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The Climbing Club • View topic - The Problem with Rappel Back-Ups Off Modern Leg-Loops

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:34 am 
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Dr. Crevasse
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I read this on the AAI blog this morning. Thought it was worth re-posting here.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:48 am 
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Interesting. The Petzl Corax has a loop on the leg that appears to be specifically intended to clip in a backup (or at least that's how I've used it). I've tested the setup hanging from the beams in my basement and never seen the leg buckle budge - but perhaps I should try it again...


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:45 am 
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Tenacious Lee
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How often do you use a backup on rappel? The few times I've tried using the friction hitch attached to my leg loop I found it to be far more trouble than it was worth, and so I almost never use a backup. If I need to unknot the rope or otherwise fiddle with something I find it simple enough to just use one hand or wrap my legs a few times if I need both hands. The possibility of getting the friction hitch stuck in the belay device also gives me pause. But I've never rappelled in a cold, snowy environment that merited gloves, so I can imagine that there are definitely uses for it (although I still like David Yount's method of a klemheist attached above the belay device). So, backup on rappel: always, only if the situation calls for it, never?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:45 am 
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giving spoon
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It sounds like the problem is with the fast-buckle system, not the technique. Good to know, as this is a technique that I use.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:53 am 
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@Lee - I've been using a auto-blocking backup for a few years now and it feels really strange/insecure not to use it now. The biggest reason I see for using it is in the (unlikely?) event that you're struck by a rock and lose consciousness on rappel, you don't plummet to the end of the rope. I've never come close to having the autoblock jam in the belay device.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:54 am 
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Cap'n Wingspan
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Thats certainly not good, but realistically, I think the worst that would happen is that the leg loop would become very loose. As far as I can remember, all the straps on the fast buckle system have a piece of the webbing stitched back on itself to make it difficult to slide through the double buckle on it's own. Even assuming this did happen, this is a leg loop, and one of two. If your leg loop became loose or undone, it would hardly have a catastrophic effect unless you were doing some seriously weird, or inverted rapping. The biggest impact would likely be that your friction knot backup would no longer be useful. Given that possibility, I suppose if you were relying on that friction not to hold you in place while using both hands to untangle ropes or something else and if failed, that could be really bad, but in that cast, I think the doubled back part would probably catch on the buckles. Not something to rely on I guess.

More importantly I think, is there any way this could conceivably happen with the waist component of the harness?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:58 am 
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 2:39 pm 
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 3:39 pm 
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At the risk of thread drift...

I've started setting up rappels with my reverso extended on a sling (in this case, a Metolius PAS) as shown in Jim's picture. While I generally like the rope action once on rappel, I don't like one aspect of it and am not sure if this is a limitation or poor technique on my part.

Prior to adopting this method, when setting up to rappel, I would girth two slings to my harness and lock them into the rap anchor. Then I'd biner the reverso to my belay loop. Once I was finished futzing with the anchor, I'd take all the slack out of the rope, unload the anchor slings, and bounce a few times on the reverso to assure myself that I hadn't screwed up my setup.

With the reverso extended from the harness, I find this final check much more difficult to accomplish because it is difficult to get the weight off the safety slings and fully weight the reverso before unhooking the slings and committing to the rappel.

The rappel is a lot smoother once it gets started, but it seems that most fatal rap accidents happen while setting up or rapping off the end of the rope, not because of futzing with the rope while on rappel.

Does anyone else have this problem and, if so, what is your creative solution?


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:42 am 
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Cap'n Posthole
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So there is no concern about the old fashion double back style leg loops?

I always wondered why my harness had an auto double back on the waist but classic style double back on the leg loops perhaps this is why?


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:26 am 
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I too enjoy an autoblock, though I have been using the leg-loop technique. I only tried the method similar to what Jim posted once, and it felt awkward as the ATC was too close to my face. Perhaps experimenting more would be in order.
It seems that the method Jim posted is also more akin to Self-rescue methods for rapping with partners etc... So it might be useful to get good at doing it solo.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:32 am 
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UW Climber
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:06 am 
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I don't regularly use a backup knot for rappels, but I'd like to try the setup Jim posted and have one concern. It shows a knotted sling to extend the ATC, and Brian uses a Metolius PAS; does anyone see a problem with using a daisy chain instead? I've heard that the pockets on a DC are built for body weight only and not for falls; would the herky-jerky act of rappelling put too much stress on the between-pocket bar tacks? I know that blowing out all of the pockets would still leave me connected to the ATC by a long sling, but I really don't want to blow out any of them.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:14 am 
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Ben - I used to rap with a daisy, rather than PAS, but switched on Jim's advice. I've never come close to blowing out the bar tack, but I'm not terribly aggressive on rappel.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:26 pm 
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I'm strongly against using daisy chains for personal anchors or rappelling. The strength of a typical daisy chain pocket is 3 kN compared to the 18 kN of a PAS. You don't have to fall very far to generate 3 kN of force on your system. I've seen estimates as low as 5-10 cm for someone who is ~80 kg. A slip like this could easily occur as you go over a roof or ledge or are starting your rappel. Granted the sling that the daisy chain is made out of is still typically rated to 18-24 kN, but who wants to go for a ride as pockets pull?

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