by Jullie

July 4, 2020

How to Rappel With Just a Rope

Do you want to rappel down a cliff or rock face, but don’t have all the needed fancy gear? Well, luckily for you, today we are here to teach you how to rappel with just a rope and nothing else.

Getting Your Rappelling Rope

If you are going to rappel with just a rope, you are going to need to get your rope first. Ideally, since you do not have any other gear, the rope should be between 8 and 10 mm thick. 

You want it to be thick enough so that you can rappel safely without feeling at risk of having the rope snap.


On that same note, you also don’t want the rope to be much thicker than that, because a really bulky rope can make things hard and it can get in the way.

Also, keep in mind that for this kind of rappelling, a static rope will do just fine; you don’t need a dynamic rope for this. On a side note, you will need to ensure that the rope is long enough to rappel down whatever cliff you are rappelling.

Lowering Your Gear

When you rappel with all of the bells and whistles, you can technically do it with your rappelling gear. However, when you rappel with just a rope, you will want to lower your backpack and all other gear down to the bottom before you begin.

You want to have as little weight and bulk on your body as possible when rappelling with just a rope. Just thread the rope through the shoulder straps of your backpack until it is centered and even.

Then, hold on to both ends of the rope and slowly lower your backpack down to the bottom, and then pull the rope back up.

How to Rappel With Just a Rope

Setting Your Anchor

One of the most important steps to follow when you rappel with just a rope is to set your anchor. This is where the rope is going to be attached when you rappel down the rock face, so it better be tied tight, with a good knot, and tied to a secure item.

Now, this is going to vary a bit depending on your surroundings. If you are using a rock as an anchor, make sure to check the top or bottom, in order to ensure that the rope will not slip off.

If you are using a tree, make sure it is thick enough to support your weight a few times over. Not choosing the right anchor may very well cost you your life, as it has for people in the past. If you are in an icy area, you will need to create a bollard to use as an anchor.



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When tying the rope, make sure to loop the center part of the rope around the anchor, coil both of the ends, and then throw it down the cliff. Both ends of the rope should reach the bottom; If they don’t, your rope is too short.

Harnessing Yourself

Of course, you are not just going to pull an action hero move here and slide down the rope. You need to wrap the rope around yourself, effectively creating a harness that you can use to keep you steady, safe, and one which will allow you to control the speed of your descent.

To do this, grab the rope on both ends of the anchor, and straddle them while you are facing uphill or towards the anchor.

How to Rappel With Just a Rope

You want to ensure that you are holding the ropes tight, and then pull them around your hips, through your legs, and then over your shoulder. The shoulder you pull the ropes over should not be your dominant one.

Now, take the rope and work it around the back of your neck to your dominant arm. The friction of the rope being around your body will slow the descent.

The Descent

Be sure to keep your knees bent and at shoulder’s width, placing them firmly on the rock face.

Your dominant hand should be resting or holding the part of the rope underneath you, both for balance and to control your descent speed. your non-dominant hand should be holding the part of rope above you, mainly for balance.

The speed is controlled by feeding the rope through your dominant hand, so be sure to wear special gloves for rappelling or else you will thoroughly destroy your hands. Never let go of the rope or else you will fall!


Remember, this is not for the faint of heart and this is something you will want to practice setting up a few times before you even consider doing it.

There are also YouTube videos which can guide you through the process.

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About the author 


Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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