December 15, 2020

How to Rappel with ATC? 3-Stage Process Explained

by Brad

There are a large variety of belay devices on the market. It is mindboggling to compile a list of all rappel gears in one place. This article will look into how to rappel with ATC devices.

We will also feature some of the best Air Traffic Controller (ATC) belay devices from Black Diamond.

Black Diamonds ATC devices are among the most reliable ATC belay devices for rappelling and are used by millions of climbers worldwide.

Sticht Plate was the first belay device that applied for a patent in 1970. It was a simple device made of a metal plate and a rope bit slot.

The latest belay devices have an auto-braking system to assist the climbers. These devices are versatile as they allow belaying, rappelling, and climbing.

We have compiled a guide to help you with your climbing gears. It will also help you understand how to rappel with ATC.

Climbing will become safer when you learn the use of ATC devices.


Table of Contents

How to Rappel with ATC Device?

The ATC belay device is a mechanical device that is used to control a rope’s tension. It is used in climbing, caving, rappelling, and other activities where the rope may be under heavy tension.

You can use the ATC device when you want to do a rope soloing climb without a partner. If you are climbing with a partner, you can use it for belaying.

The ATC belay device will let you control your speed when you are rappelling. It will help you stop a person from falling during the belay.

The belay device can be attached to the harness with a carabiner or directly to the rope.

Belaying involves wrapping the rope around your body so that you would not be pulled off of your feet if you were to fall.

This means that you need to have enough slack in the system so that there is no tension in the system when you are not pulling down on it.

We have arranged the details to look for in a belay device.

  • An ideal belay device should withstand high pressure.
  • It needs to be budget-friendly also.
  • It is easy to control by different friction modes.
  • It should handle more than two climbers on the belay.
  • The durable cables of the belay device should not get caught in the climbing ropes.
  • The weight of the ATC device should be low for easy handling.
  • It should not have moving parts to avoid the device malfunction.
  • You need to test the device in the market for many years.
How to Rappel with ATC
How to Rappel with ATC?

Related Article: When to Use GriGri and ATC devices?

A Step-by-Step Guide to Rappelling with ATC

If you want to rappel using the ATC, you need to follow simple steps. All the steps for the ATC devices are the same as the other rappelling devices.

You need to prepare your ATC device for rappelling. Once the device is accurate, you can do other steps of the rappel setup.

When everything is ready, you can start rappelling. You need to follow the instructions for the rappelling to avoid device failure and accidents.

Part 1: ATC Setup for Rappel

You can start by making a loop from the rappel rope anchored to the top. You need to rope on the device. It should be one step right from the middle.

You need to check the upper side because it should show the friction modes. It is essential to align the ATC rope and the rappelling rope side-by-side to avoid tangling.

If one crosses over the other, it can lead to accidents and device malfunction. It is crucial to clip both rappel ropes with a locking carabiner. When you fix it with your belay loop, your setup is ready.

Part 2: Rappel Setup

  • You can add two or three bolt-hangers in the belay appeal system.
  • You need to add two quickdraws in the opposite direction to improve safety.
  • You need to observe the rope to avoid any knots or abrasions.
  • If the rope is clear, you can pass it through the opposite ends of bolt hangers. This step also involves quickdraws.
  • You can find the middle mark of the ropes by passing it through quickdraws.
  • You need to tie knots at the start and the middle as a precautionary measure. Rappeling without this precaution is dangerous.
  • You can send the rope from your right side and shout the word rope. It will warn others to keep a distance from the rope.
  • In this step, you need to clip the ATC device and place a locking carabiner on the loop.
  • You need to slide the rope through ATC by making a double rope strand.
  • You can take other precautions by observing the area for sharp edges and asking your friend to guide you during rappelling.

Part 3: Setup Complete for the Rappel with ATC

  • It is essential to establish the brake hand first by grabbing the loose end of the rope going downward. The ATC should support it to establish the brake hand.
  • You need to keep this hand near your hip to control the movement.
  • When you bring your hand upwards, it increases the speed. You can reduce the speed by taking your hand lower.
  • If you take your hand above the waist area, the device may free-fall.
  • The left hand will act as a guide to old the rope and add anchors along the way.
  • You should shout the word RAPPEL to inform everyone that you are coming down.
  • You can start by using the brake hand and adding some rope to the ATC assembly.
  • You need to keep your legs perpendicular to the walls for better support. It will appear that you are walking backward.
  • Increasing your speed for the thrills is unsuitable as it can put your life in danger. You should keep calm and go at a slower pace.
  • When you check the upcoming obstacles by looking down, you will be more secure.
  • To complete the rappel, you need to reach the ground and take the rope out of the ATC device.

How Was the ATC Belay Device Designed?

The first belay device was known as the Sticht plate. It provided many advantages to the climbers, but there were some faults also.

When the climbers pulled hard on the ropes, the mechanism jammed due to the carabiner locked on the plate. The problem was not solved even after the introduction of the micro-belay plates.

The Diamond ATC devices solved all these problems. They improved the design by making some structural changes and durability enhancements.

They changed the location of the slots and made them half inch higher than the biner location. This enhancement allowed the rope to handle more pressure.

The climbers can pull the rope harder without fear of mechanism locking. They also improved the rope design by adding a sharper end to the rope.

It allowed the climbers to control the rope better due to more friction on the rope. These design enhancements increased the climber’s trust in the ATC devices.

The Original ATC Belay Device

It is only possible to climb comfortably when you trust your ATC device. You can use the Black Diamond ATC device because it has a history of safe climbing. T

hey have decades of experience in ATC device manufacturing as they produced their first devices in the 90s. Most people trust the original ATC belay devices from the Black Diamond.

You can get the Black Diamond ATC devices in two versions.

You can get the original ATC or the ATC-XP. Most people buy the original version because it is for rock climbing.

Black Diamond Equipment - ATC - Purple
183 Reviews
Black Diamond Equipment - ATC - Purple
  • Unique, smooth-handling geometry
  • Minimalist design is durable in all conditions
  • Large surface area dissipates heat when lowering or rappelling

Last update on 2022-10-04 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

When you have to climb the ice, you need the ATC-XP version. The life of a climber depends on the climbing gear.

Black Diamond Equipment - ATC-XP - Black
  • High-friction mode offers 3 times greater hold and stopping power than regular friction mode
  • Machined windows through device for weight savings
  • Durable cable holds its shape and resists getting caught up between ropes

Last update on 2022-10-04 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

The high-quality ATC device can protect your life from the dangers of falling.

Should You Use the ATC-XP for Canyoneering?

You can use the ATC-XP for rappelling canyons, but only for the class-A and class-B canyons. It is not suitable for the class-C canyons.

You must know the classification of the canyons to understand the suitability of the ATC-XP. The class-A canyons are dry as you can use the ATC-XP in them.

Special care is needed for the class-B canyons because you have to deal with the wet surface and ice. ATC devices are also suitable in canyons with ice.

When you reach the class-C canyon, you need specialized equipment to work in running water. It is crucial to check the condition of the canyon before choosing your climbing and rappelling gear.

The chances of falling increase when you use the wrong type of ATC for the canyons. Original ATC is not designed for the smooth surfaces of the canyons.

These will also not work on the surfaces covered in ice. Sterling ATS Device is suitable for canyoneering in a more robust canyon environment.

Sale
Sterling ATS Device - Black
32 Reviews
Sterling ATS Device - Black
  • Weight: 3.5 oz
  • Length: 5 in.
  • Width: 2 in.

Last update on 2022-10-03 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Related Article: How is a Belay Device Made?

Common Errors when Rappelling with an ATC and How to Avoid Them

ATC devices are tested thousands of times for safety. It passed all the tests because of its high quality and excellent design.

As climbers have used these devices many times, they become careless. Carelessness can lead to errors, and it can cause accidents.

It is crucial to check everything before you go down the edge. Most climbers feel better when they check everything before going down the cliff as it also gives confidence.

Climbing is a thrilling outdoor activity. You should not forget that one mistake can end your life. Using ATC without training is the same as jumping in the sea without knowing how to swim.

You can start by checking the twist in the rappelling setup. It is a common mistake that can produce many problems. You need to observe the slot of the ATC as the rope should come out from the top left side.

You can observe it easily to find the right side of the slot. Most people do not face any issues when there is a twist in the system. We should care because it can reduce the rope strength and increase the chances of breaking.

You need to clip the rappeller to the carabiner and through rope and the wire keeper lock. If you do not use both for the clipping, the mechanism safety reduces.

You should check the locking mechanism of the carabiner as some auto-locking carabiners fail to lock. Double-checking will enhance safety.

You should also arrange a rope that fits your ATC. If you accidentally picked the wrong rope, you need to correct this mistake.

Related Article: How to Setup a Top Rope Anchor?

How to Control the Speed of Your Rappel with an ATC?

It is better to use special gloves for rappelling to control the rappel speed effectively. You can pull the rope from your right hand.

You can take it towards the back to stop moving. You can let the rope slide through your hand to move downward. You can also control the speed by adjusting the brake hand.

The speed increases when you take the brake hand away from your body and in the upward direction.

You cannot use someone else’s technique to control your speed depending on your body weight. You need to adjust the brake hand to find the sweer spot to optimize your speed.

Related Article: Best Belay Glasses

What are the Different Types of ATCs?

The traditional rappel devices had two slots. Companies improved their designs by adding advanced structural features.

Black diamond ATC is an excellent example because it has ridges on one side to enhance the control.

ATC devices use friction as a tool for control improvement. Black Diamond sports has only one slot.

You can use the Petzel Reverso device to connect to the wall for belay because it has extra slots.

PETZL - Reverso Multi-Purpose Belay/Rappel Device, Red, Red
492 Reviews
PETZL - Reverso Multi-Purpose Belay/Rappel Device, Red, Red
  • Lightweight, multipurpose belay/rappel device; can be used to belay a second in Reverso mode
  • Multipurpose and easy to use
  • Adapted to a broad range of rope diameters

Last update on 2022-10-04 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Can You Rappel with an ATC?

You can rappel with an ATC perfectly because this device is perfect for rappelling. You can perform other functions with the ATC like the belay and climbing. It is an excellent device that provides you security during the rappel. It will also enhance your control of the rappel speed.

Related Article: How to Belay

How Do You Lock an ATC on Rappel?

You can use the Mule Hitch Method to lock the ATC on rappel. You have to stop the descent before starting the process. You can make a rope’s loop and feed it through the carabiner. It will allow you to tie a mule hutch above the ATC.

You need to stay vigilant as suddenly releasing the brake can reverse the process. You need to slowly release the brake to let the mule hitch slide down to the ATC. It will lock the ATC on the rappel.

Related Article: What is a Belayer in Rock Climbing?

Final Thoughts on How to Rappel with ATC

By looking at all the information, we can conclude that the ATC devices are versatile as you can use them for belaying, climbing, and rappelling.

People depend on ATC because they have been using these products for decades. It is essential to use the step-by-step guide to understand the working of the ATC devices.

If you do not have any experience, getting help from an expert is crucial. If you are an expert, you should avoid the common mistake caused by carelessness.

You need to shout the rappel codes even when no one is around. There are chances that you cannot see a person climbing under the rock. If you follow all the rules and guidelines, it is easy to enjoy rappelling without danger.

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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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