March 25, 2022

How to Rappel from a Tree? How Tree Rappelling is Done!

by Brad

Table of Contents

Rappeling from a tree is a common adventure amongst adventurers and occurs both for exploration purposes and a way out while hiking some routes. Tree rappelling involves descending using a rope with the tree as the natural anchor.

Tree rappelling involves several practices that ensure the safety of the climber when descending, including the fact to ensure that the tree is alive, is thick enough, and observing around to ascertain that its roots are sufficiently strong.

The main purpose of observing the practices is to ensure that the tree can support an individual’s weight before rigging anchor on the tree. 

Can You Rappel from a Tree?

Yes, you can rappel from a tree as a choice exploration adventure and as a way to find the trail on some routes while hiking. 

Is it Safe to Rappel Off a Tree?

Yes, it is safe as long as find a healthy tree to build the rappelling tree anchor. Some of the greatest troubles when rappelling is finding rappelling anchors, particularly during an exploratory setting.

During such moments, alternative anchors could be the only solution. By and large, most adventurers highlight them as perfect rappelling aids during such circumstances. 

It is, therefore, safe to rappel off a tree. However, the tree should meet a few necessities, such as sufficiently thick and a firmly anchored root system.

In other instances, it might be critical to outsource an option or rig up a webbing rather than rappelling off a tree, particularly if the trees available do not meet the necessities. 

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Tree Rappelling

What Makes a Tree Safe to Use as an Anchor?

Certain factors guarantee that a tree is safe to use as an anchor. The factors should be the priority before using the tree as an anchor. These are the central consideration before tree rappelling. 

  • Size
  • Quality of the tree’s rooting system
  • How lively the tree is 
  • The type of a tree
  • Backing up a tree anchor 
  • Consider learning the biner block rappel technique

Check the Tree Location

Checking the tree location is an important step to help an individual understand their options. Some of the trees that one should not consider as potent anchors are growing close to the edge of a cliff.

These trees appear as though they are ideal for the purpose, but they might not serve the purpose effectively.

The soils at the end of the cliff are usually insufficient to hold the trees firmly to the ground; the roots are often shallow and inappropriately established compared to the ones inland. Trees located about three meters away from the edge are more suited and preferable. 

Check if the Tree is Healthy and Alive

It is paramount to note that trees that are dead or those about to die are no-go zones. They should not be considered potential anchors even if they appear stable or strong. Typically, they are often rotten and have roots that cannot hold anything heavy. 

Checking the health of a tree is another critical aspect. Some of the considerations to factor in when observing the health of a tree are listed below.

  • The leaves: They should be healthy, evenly distributed, and with an assuring color
  • Bark: The tree back should be intact, not unless for trees such as maple, eucalyptus, and birch, which exhibit peeling characteristics. Should not have any moss growing on it, open wounds, holes, or cracks
  • Should not have numerous bugs: this is ascertainable by checking for the presence of small holes on the back, which if numerous could indicate possibilities for insect infestation. 

Check the Quality of the Tree Root

Typically, trees with thick tree trunks are presumed to be relatively strong and probable anchors. However, there are instances when the available trees are not quite thick. In such instances, it is essential to stick to the following guidelines. 

  • The tree you settle on should have a truck that is at least thicker than an individual’s thigh.
  • In terms of measurement, such a tree should exceed a thickness of 20cm in diameter. 

After selecting the tree, an individual should push the tree like they are trying to make it fall. An acute observation during this step is to observe whether the tree makes any moves, following which it should be abandoned for another that does not move at all. 

An individual can enhance the security of a tree by using two trees that are close to one another. When anchoring the rope on two trees, it is paramount to ensure that the angle of the ropes does not exceed 90 degrees to ensure the load is evenly distributed between the trees. 

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How to Set Up the Tree Rappelling Anchor?

To set up the tree rappelling anchor you will need to have answers to the questions listed below.

  • What Equipment Should You Use for Tree Rappelling?
  • Where Should You Tie the Anchor to the Tree?
  • How to Tie the Anchor to the Tree?

What Equipment Should You Use for Tree Rappelling?

It is recommendable to assemble the anchor by possessing a rope strap or sling formed of webbing rather than relying on an adjunct cord around the anchor. Afterward, the ascending aid should go via the runner rather than looping directly on the tree. 

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Climbers use both tubular and flat webbing types, with the former being thick and stronger. It is, therefore, more the recommended webbing for climbing.

On the other hand, flat webbing is often used on harnesses and is not recommended for climbing. The recommendable tubular webbing is about an inch thick in width. 

There are possibilities of using the descending rope directly on a tree, but there are several reasons we have listed below why it is not recommended.

  • Tree trunks often cause abrasions on the ropes, leading to damages to the rappelling ropes
  • Frequently, ropes get dirtied with tree saps. 
  • Retrieving ropes from the trees is often difficult because of friction.
  • Also, ropes are likely to cause injuries that might kill the trees with time. 

Where Should You Tie the Anchor to the Tree?

Typically, the runner and the ropes are supposed to be tied at the bottom of the tree’s stem. An individual can ease the rope retrieval by attaching the runner to a tree branch.

It is critical to note the significance of tying the anchor at a good height since it guarantees a greater advantage. Another critical thing to ascertain is the strength of the branch is sufficient to hold the load of the rappel. 

How to Tie the Anchor to the Tree?

The common ways available to tie the runner or slings on a tree are listed below.

  • Tying the runner around the tree.
  • Looping it around the tree.
  • Use a girth hitch to secure a tied runner around the tree.

If an individual’s runner is long enough, it is recommended to tie it two times around the stem. The rope for rappelling should be fixated to the bottom loop while the top loop s around the tree to keep it in the right position.

This is particularly significant when the intention is to secure the runner in a single position on the tree. Moreover, it plays a critical role on small trees where keeping the anchor low reduces the advantage on the anchor. 

Conversely, an individual might want to keep the anchor higher up in large trees, which eases retrieving the rope later on. It is also advisable to add one to two more runners when individuals feel uncertain about a single runner. 

When using runners that are made of webbing, a climber should take note of several things that are listed below.

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  • Ensuring that each rappelling anchor knot is tied using a water knot, also termed a ring bend. The knot can change over time to become loose, especially after being used a number of times. This necessitates checking the knot before an individual can use the runner. The risk is also minimizable by using longer runners and tying overhand knots at the tails. 
  • Do not put twists into the runner when tying the knot. 
  • Ensure that the tails have a height that exceeds eight centimeters when tied. 
  • When individuals are through tying the knot, they should step on the sling and pull it hard enough to make it firmer. This step is crucial in reducing the risk associated when the knot unties. 

How to Attach the Rappelling Ropes to the Tree?

People prefer rappelling using double strands rather than a single strand in most cases. The following options are employed to secure the rope to the sling or runner.

Option 1. Pass the Rope Directly through the Runner or Sling

It is important to note that there are chances of causing friction during this stage and, therefore, demand utter precision. 

Option 2. Attach the Rope to the Runner with a Rappel Ring

At this step, the critical consideration is avoiding welded rappelling rings because they can easily break.

This method is particularly safe since it also prevents the occurrence of damages to the ropes. Consider using two rappel rings to enhance the level of safety.

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Option 3. Attach the Rope to the Runner with a Locking Carabiner

Using locking carabiners is considered safer than rappel rings though there are cost implications.

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What is the Best Way to Equalize the Anchors when Rappelling from Two Trees?

If an individual is rappelling from two trees, it is vital to note that keeping the angle between the runners below 90 degrees.

This step involves ensuring that the anchor’s points are at an equal angle while using a separate runner on each tree.

Equalizing the anchor points ensures that the load is appropriately distributed between the anchor points, which enhances reliability. 

It is possible to check the equalization by ensuring that the load runs down the center of the angle that the runners form.

The process might need redoing several times before achieving accuracy, but the most vital thing is ensuring the angle remains as advised and that the anchors are reliable. 

Can You Rappel from an Existing Anchor on a Tree Safely?

An individual comes across a tree with the runners already tied in some instances. It is important to avoid assuming that such a tree is the best choice. Instead, the individual should perform all the important checks since some aspects might have changed, such as the trees’ health. 

At the same time, the damage might occur on a tree following subsequent rappelling. Here, the individual should check to ensure no cuts or deep grooves occurred by the last climber’s ropes.

If the tree meets all the highlighted requirements, the climber should remove the older runners and utilize their own. Own runners can guarantee safety since the sun or weather might have compromised the former runners. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Tree Rappelling (FAQs)

How to retrieve a rope after rappelling?

Retrieving a rope after rappelling involves setting up the rappel to ensure the rope is not attached to the anchor. This is achievable using a two-strand rappel or a tagline rappel.

The two-strand rappel utilizes two pieces of rope that the climber should pass through their belay device to lower the rope. The method is also achievable using a single rope that is doubled up or two connected ropes using a knot.

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How to build a tree anchor?

Building a tree anchor requires two double-length slings. The tree should have a diameter that exceeds 5 inches and should be firm on the ground.

After ensuring that, an individual should wrap the cord/slings around the tree, followed by marching and tying on a bight to get a figure eight, which should serve as the master point.

What’s the difference between abseiling and rappelling?

Typically, there are few differences between abseiling and rappelling. The two activities are done outdoors, using a rope or a friction device and descending on a vertical wall or a cliff face.

The only notable difference relates to their cultural differences, with the term “abseiling” being common in European countries while “rappelling” is often used in the United States. There are, however, other nations that use “rappel” and “abseil” mutually. 

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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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