Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

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deSouzaFrank
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Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by deSouzaFrank »

Just a quick question. Do any of you forgo making use of a prussik or any other backup method when abseiling… Ever?
Slap a fig8 in system and off you go?

Got a guy in my area taking people out abseiling and he literally slaps a fig8 on their harness and lets them seil. After messaging the guy trying to explain the importance of prussik or any other braking device was told i don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve never forgone backup wet, dry, snow or ice.

Your thoughts on this pretty please
Brussel
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by Brussel »

Nope.
You need to be able to get off the lines quickly if need be and a prussic would make that nearly impossible. There are additional risks of not using a prussik but they're far outweighed by the risk of becoming trapped in a waterfall. Obviously on much longer rap into unknown terrain (and with less water) where the risk of drowning is less then sure, use a prussik.

No one I know uses them in kloofing/canyoneering
deSouzaFrank
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by deSouzaFrank »

Fork me!!!
Seriously???
Even for someone abseiling for the first time in their lives? No backup? Maybe an experienced person yes, but pretty sure an inexperienced person may let go of brake hand in the event their feet slip and they try to save their face from slamming into the cliff.

Would a gri-gri or similar autobloc device then not be recommended for canyoning as opposed to the traditional fig8?

Flip thanks Brussel. Seems crazy to me.
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by Brussel »

if you're abseiling for the first time canyoneering is not where you should be doing it at all. Abseiling a waterfall is slippery, with sometimes complex terrain and is not beginner friendly. Autoblock devices and heavy waterlogged ropes don't play so nicely either. I personally find a normal ATC type device works better for me than a figure 8 but that's all personal choice

The risks cannot be avoided and every risk mitigation has it's own tradeoffs. So a prussic makes part of the abseil safer, but not without it's own risks. Part of experience is understanding those risks, their probabilities of happening and how you might be able to lessen the risk in certain situations. There is no one size fits all mechanism.

Certainly in a light waterfall into unknown terrain where I'm going to be setting up anchors, I'd want a prussik, and a jumar to be able to ascend if I needed.

In a situation where an abseilers competence is questionable a fireman's belay from below (tensioning the rope to stop the abseiler) is a viable option which I've used to great effect both to help a fearful canyoneer or to annoy a mate :lol:

Mountain adventures are by nature risky, it's part of why we do them

If you dork it you're going to hurt. There have been several incidents in our kloofs, some of them serious. Last year there was a simul-abseiling incident in Kromriver and the patient suffered multiple major fractures and was extracted by helicopter.
deSouzaFrank
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by deSouzaFrank »

Exactly my thought Brussel. These guys however had nothing as backup. Neither secondary rope from a belayer nor a firemans stop at the bottom, niks, forkol, lutho, nothing. Fig8, see ya kanda game they were playing. Waterflow in my opinion didn’t demand forgoing all and any backup.
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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by Nic Le Maitre »

I agree with Brussel here.

Kloofing is not a place for people new to abseiling, you need to be comfortable enough to forgo the use of a backup. It's not just the risk during the abseil, it's once you end up in the water, you must be able to get off the rope quickly too.

If you insist on using one, you should consider rigging the abseil for rescue, so that you can lower from the top if needed. If the abseiler becomes trapped/unconscious you don't have time to access them and perform a rescue before they drown. IMO, a fireman's belay is much more suitable "backup" that requires zero skill to implement.
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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by Nic Le Maitre »

deSouzaFrank wrote: Tue Oct 24, 2023 4:21 pm Exactly my thought Brussel. These guys however had nothing as backup. Neither secondary rope from a belayer nor a firemans stop at the bottom, niks, forkol, lutho, nothing. Fig8, see ya kanda game they were playing. Waterflow in my opinion didn’t demand forgoing all and any backup.
The simul-abbing is the issue here, not really the lack of a backup.
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by Vampyre »

deSouzaFrank wrote: Tue Oct 24, 2023 4:21 pm Exactly my thought Brussel. These guys however had nothing as backup. Neither secondary rope from a belayer nor a firemans stop at the bottom, niks, forkol, lutho, nothing. Fig8, see ya kanda game they were playing. Waterflow in my opinion didn’t demand forgoing all and any backup.
So, we've had experience in cannoning and have experiences some pretty heavy flow canyons and experienced some of the risks being spoken about.
Wet ropes plus a wet prussik is an accident waiting to happen, once they bind it's very difficult to undo and if the abseiler abseils onto the prussic t does not have the rope skills to free themselves then becomes a rescue.
Abseiling in flow with a prussic is an obvious risk and an absolute no no (drowning hazard).

We tend to use fig8 like devices over ATC type devices for the same reason as using a prussik, most of these devices friction can be adjusted mid abseil and very easily locked off to go hands free.

As Brussel mentioned we always Rig for Rescue, you will possibly find if you look at the pictures closely you will see a releasable/retrievable anchor and the dead end of the rope in a bag ready if a rescue is required. Either to lower the person or descend the dead end of the rope to assist. Unless the abseil is very short and straight forward we will always abseil on a single strand, so we have a rescue rope "dead end" at the stance. We do not want to be tangled/entrapment risk from loose ropes in water. (It's a very scary experience)

Agreed inexperienced abseilers should be on a firemans break always, and this is standard practice for first timers.

Check out the V7 Academy videos on youtube they explain allot of the differences between canyoning and climbing world with regard to managing different risks.
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by deSouzaFrank »

:shock: All the years I’ve been the one putting myself at danger. Fully confident in my unsafe setup. Reading all of this makes me think of many places i could have had an eternal baptism, especially along the Mpumalanga Panorama Drive.

Thanks guys. Makes sense. Think for myself I’d have rope end just touch water so to seil right off of rope and free of it. Will have to go dust the fig8 off. Bast*rd going to smirk its arse off at the gri-gri as it gets packed in the bag.

Thanks guys. Gees this a wake up call. I owe a certain local a very big apology. :oops:
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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by Nic Le Maitre »

Our normal setup is a doubled rope through the anchor with some kind of stone knot to secure the strands. That way you can use either strand to abseil, and we try to go one just after the other to speed up the movement. We've started using 9 mm ropes from Southern Rope that are a combination of nylon and aramid (GP-T), and these don't work in a grigri and get very slippery so some kind of variable friction device (Petzl Piranha) is best. These ropes are significantly more durable than the nylon we used before. We don't typically have very heavy flows in the Cape so we can get away without rigging for rescue (and generally go with an experienced group).
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by chonGus »

I'd never skip using a backup when abseiling. Safety first, always! A prussik or another backup device is a must in my book. That guy's approach seems risky to me. You're right to stress the importance of it.
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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by Nic Le Maitre »

It's a risk based assessment.

Why do we use a back up when abseiling? To catch us in the event of losing control. Have you ever had your back up jam? I have.

Is the likelihood of losing control of the abseil more or less than the possibility of drowning due to entrapment? For a dry abseil down a cliff, sure, use a backup/autolocking device. For a wet abseil in a flowing river, no. And as stated above, if you want a backup, a fireman's belay is very simple to implement.
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by Vampyre »

Nic Le Maitre wrote: Tue Oct 31, 2023 9:08 am It's a risk based assessment.

Why do we use a backup when abseiling? To catch us in the event of losing control. Have you ever had your back up jam? I have.

Is the likelihood of losing control of the abseil more or less than the possibility of drowning due to entrapment?
Extremely important statement above, in aquatic environments you cannot apply the same risk assessment as you do for normal dry abseiling.
The risk of being entrapped or flipped upside while abseiling in a waterfall is far greater and you have minutes to react and free yourself before it becomes fatal.
In canyoning it is important you have to assess each risk and decide on what is best approach for that risk, eg. setting the correct rope length and not tying knots on the end of the ropes when landing in deep water, for a dry abseil it's an absolute but for canyoning getting trapped in extra rope or a knot in water with a waterfall crashing on top of you is deadly (Ive been in both these situations and its not pleasant).

Safety should always be no1.
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Re: Canyoning/canyoneering abseil?

Post by justin »

No backup whilst canyoneering/kloofing.

Whilst out climbing/similar (no water involved) then yes to a backup.

Keep in mind that 1 cubic meter of water equals 1 ton, add inertia to the mix and you get some force... that may snap things, like your back.
Ask any river guide.

There will be exceptions, always - what Nic says about risk assessment.
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