Abseiling is one of the fundamental core skills that every climber must posess. Not only must we be able to ascend, we also need the ability to get down and to do so safely. Below are some top tips to aid this process.
Top Tip 1: Be prepared for financial loss! Abseiling is more often than not and un-planned part of the day, bad weather may have halted further upward progress or you may have wandered off route on to desperate terrain. Leaving gear behind is never an appealing idea, let's face it, it's not cheap, but do so with a clear conscience - at that point in time you can actually calculate how much your life is worth!
Top Tip 2: Choose your anchor carefully. It goes without saying that the point of which you are using to abseil from, needs to be %100 bomb proof - 'it'll be alright' will simply not do! Avoid choosing an anchor which will force the ropes to run over a sharp edge.
Top Tip 3: Rigging the abseil. If you are using more than one anchor, make sure that they are properly equalized to share the load that is about to be placed on it. This can be done with a sling or a piece of handy tat.
Top Tip 4: Make sure both ends of the rope touch the ground!
Top Tip 5: Don't Forget! Make sure you've clipped the rope in to the anchor before you throw it down the crag. To avoid abseiling off the end of the rope, firstly make sure they are both equal lengths. You can then back this up with simple overhand knots at the end of each rope. Tying them together will stop you going off the end but causes the rope to twist which makes it harder to retrieve your rope once down. Remember to untie these knots before pulling the rope through or your rope will get stuck.
Top Tip 6: If you are climbing on double ropes, make sure you have tied them together well. Either a double fisher-mans or an overhand knot will do, but make sure you have plenty of tail left to help avoid it un-doing. Ask yourself, 'does this knot look neat and tidy?'
Top Tip 7: Rope Below! Throwing ropes down always seems to end up with a pile of knotted mess tangled on a ledge about 10 feet down. Make sure you've hand coiled the ropes neatly first and throw them as far out as strength allows. If it's windy and your ropes are getting blown all over the place, try making a rope bomb. Simply wrap the rope in to something that resembles a ball of wool a cat would play with, and watch it disappear exactly where you want it to go! This is very useful in winter when it usually is windy! Don't forget the immortal cry of 'rope below' that needs to be yelled to alert anyone who may be below you and in the direct firing-line.
Top Tip 8: And Finally... Check, check and check again! Before you commit and lean back, make sure you have done all you can to ensure your safety. Is everything running smoothly, are all karabiners screwed up, and are all knots properly tied?
Chris Walker is a professional Mountaineering Instructor based in the Lake District. He has climbed all over the world with successful ascents of alpine routes and Himalayan peaks to his name. He runs courses all year round in all aspects of mountaineering including, rock climbing and scrambling, navigation and Scottish winter.
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