Canyon Rope Systems
Canyon Rope Systems - Definitions and Terms
Episode 1 of 10
This is a free course featuring Brent Roth about different ways to set up rappels through a canyon. This considers ease of rigging, abrasion, ease of rescue and how efficient it is to move people through the canyon.
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.
This episode is an overview of the different rappelling systems you can rig depending what your needs are. There are single rope, twin rope, double rope and doubleD rope systems
Definitions of Terms Used in this Document
Static - Once the system is weighted (someone on rappel) it can not be adjusted in rope length.
Releasable - The rope can be lowered after the system is weighted (someone on rappel). These system should be used if on of three conditions exist:
The rappel is in considerable flow or an immediate option to lower is desired.
Precise rope length is needed to avoid excess rope for a swimming disconnect. Excess rope in a pool of moving water is a severe hazard that must be avoided.
An abrasion point is identified. Lowering the rope while a person is on rappel mitigates rope damage to one spot.
Retrievable - The rope can be retrieved (pulled) without changing the rigging system. The answer to "how am I going to get the rope back?" is make it retrievable. 😉
Considerable Flow - This is when the water flow during rappel can have an increased force on a person while on rappel.
Courtesy Rigging - This is when a person builds a system to make the movement easier for everyone in the group. This type of rigging will usually have to be changed before the LAst Person At Risk (LAPAR) descends. For example, rigging the master point away from the edge for an easier start for the group then changing the master point (ring) to over the edge for an easier rope pull.
Rig for Rescue - Rigging that supports immediate rescue or support to the person on rappel. Also known as contingency rigging.
Ghosting Techniques - These are considered advanced techniques due to the required attention to detail when rigging. They provide less wear and tear on the rope and the natural anchors during a rope retrieval pull. They can be constructed with special devices or just rope.
Parts of a system:
Strand - Indicates one part of a rope going down a pitch. i.e. When a rope is pulled through an anchor to the middle and the ends tossed down there are now two strands.
Rappel Strand - Primary rope used for vertical rope movement
Pull Strand - Rope used to retrieve a rope or anchor material
Frontside - The point of the anchor the rappel strand is on.
Backside - The point of the anchor the pull strand is on. Sometimes referred to as the break strand.
Hanging or Suspended - When a system is rigged using the Rappel Strand at the anchor. A good example would be rappelling from a Munter Mule Overhand.
Blocked - When a system is rigged on the Pull Strand and is pulled against the anchor ring or quick-link.
Traverse Line - Rope used for horizontal movement. Sometimes referred to as a handline.
Hierarchy of Rescue
Self-Rescue - When a person has the skills and ability to perform their own rescue. This has the least impact on team safety.
Indirect Rescue - This is when a person at the anchor has the skill and ability to aid in the rescue of a person on rappel from the anchor. This has a low impact on team safety but requires training and experience.
Direct Rescue - A direct rescue requires a person to descend to a person in need of help. This could range from simple coaching to a direct pick-off. This puts a second-team member at a higher risk and requires a higher level of training and practice.
Team Rescue - This is a rescue that requires several team members with a high level of coordination, training, and experience. This has the most potential for putting multiple members at risk but is often required for an evacuation.
Each system is rated using four categories. Use these categories as a guide to better understand the pros and cons of each system. The pros/cons are in the form of a checklist to show what I consider when choosing a system. There are many things to consider when rigging a system at an anchor, but I feel these are the most important…
Ease of Rigging - Efficient and simple are very important for a group with diverse rigging capability. This category is also important when team members are cold, tired, or under stress to minimize rigging errors.
Little or no hardware
Easy to identify
Easy to learn
It does not have to be re-rigged to retrieve
Fast to rig
Rig for Rescue - Some situations require a quick and immediate response to prevent an injury either by Direct Rescue or Indirect Rescue. For example, a foot entrapment in considerable flow. Properly identifying and rigging for these types of situations requires training and experience. In other situations, when a rescuer has time and there is no immediate threat to life, time is afforded for additional rigging when needed.
No additional rigging is required for rescue
Option to lower (Indirect Rescue)
Option to rappel (Direct Rescue)
Easy to self-rescue
Easy to ascend
Efficiency - The ability to move a group through a pitch is an important factor in overall canyon movement efficiency. The type of system used can greatly reduce the time spent on each pitch.
Two people at a time
It does not have to be re-rigged to retrieve
Abrasion - This rating helps identify a system’s ability to manage rope abrasion excluding adding a deviation, rope protection, or eliminating abrasion points.
One moving strand
Two strands for rappelling
Two moving strands
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