when you pull the rope after you have abseiled. The climbing rope will be fine, but the tat may well have sustained some damage. For this reason, if you find tat with no leaver biner do not abseil off it.
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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Hector » Wed Sep 21, 2016 8:31 am

Probably more important than the exact choice of tat is making sure your anchor is bomber. All the usual principles of redundancy and equalisation apply, except even more than usual - you don't have your body weight acting as a piece of the anchor / shock absorber. Bad things happen when rap anchors fail.

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Old Smelly » Wed Sep 21, 2016 8:40 am

As always I seem to totally disagree with Nic and this time I really don't care if I come across as a mother grundy.

SO IF YOU LIKE LIVING NEVER abseil with your rope through a sling! Always use a leaver biner or an abseil ring or a rated maillon and run the sling or tat through that and then run you rope through it. You don't want to be the A--HOLE who gets a Darwin award for cutting corners. Don't listen to all this other BS - no rope through slings or Tat - there are plenty of Dead climbers who would attest to this being a dumb way to die. As far as I can recall at least two dead in the US from this last year.

So Don't be such a stingy ass that it kills you! Go buy some R35 steel biners from City Rock or even a 6mm hardware store Maillon - you are still better off.

What happens is that you abseil and then you move around below, left or right and the rope moves. You have seen the video so you don't even need an imagination - best case scenario is that you stuff up your rope in a zone. Worst case is that there is enough movement to do damage - that is why S&R (the responsible ones) have that video up!

My advice - don't listen to the bad advice you are getting from these guys. Sure you may get away with it, but the cost of failure is too high. I suspect someone is looking for Search and Rescue opportunities...
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Old Smelly » Wed Sep 21, 2016 8:50 am

I am not alone in this viewpoint,

see

http://www.chockstone.org/techtips/mistakes.htm

"Abseiling off a sling, a practice wildly used, can cut the sling material. Consider movement such as swinging into an overhung or traversing route to clean gear, kicking out to avoid an obstruction, or levelling the ropes during the decent. What is this movement doing to that sling? Beware also ropes of different thicknesses/elasticity, the friction can slice through the sling. Is it worth the cost of a leaver crab?"

I will try and find the stats of people who have died doing the rope through sling or tat thing...but there are quite a few.

Personally I though SA climbers were too smart to do this...
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by PeterHS » Wed Sep 21, 2016 9:50 am

Old Smelly wrote:As always I seem to totally disagree with Nic and this time I really don't care if I come across as a mother grundy.

SO IF YOU LIKE LIVING NEVER abseil with your rope through a sling! Always use a leaver biner or an abseil ring or a rated maillon and run the sling or tat through that and then run you rope through it. You don't want to be the A--HOLE who gets a Darwin award for cutting corners. Don't listen to all this other BS - no rope through slings or Tat - there are plenty of Dead climbers who would attest to this being a dumb way to die. As far as I can recall at least two dead in the US from this last year.

So Don't be such a stingy ass that it kills you! Go buy some R35 steel biners from City Rock or even a 6mm hardware store Maillon - you are still better off.

What happens is that you abseil and then you move around below, left or right and the rope moves. You have seen the video so you don't even need an imagination - best case scenario is that you stuff up your rope in a zone. Worst case is that there is enough movement to do damage - that is why S&R (the responsible ones) have that video up!

My advice - don't listen to the bad advice you are getting from these guys. Sure you may get away with it, but the cost of failure is too high. I suspect someone is looking for Search and Rescue opportunities...
Thanks, as ever, Old Smelly, for your input. Were you born on a Monday?

I welcome a diverse range of opinion and experience as that allows one to see both sides of a coin - and even the edges. It makes for more rounded learning too (pun intended!). We all have different and uniquely individual approaches and attitudes to risk in what is an extreme sport. I have had many a conversation with a climbing partner when our risk attitudes differ and I am sure I am not alone in this! The cost of failure can be too high, as you say, and that cost is not only potentially to oneself. Risk involves balances and trade-off too. Undoubtedly, there will be some practices we all would never countenance (though perhaps not when considering solo climbers or those who climb at extreme altitude without oxygen) and some where we are prepared to allow practice to depart from pure theory. Luck too has a role to play and we can never totally make clmbing 100.0000000000000000000000000% safe. Someone, somewhere will just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am sure many here can quote the relatives statistics for deaths due to climbing compared with crossing the road or sitting at home watching tv etc etc.

I don't welcome cheap shots against search and rescue or my friends. I am a rescue member too and would gladly rescue you however the incident was caused. In my experience, the rescue guys are extremely aware of the technical limitations, behaviours, use and nuances of a very wide range of equipment, gear and techniques. It's in their particular interest and role to be so and do so. I carry much of my rescue training into regular climbing practice. That said, no one has a monopoly on good ideas and one would be arrogant never to consider carefully and objectively any diverse or opposing opinion.

I'd be interested - Nic and others too I am sure - to read the article/s about deaths due to rope friction while using tat or cord or slings with an abseilor rappel rope passed directly through. I know that dyneema/Dynex type slings are more prone to cut through than their traditional equivalents.

Thanks to others for your input. I have learned about the Stone Knot already and willing to learn more. As a reminder, does anyone use or have experiences of retrievable single-rope abseils/rappels or used pull cords?

Ciao,

Peter

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Wed Sep 21, 2016 10:46 am

Old Smelly wrote:As far as I can recall at least two dead in the US from this last year.
Citation please? It's very easy to present arguments with "I recall" but not so easy to back them up with facts.

Why are you always so keen to see things in black and white? There is a world of nuance and colour you are missing out on.
Nic Le Maitre wrote:For an emergency abseil
So I'm clearly not advocating this as a general method, rather as a get you out of the poo option if you have to.
Is it good practice? No.
Will it kill you? Unlikely.
Should you do it if you can avoid it? No.

In the video, which is rather contrived to make for a good demo, they are using super thin cord, maybe 2mm. They are using a roughly 60cm length. They pull that length 4-5 times across the hanging rope. Making a total travel of about 240-300cm, or 2.4-3.0m. So if you abseiled off a 2mm cord and your rope moved 2.4-3.0m across the cord it might cut it. Further more in the video, the climbers rope is stationary and the tat is moving, while in the real world, it would be the other way around and potentially produce a different result.

So really, the video is an extreme example, of a highly unlikely scenario. It's a cool video and good for demonstrating a potential problem, but really not that applicable to the real world.
Old Smelly wrote:I suspect someone is looking for Search and Rescue opportunities...
Once again, you make personal attacks on me. What have I ever done to you, other than disagree with your opinions? As far as I know we've never met and you hide behind your nickname, so I'd never know if we did.
Do I like going on rescues and helping people in need? Yes, very much
Do I want people to hurt or killed in the mountains? No, and if you had the faintest idea of what it is like to be the one making the call for others to come and help you when your friend is hurt or dead, you would never, ever, think of insinuating that.
Happy climbing
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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Old Smelly » Wed Sep 21, 2016 11:42 am

Ok Nic - good point -if you are only advocating it for emergencies - that makes a whole lot more sense.

We always seem to come down to the same issue - nowhere do I want it said that "so and so said on the web that it was ok - so I do it that way every time" - and then they injure themselves.

Ok - so back on the same page.

I will find those incidents.

Peter - I know S&R people too and that is why by inference they care more about what is correct - and I don't give a rat's tail about who they are if they DO propose anything other than best practice because they WILL wind up cleaning up the mess - along with their companions who do things "by the book". I do find an implied criticism in suggesting that the cord cutting through cord is not relevant Nic - but hey you can talk that out with the rest of the S&R community - it is a demonstration to prove a point which is entirely valid in this discussion.

@Nic - I do apologise for the personal attack - I will try and keep it on the level in future - that is why I enjoy "hiding" behind my preferred forum identity - as I do believe in stating facts without it becoming about who said what. I will attempt to reform my approach. I will also try and look for the colour in things and possibly even the "shades of gray"...

So yes apologies to those that deserve it...everyone else needs to do what is safe - not sit their seeing how close they can cut it...

I do find it a disturbing tendancy - most climbers previously learned how to do things according to an accepted safe practice - now it seems people seem to want to see how close to the margin they can go- that's fine just don't teach all your new climbing buddies that what you do is normal or correct!
Last edited by Old Smelly on Wed Sep 21, 2016 2:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Wed Sep 21, 2016 1:16 pm

Old Smelly wrote:@Nic - I do apologise for the personal attack - I will try and keep it on the level in future - that is why I enjoy "hiding" behind my preferred forum identity - as I do believe in stating facts without it becoming about who said what. I will attempt to reform my approach.I will also try and look for the colour in things and possibly even the "shades of gray"...
Apology accepted.
PeterHS wrote:As a reminder, does anyone use or have experiences of retrievable single-rope abseils/rappels or used pull cords?
There is a technique, popular in the USA for kloofing in kloofs where there is a "leave no trace" ethic called "Fiddlestick". To me it looks like a really stupid way to die. Long discussion here: http://canyoncollective.com/threads/the ... ing.18142/.
It is also popularized by their "carry only one full rope" idea that makes them have to carry a pull cord. IMO, a pull cord is bad idea, I'd rather carry two full ropes so that if the rope gets stuck I can hopefully still get out the kloof.
Happy climbing
Nic

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by PeterHS » Mon Sep 26, 2016 12:18 pm

Old Smelly wrote:I am not alone in this viewpoint,

see

http://www.chockstone.org/techtips/mistakes.htm

"Abseiling off a sling, a practice wildly used, can cut the sling material. Consider movement such as swinging into an overhung or traversing route to clean gear, kicking out to avoid an obstruction, or levelling the ropes during the decent. What is this movement doing to that sling? Beware also ropes of different thicknesses/elasticity, the friction can slice through the sling. Is it worth the cost of a leaver crab?"

I will try and find the stats of people who have died doing the rope through sling or tat thing...but there are quite a few.

Personally I though SA climbers were too smart to do this...
Old Smelly, did you ever find the stats or reports of people who died passing their abseil/rappel rope direct through a sling or tat please? It would be most interesting to read the detail. Peter

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by RyanKarate » Tue Sep 27, 2016 8:10 am

Closest thing I could find -

http://www.rockandice.com/climbing-acci ... =3&Items=1

I'm surprised that it lasted 2 top rope accents and lowers! For me it confirms that my personal choice of abseiling through webbing is within my acceptable risk circle.

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by PeterHS » Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:02 am

RyanKarate wrote:Closest thing I could find -

http://www.rockandice.com/climbing-acci ... =3&Items=1

I'm surprised that it lasted 2 top rope accents and lowers! For me it confirms that my personal choice of abseiling through webbing is within my acceptable risk circle.
Thanks so much. Cripes! At least he was wearing a helmet - which many don't (but that was the topic of a previous post of mine - viewtopic.php?f=17&t=14201&hilit=helmet). P

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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Q20 » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:41 am

My ten cents worth:

Assess the situation, use your brain, then do what is best, then double check everything.

1. As Hector mentioned, make sure the anchor itself is bomber. Doesn't matter how much tat, or of what type, and whether you add a biner/mailon if your anchor is kak. Not all horns are good (check for cracks), some touch points are crumbly, trees may be dead, chockstones may shift etc etc. Check for sharp edges. Will tat on a solid horn stay with the direction of abseil of does it need to be wedged with a rock. If in any doubt, find a backup.

2. Tat: think about what you are using. How thin is it, is it webbing vs cord. Is it new, or some stuff you scavenged elsewhere. Depending what you have will determine how many loops you use etc. How much do you have vs how many raps you need to do?

3. Once you are happy with the anchor, think about the situation. Is this a rap point that will ever be used again, or is a proper bail?
-If the idea is that anyone else will use it again (i.e. you are installing a rap point), leave a biner. Simple.
-If it is a proper bail, then weigh up the following: Is it a simple vertical/slabby abseil, or overhanging? How much will you need to move around while abseiling? Are you abseiling back down where you came up, or into the unknown? Are you likely to need to adjust the position of the knot while your weight is on the rope? Do you need to bounce in and put gear on steep abseil.

4. Friction. Even if it is safe to rap through the tat (say it is a proper bail, and you have tied two loops of good, thick cord around a fat healthy tree for a long abseil but ropes don't need to move while abseiling etc...) The position of the tree anchor (far back on a ledge), and orientation of tat may be such by the time you reach the ground 55m below you and try pull the ropes it is going to be a total pig. So even though particular abseil may be safe without a biner, if retrieving the ropes becomes a total mission, the overall safety of your retreat may be reduced by not leaving a biner. Again it comes back to thinking about the situation.

5. Human factor. Again, even if it is an appropriate situation to just rap through the tat, if it is going to stress your climbing partner out, just leave a frikken biner. Or two if really needed. It is not worth causing someone else a whole bunch of anxiety, especially if it is already a stressful situation. Even if their fears might not be warranted, it might be worth leaving a few extra bits of kit to keep the peace. Just because you have been climbing 15 years and have a good handle on what is acceptable risk, doesn't mean the kid you have taken climbing for his 1st ever trad mission has the same understanding. If you are with someone much less experienced, and it is a suitable situation to rap through the tat, then explain why you are doing so.

6. Biners are not fool proof. Although incredibly unlikely biners can fail: maybe the abseil is such the biner is lying/levering across and edge. Fix this! Does the gate press against anything, could it open if you are bouncing around on the rope - which way up should you place it? Is it a rated biner, or in a rush have you grabbed some accessory biner!!! And if you are using some ancient old booty biner you found, there is a very small chance it could be structurally impaired.

Yes, I hear the argument of ALWAYS use a biner. And if in any doubt then do so. However, my personal view is that it is not always necessary, depending on the circumstances. I think the process of critically assessing each and every situation is key to reducing risk in the mountains.

Food for thought: an unusual combination of movement and weight changes on a rope could possibly cause the rope to pop out of a single clip gate biner. Maybe you stop midway down an abseil on a ledge and need to flick the rope above you, causing the biner to change orientation, and as you weight it again the rope presses the gate open and comes out. In this very weird case, threading the tat would have been safer. Or using a mailon/screwgate...
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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Justin » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:47 am

With regards to joining ropes:

... Johnston went on to describe the most likely scenario for the accident.

“They had been using a flat figure 8 backed up with overhands all the way down the route. [Kautz] tied the same knot, no doubt, but didn’t back it up, or it would not have come untied. A flat overhand is the preferred knot for tying two ropes together for rappelling, but the figure 8 looks more substantial so it gets used, too. But a flat figure 8 can walk and unwrap itself when loaded. If the tails are too short, it can walk right off the ends of the rope.”

PREVENTION
Do not use a flat figure-8 knot to join ropes. Johnston’s analysis rings true in light of several recent accidents involving the failure of a flat figure-8 knot (see Accident Prevention, No. 233).
Full report: http://www.rockandice.com/climbing-acci ... -goat-wall
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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Justin » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:46 am

Interesting article on what knot to use when joining ropes - http://www.rockandice.com/climb-safe/wh ... appel-knot

The long and the short of it (no pun intended), whatever knot you use, leave long tails.
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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Boondock » Thu Aug 03, 2017 1:23 pm

I have used the stone knot quite a few times whilst kloofing or doing abseils with large groups of people. It is a highly useful knot that I would really recommend climbers to learn. If you are doing tandem abseiling i.e. on person on each strand, it really is much safer to isolate the strands. If you don't, you must constantly be hyper aware of loading and unloading the ropes simultaneously. Good news, the stone knot is quite easy to tie. The link Nic posted is great for learning the knot. Here it is again:

http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips ... et-weapon/

Nic said this, but I will say it again. Always keep in mind that the last person must untie the knot before abseiling. Quite obvious, but human error is a bitch and doing a 60m rope ascent after a long day is not that fun.

Happy abseling!
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Nic Le Maitre
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Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:40 am
Real Name: Nic Le Maitre
Location: Stellenbosch

Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Aug 03, 2017 1:34 pm

Justin wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:46 am
Interesting article on what knot to use when joining ropes - http://www.rockandice.com/climb-safe/wh ... appel-knot

The long and the short of it (no pun intended), whatever knot you use, leave long tails.
Annoyingly the writer doesn't say what constitutes "failure". Rolling? Capsizing? Coming undone? Rope snapping?
Happy climbing
Nic

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Justin
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Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Justin » Wed Aug 09, 2017 6:53 pm

Here you go Nic :thumleft:

Image

Graph via this video:
Climb ZA - Administrator
justin@climbing.co.za

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Nic Le Maitre
Posts: 1195
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:40 am
Real Name: Nic Le Maitre
Location: Stellenbosch

Re: Abseil points - your technique?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:57 am

Thanks Justin.

What that table doesn't show is that once a flat overhand has rolled once it cinches down hard and stops rolling unless very heavily loaded. If I recall correctly it was 1.5-2 times the initial load that caused it to roll.

Does it roll? Yes.
Are there knots that don't roll? Yes.
Are there knots that are as low profile that don't roll? No.
Is it safe to abseil on, tied properly, with adequate tails? Yes.
Happy climbing
Nic

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