Quick Tip: Rig, rap, repeat

There are many ways to avoid the cluster, both on ascent and descent. Covering terrain quickly is at least as much about efficiency as it is about climbing fast. Or, in this case, rappelling fast. Granted, like anyone, oh how I love the Aussie Speed Rappel…. I only do it, however, when rapping out of a helicopter with an Uzi to cleanse the world of evil.

For now, I’m envisioning a world cleansed of descent epics. I’m working on some posts with pointers on rapping-off efficiently, and tips to avoid stuck ropes – so often folks bumble the descent (I’ve done it plenty).

In the meantime, here’s a quick pointer on a useful clip-in-and-rappel setup when doing multiple raps, especially steep raps. You need a double-length sling (appx 48″, which I usually have on my harness for building anchors), although a cordalette (tied-off to shorten it) will also work fine, as will two shoulder-length slings hitched together.


A. Girth hitch the long sling through your harness.

B. Tie a figure-8 knot in the middle of the sling (an overhand would work, but with a skinny sling it cinches up so tight that it’s a bitch to untie afterward). Adjust knot distance as needed. Make sure the knot is well within arm’s reach of your harness.

C. Put your belay device in the near loop of the sling (the one closest to your body) – this is your rappel loop.

D. Put a locking ‘biner on the far loop – this is your clip-in loop.

The setup.


  1. Clip-in to the anchor with the locker on your clip-in loop. If you want to be in closer than this, just clip into the near loop and clip that to the anchor. Fine to tie another knot to make a “pocket” for another clip-in option.
  2. Put yourself on rappel. You’ll be rappelling with an extension in this system – I often prefer rapping with an extension, as it tends to be “clean,” away from your body and pack straps and such, and it gives superior braking power and control on steep rappels. If you use a friction hitch backup, it’ll have to be below the device with this system.
  3. Unclip from the anchor, and rappel away.
  4. At the next rap station, just clip your clip-in loop into the anchor. Then take yourself off rappel.
  5. Repeat.

In use.

The same deal can be rigged in other ways, of course – if you don’t want or need to rap with an extension, for example, just hitch a shoulder-length sling through your harness for clipping-in to each anchor, and rappel directly off your belay loop. Or use a daisy chain (remember that it’s life-and-death important to avoid cross-clipping daisy pockets; a P.A.S. eliminates this concern), though I don’t usually climb with a daisy, for a couple of reasons that I can explain another time.

Most importantly, however you do it, do it efficiently. With a quick, safe system. Don’t cluster-fuck it every time with a mess of quickdraws linked together, clipping and unclipping from your harness, a rat’s nest of this rigged to that, etc. Figure out something that works, is secure, and has minimal steps. Rig, rap, repeat.

15 thoughts on “Quick Tip: Rig, rap, repeat

  1. After decades of not doing it, I finally started using a friction hitch backup. Not only is it safer by a couple of orders of magnitude, but it allows you to let go and deal with the rope that is inevitably tangled up or stuck behind a flake if you are the first one down.

    • Good call, for sure, Thom. I don’t do it often enough, but I do in some situations — unknown terrain, ice and stuff falling (versus in fairly solid rock zones) — in these cases, I’ll put the backup on. Probably good to always use it if you’re the first person down.

      For the second person down, it seems less necessary, as I figure the first person should always have hold of the ends so they can give a quick fireman’s brake should the second lose control. If I’m the second one down, and I see my partner has hold of the bottom strands in order to give me that backup (fireman’s), I’m always like, “Ahhh, good partner, I like. We climb more together!”

  2. Right on, brudda. Good info. One little detail that Doug Nidever showed me is to clip your rappel device into both the loop connected to you AND the loop of your anchor ‘biner. When you rap, you unclip your anchor ‘biner, then clip it back to your belay loop–now you have two redundant loops attaching you to your rappel device. Maybe overkill, but you gotta stow your anchor ‘biner somewhere, so it may as well be back to yourself…

    You guys all melted out up there? Prestigious HVTT still going down?! RC

    • Thanks Rob — that’s a GREAT suggestion. I’ve done that myself at times, but there’s no reason not to do it that way every time. Adds a little redundancy, sure, perhaps overkill, but at absolutely zero cost. Takes no additional time and no additional effort. Thanks!

      Man, melting crazy fast — you might have lucked out and bought yourself another season of ducking us in the Prestigious HVTT challenge. Right now there’d be a fair bit of duck waddling with skis across grass patches down low. Seems we always get a huge dump in April, though, so don’t put away your Lycra just yet :).

  3. Great info for climbers just starting out and
    well u conntineue?? U can’t ever stop l learning!! Thank you

  4. Good article! I started using that system almost two years ago and never looked back. So much easier to have have the belaydevice half a metre away from you, especially when you got your harness full of icetools, screws and god knows what.

    Just one suggestion, I always tie an overhand instead of a figure-8 since it has less chance of rolling. BUT I always take an extra 10 second and make sure it’s dressed correctly, that way it’s never hard to untie, in fact it’s much easier to untie a dressed overhand than an undressed figure-8

  5. Totally, kim. Glad to know I’m not the only one that finally stopped using skinny slings in situations where they weren’t redundant, I use the metolius one. Always in the same situation with a cordelette sized skinny sling for rapping and end up doubling or looking for something else to use… even though folks finally decided the sling that made me nervous discussed here – http://www.alpinist.com/doc/ALP18/newswire-dyneema-broken-sling-report – was reportedly cut and didn’t actually fail under body weight.

  6. Thanks @Michael. I missed that Alpinist post. My thinking about using the nylon “Chain Reactor” is that I do not want to factor 2 onto the anchor (or something stationary) attached to something that doesn’t stretch – if for not other reason than it’s going to hurt and maybe break something (gear or me or the anchor).

    • Thanks, Denny — that’s a great tip that you linked to! Very slick, and helpful in certain situations for sure.

  7. If you have time watch this video:
    Knotting dyneema slings dramatically reduces their strength. It would be hard to generate those sort of forces just rappelling, but not impossible.

    Before I watched this video I soloed the Pioneer route of the Monkey Face, aiding the bolt ladder and the Panic point pitch with 2 120cm dyneema slings with knots in them for daisy chains. I thought that was safe but had I blown any aid moves I would have bit it.

    Oh and these days I carry a Prussik on my leg loop, girth hitch it a bunch of times around the front of the loop, then it’s always there and you practically can’t feel it.

    • many thanks, jon. hadn’t seen that one, though i’ve seen several of the other dmm videos — really good tests they do, enlightening (often in that shocking sort of way) info. yikes, yeah, astounding the forces that shock-loading static (dyneema-like) slings can do.
      as you said, hard to generate those forces rappelling, but in between raps, like ya clip to an anchor and maybe then climb up to do something (i dunno, like the end goes up and has a knot in it, and you scurry up to reach it), then slip…. yowza. fortunately, i think that it either simply doesn’t happen very often (haven’t heard of the resultant devastation, though that doesn’t mean it never happens), or those slips, or even falls like when aiding as you were mentioning, end up being less than full-force somehow. like ya slide down a bit, sorta catch yourself, etc.
      not to diminish the seriousness of impact forces one bit. it’s startling stuff, and has opened my eyes to some of my practices.
      and damn, even if it’s not a knotted sling that blows — ya see some of the impact forces generated with short falls on non-knotted dyneema, and think it’d be just as well had the sling blown — at least it would be over quicker!

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