Passing A Knot On Abseil
It's dark, cold and raining. You're bailing off an epic multi-pitch route.
Body fatigued and mind numb. Your buddy has already descended, leaving you
alone. His voice trails off in the wind. You've joined
two ropes to achieve one long, desperate rappel to the safety of the
ground below. What the heck, you can always come back tomorrow and fetch
the gear. As you fly down the steep descent, the free hanging rope lashing
wildly in the grips of the storm, a nagging thought suddenly occurs:
you've never passed a knot on abseil before.
This is not a topic to be taken
lightly. It doesn't take much imagination to realise the consequences of a
stuff up are very serious indeed. I've read of at least one instance in
which a climber died in this manner. I'd not be surprised if there were several other incidents. I think
you'll agree that high off the ground is not the best place to practice
the technique for the first time. Never-the-less there are many methods to
pass a knot, and if you think about it for a while you could probably come
up with a reasonable solution.
Passing A Knot Using A Friction Knot Above The Device
Here's one method that was taught to me. I make no
claim that it's accurate. (See full disclaimer).
As with the
other techniques described on this site, consult a good book (recommend Self
Rescue - Good book by David J. Fasulo), or seek qualified, in person,
instruction beforehand. This method assumes you
already know how to abseil, tie friction knots, tie yourself off with a
figure eight on a bite, etc.
Step 1: Rig a friction knot (eg, Prusik,
above the descending device. See: backing up an
abseil, for details.
Step 2: Abseil on down to the point just before the knot joining
the two ropes. The knot might be there for another reason, but for
readability I'll henceforth refer to it as "the join".
Step 3: Weight the prusik, allowing you freedom to work with both
hands and tie a backup figure eight on a bite,
a reasonable distance below the join in the slack line. Clip this to your
harness with a locking carabiner.
Step 4: Remove the descending device from it's position above the
join and reattach it below the join, clipping to your harness as for
Step 5: At this point you can decide if you want a backup for the
remaining portion of the abseil. If you're buddy is down below you might
sing for a fireman's belay, or if not, perhaps rig a friction knot below
the descending device. See: backing up an abseil,
Step 6: Take control of the brake hand as for abseil, then unweight
and remove the prusik that you've been hanging off since step 3 above. If
you're on a ledge or a slab this might be as simple as standing up. If the
descent is free hanging you might need to loop the rope around a foot a
few times and carefully stand up on it. However you achieve it, carefully
transition from hanging off the prusik to being back on abseil below the
Step 7: Abseil on down to your backup figure eight and carefully
untie it. This is where the backup from step 5 comes in handy. Continue down
as per normal.
A Knot, Abseiling - Could be a caver's page, anyway, they seem to
mention the topic.
Passing A Knot, Descent
- Some kind of German cavers web site I think. It's a far way down this page.
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