April 1, 2022

How to Perform Emergency Rappel in 6 Steps

by Brad

Emergency rappel is rappelling down from a cliff, waterfall, canyon, mountain, or a climb in emergency circumstances. Often, the emergency rappel is performed with improvised gear, such as creating a harness from a rope.

In perfect circumstances, rappelling is a strategized, well-secured partaking done after climbing. However, you have to execute an emergency rappel in an unexpected situation where you need to lower yourself immediately.

You`ve not made any calculations beforehand, and maybe you`ve not even completed your climb here.

To properly execute your emergency rappel, all the six steps you need to follow are listed below.

  1. Select the suitable rope for emergency rappelling
  2. Remove any unnecessary gear before an emergy rappel
  3. Establish an anchor for an emergency rappel
  4. Throw the rope for an emergency rappel
  5. Tie the rope around yourself
  6. Start rappelling down by lowering yourself

Table of Contents

1. Select the suitable rope for emergency rappelling

For emergency rappel, choose a static rope, 8mm thick and 30 meters long. Elastic or dynamic rope is not recommended when rappelling.

Just make sure the rope’s at least 30 meters long. Again, a thick rope is much better when rappelling as it is comfortable and more manageable. Emergency rappel is often performed from a helicopter.

Aoneky 10 mm Static Outdoor Rock Climbing Rope, Fire Escape Safety Rappelling Rope (Yellow 2, 32)
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Aoneky 10 mm Static Outdoor Rock Climbing Rope, Fire Escape Safety Rappelling Rope (Yellow 2, 32)
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2. Remove any unnecessary gear before an emergency rappel

It would be best if you perform the emergency rappel without any heavy luggage like your gear for safety reasons.

To drop your backpack, tie the rope through the shoulder straps until it’s in the middle. Hold the ends of the rope and begin lowering it till it reaches the bottom, then pull up the rope. 

3. Establish an anchor for an emergency rappel

The best place to establish the anchor for an emergency rappel should be on a tree. But not just any tree, a deep-rooted thick tree.

However, if there are no trees nearby suitable for rappelling, set it up on a large boulder or rock’s horn.

Ensure it is sturdy enough to hold you throughout your descent. It would be best to dig a trench shaped like a teardrop (bollard) on ice or snow. 

How to Perform an Emergency Rappel

4. Throw the rope for an emergency rappel

Tie the middle of the rope across the anchor, loop both rope ends, and throw them over the route, ensuring they reach the drop point without intertwining. 

5. Tie the rope around yourself

Face uphill and tie the rope around yourself from the anchor. Hold both ropes ends together and tug them via your legs, hips, over one shoulder, to your neck’s back, and down the dominant hand.

Now, firmly hold the rope using your dominant arm. You will feel the friction between you and the rope; it comes in handy in braking. 

6. Start rappelling down by lowering yourself

Lower gradually facing the cliff, like walking backward. Make sure to have an athletic posture. This means that your legs should be shoulder-width from each other, and the knees should be bent. 

Hold the rope tightly, with your dominant arm downhill and the other uphill, allowing gravity to help you descend. It would be best if you also had gloves for shielding your hands. 

As you lower, gradually feed rope to your dominant arm, allowing you to control your descent. Once you reach the bottom, get your rope by hauling one end. 

Four Emergency Rappelling Techniques to Use 

This is a list of the four emergency rappelling techniques to use.

  1. The Best-Case Scenario
  2. Improvised Braking
  3. Swiss Seat Harness
  4. Dulfersitz Method (last resort)

1. The Best-Case Scenario Techniques

In a world where everything is perfect, you would be entirely prepared for disasters. For instance, if you need to climb down a tower through the window, you’d have a complete backpack for this exact situation, wear protective gear, and quickly lower the tower like a scene from an action movie. 

As this is not the ideal world where everything is perfect, under normal circumstances, you’d have to find another way to do it if you were to lower from a tower and had no equipment. You can practice the best-case scenario on a rappel tower.

You can purchase a pre-made escape mechanism like the Petzl Explo if you’re not on a budget. This mechanism is explicitly-engineered as a portable and swift way to flee from a burning construction.

On the other hand, you have to go training to get one of these packs, as they’re typically built to be used by firefighters when rappelling

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Last update on 2022-09-30 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

2. Improvised Braking Techniques

Wrap the rope around your waist or carabiner for a more controlled descent. If you do it wrong, it will lead to one of the following situations listed below.

  • Excess friction – you won’t be able to move smoothly and will be suspended in the air. 
  • Reduced friction – you will fall as the rope slides through your hands uncontrollably. 

If you have a belay device, it would be best to use the belay device. It will enhance safety, and it’s typically more straightforward to use than an improvised mechanism.

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PETZL GRIGRI + Belay Device with Cam-Assisted Blocking and Anti-Panic Handle, Suitable for Learners and Intensive Use - Orange
  • PROGRESSIVE DESCENT CONTROL: 3:1 mechanical advantage of the camming mechanism helps smoothly control the rope and reduce lowering efforts regardless of rope diameter.
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All the same, if you don’t have a suitable brake, here’s what you’ll do. To set up the biner brake, you need four carabiners. This mechanism gradually lowers, even when you don’t have a purpose-designed brake.

Once you add two carabiners to the Swiss Seat harness, add the remaining two on the first two, and descend using all four non-lockable carabiners. 

With the carabiner brake, Swiss Seat, and ample practice, you can safely rappel to the bottom of any building or cliff. You’ll require the following equipment.

  • One lockable carabiner 
  • Four non-locking carabiners 
  • One lengthy rope 
PETZL, Carabiner, Gate Opening 7/8',Aluminum, Black
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PETZL, Carabiner, Gate Opening 7/8",Aluminum, Black
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Aoneky 10 mm Static Outdoor Rock Climbing Rope, Fire Escape Safety Rappelling Rope (Yellow 2, 32)
1,405 Reviews
Aoneky 10 mm Static Outdoor Rock Climbing Rope, Fire Escape Safety Rappelling Rope (Yellow 2, 32)
  • High quality polyester material, very strong and durable, heavy duty rot and tear resistant
  • Loan-bearing of the rope reach 2000 lb, safe enough to do any outdoor activity
  • Can be rolled up to a small part, easy to keep them tidy and clean, very compact to carry it with you

Last update on 2022-09-30 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

3. Swiss Seat Harness Techniques

All promising climbing adventures begin with a reliable harness, as it ensures your body remains linked to the rappelling rope, as opposed to plunging to the bottom.

The Swiss Seat is the ideal DIY lowering harness with approximately 12ft of rappelling rope. 

A rope is an essential rappelling tool as you can’t rappel without it in an emergency rappelling situation. You’ll find out later that you can rappel without a carabiner or harness, though having a reliable rope is necessary. 

If you suspect you might need any of these tools in your office or apartment, make sure you have a long rope as part of your gear.

Ensure it is static and thick. Unlike the harness, a carabiner and rope can come in handy for other uses; this way, it won’t be collecting dust in your storage space. 

Honestly, it would help if you had one huge carabiner in your backpack, as it is highly versatile and can be used for anything from hanging your keys to self-defense.

You can rappel and lower yourself from a high tower with several carabiners and your rope. One popular technique involves looping a Swiss seat harness.

It’s pretty straightforward, and it calls for one huge lockable carabiner and 12ft climbing rope. 

4. Dulfersitz Method (last resort)

This is an emergency rappelling technique whereby you only use the rope. This should be a last resort, as it will be slightly painful, though it will help you get down safely.

It applies a doubled-up rope looped in a Z-shape along your waist, thigh, and over one shoulder. Loop the center of the rope on a solid anchor, then feed it through your arms as you lower to the bottom.

Your dominant arm should be holding the rope while the other can control speed. When you reach the bottom, you should pull one of the rope’s ends to retain it. 

You have to wear rappelling gloves for this technique since the friction and heat generated can blister your hands.

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PETZL CORDEX Gloves - Lightweight, Breathable Leather Belay Gloves for Climbing and Rappelling - Black - M
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Padding on the waist and long sleeves could come in handy in enhancing comfort. This technique is dangerous since if you let go of the rope, you will plummet to the ground.

What is Rescue/Emergency Rappel Kit?

A rescue and emergency rappel kit is the equipment used when attempting to perform an emergency rappel and to rescue a rappelling climber. 

It typically involves the three stages listed below. 

  • Reaching the victim
  • Lowering with them
  • Lowering after completing the mission

Some rescue rappelling gear includes tube-design gadgets, rescue figure 8, gadgets with moving parts, and brake racks

Last update on 2022-09-30 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

How Do You Rappel Without a Harness?

Here is how to rappel without a harness.

  • Overlap both rope ends from the anchor while facing uphill. Hold the ropes together and haul them between the legs to the back. 
  • Feed the rope to your right thigh towards the front.
  • Move it through your chest and over the non-dominant arm.
  • Then loop it around your neck’s back and to your right hand. 
  • Lastly, firmly hold the rope using your right hand and begin descending.

What is Assisted Rappel?

Assisted rappelling involves helping out another climber get down. You set up an assisted rappel to aid a less experienced climber to descend.

Can You Rappel with a Tactical Belt?

Yes, you can use a tactical belt for rappelling if you have some rope. 

How to Rappel Down with Just a Rope?

While it is somewhat challenging, it is possible to rappel down using a rope alone. Here is how to go about it.

Pick a rope 

Choose a static rope, 8mm thick and 30 meters long. Elastic or dynamic rope is not recommended when rappelling.

Just make sure the rope’s at least 30 meters long. Again, a thick rope is much better when rappelling as it is comfortable and more manageable. 

Remove your gear 

It would be best if you rappelled without any heavy luggage like your gear; for safety.

To drop your backpack, tie the rope through the shoulder straps until it’s in the middle. Hold the ends of the rope and begin lowering it till it reaches the bottom, then pull up the rope. 

Establish an anchor 

The best place to establish the anchor should be on a tree. But not just any tree, a deep-rooted thick tree. However, if there are no trees nearby, set it up on a large boulder or rocks horn.

Ensure they are sturdy enough to hold you throughout your descent. To create the anchor, tie the middle across the anchor, loop both rope ends, and throw them over the route, ensuring they reach the drop point without intertwining. 

Tie the rope around yourself

Face uphill and tie the rope around yourself from the anchor.

Hold both ropes ends together and tug them via the legs, hips, over one shoulder, to your neck’s back, and down the dominant hand. Now, firmly hold the rope using your dominant arm. 

Beginning lowering 

Lower gradually facing the cliff, like walking backward. Make sure to have an athletic posture. This means that your legs should be shoulder-width from each other, and the knees should be bent. 

Hold the rope tightly, with your dominant arm downhill and the other uphill, allowing gravity to help you descend. It would be best if you also had gloves for shielding your hands.

As you lower, gradually feed the rope, allowing you to control your descent. Once you reach the bottom, get your rope by hauling one end. 

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About the author 

Brad

Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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