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Getting down from Big Walls is dangerous

Big Wall Episode #12 - Rappelling

Big Wall Bible


The lightest but most useful thing you can take up a big wall is knowledge. Welcome to a resource that will help you be successful in getting up big rocks. Big walling is a big topic so we broke it into bite-size "pitches" with a video to START each one. The aim is to have lots of videos, photos, and written content in each section, not just of our stuff but your stuff as well. See HowNOT2 contribute your beta below.

Our courses are A-Z content in blog format, glued together with an overarching blog we call a textbook. A blog format is easy to read, easy to update, and easy to translate. Be sure to begin at the TEXTBOOK and at the end of each episode we'll point you to the next.

Leading may appear to be the riskiest part of climbing and give you the most adrenaline but rappelling potentially causes many more deaths. In mountaineering, how many times have you heard of people summiting only to die on the way down. When you get to the top, you are only half done. Also, if you don't practice after watching this big wall series, then you need the tools to bail off your route. You can't just rappel like normal climbing, you have a giant bag or two to get off the rock as well.

WHEN to Bail

You have to find the balance between not giving up and going down while your brain still works, not after it fully shuts down from lack of sleep or dehydration. If you are only climbing 3 pitches a day on a 20 pitch Lurking Fear and you only brought water for 4 days, then enjoy 3 days of climbing and get down while you still have water. You just can't go 2+ days with no water on a wall.


If you are too slow at leading, it's hard to "just go faster". If you are close enough to the top, maybe team up with another team who has less supplies than you but is great at leading and together you make it to the top. This doesn't work if you are still close to the ground.

If you are suffering from anchor cluster fuckeritis, have a team meeting and discuss about how you can do better on the next anchor so you can save time on that.

If hauling is horribly slow, try doing something different like throwing your partner on the pulling end to counter weight the bag and make it a little bit more possible.

If the weather is too hot or too cold, can you sit out the hottest part of the day in a make shift shade? Can you stay warm while belaying if it's too cold by wrapping sleeping bags around you? If it's going to rain, and you have 0 plastic protection and down bags, just go down and don't suffer first.

Rappelling Fixed Lines

East ledges is one way to get down from El Cap and it has 3 rappels with fixed lines. There are 5 ropes always fixed to the heart on el cap because so many people are doing Free Blast or continuing up Salathe/Free Rider or several other routes that branch off the base of the heart. Lurking Fear also has a fixed line on the last steep section of the hike. Half dome death slabs have a few too.

If you plan on rappeling these ropes, be preparted for them to be thick so if you have a skinny atc that works for your skinny ass rope, it might not work on those fuzzy, thick ropes - ESPECIALLY if they are wet. Being that they are permanent and rubbing the rock, the ropes get core shots and then people tie butterfly knots to isolate the problem. However, you have to rappel past those knots so have those skills!

Rappelling past a knot isn't rocket science, but you need to transition to your ascenders BEFORE you hit the knot hard, with your weight on the ascender, move your rappel device below the knot and transfer your weight back onto the rappel device. PRACTICE this before you attempt it in real life when it really matters.

Knots and Third Hands

Prusiks and stopper knots make rappelling safer-ish.

Crazy article

I'll write more soon!!!

I got some GREAT photos and POV videos of rappelling with a bag and two people on two bolt anchors a few months ago. I can add a ton of value to this chapter and I plan on making this way more thorough but moving my lab is consuming my big wall bible writing time. See what I'm up too in this VIDEO. Sign up for our emails on our HOME PAGE and I'll let you know when I make progress on this.

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Breaking Gear Fear

Edutainment has been a great way to help people understand their gear, and know the true limitations of it.  Watching HOW gear fails is more important than the force itself, as almost all gear is super good enough.  It's more important to share information on how to stay safe than it is to have a paywall.  We hope our stoke is contagious.

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