July 4, 2020

How to Rappel With Just a Rope via 3 Techniques

by Jullie

Today, we understand how we can rappel with just a rope because of two mountaineers – Jean Charlet-Straton and Hans Dülfer. Rappelling with a rope is often called the body rappel or the classic abseil.

Jean Straton was a Chamonix guide who lived from 1840 to 1925 and invented the original rappelling technique, which he perfected at Petit Dru in 1879. During that time, specialized rappelling equipment didn’t exist. However, after many failed attempts, Jean Charlet-Straton managed to get to the ground, most likely by rappelling with just a rope.

Hans (Johannes Emil) Dülfer was a German mountaineer. Hans Dülfer lived from 1892 to 1915 and is the inventor of the infamous Dülfersitz rappel. The Dülfersitz rappel is a classic rappelling technique that doesn’t use any rappelling devices. The Dülfersitz only uses a rope wrapped around it to control the descent. Dülfer perfected Jean Straton’s original rappelling technique to the way we know it today.

Can You Rappel with Just a Rope?

The Arm rappel, the South African rappel, and the Dülfersitz rappel are the three ways to rappel using just a rope. The only equipment you need is a static rope and a solid anchor. These three rappelling techniques should be used only in emergency situations and handled with great caution.


Table of Contents

Is It Easy to Rappel with Just a Rope?

Rappelling with rope is an activity where a person rappels down a rope using a harness and rappelling descender. One of the most intimidating parts of cliff diving is rappelling or descending a cliff face using a rope. It requires a lot of courage and trust in your equipment, but you’ll know it’s not as scary as it sounds once you have rappelled.

In this article, I’ll explain how easy or difficult it is to rappel with just a rope and a climbing harness, so you can decide for yourself if the activity is for you. It will also teach you how to rappel with just a rope and a carabiner. 

Build rappelling speed and strength by practicing your technique. The best climbers don’t just rappel a few times and call it good. They repeatedly work on their rappelling with a rope until they can rappel fast and precision. Whether you’re rappelling down a cliff or a rock face, speed and precision are key. 

The best way to build these skills is to practice your rappelling technique. Start with a short rappel, and work your way down longer and longer lines until you can rappel for more extended periods without feeling tired.

Then work on your speed, starting with a few rappels down a short line and working your way up to longer and longer rappels until you can rap down a long line with ease.

The 3 Types of Rappelling with Just a Rope

The first step to learning how to rappel is to understand the three different ways to rappel with just a rope: static, dynamic, and active. 

  • Static rappelling uses tension in the rope to lower yourself. 
  • Dynamic rappelling uses momentum to lower yourself down the line. 
  • Active rappelling uses your body weight to lower yourself.

Preparation Step: Setup the Rappel

Before you rappel, you’ll need to set up the rappel. This involves clipping your rappel ring into your rope and then clipping your rope into your rappel device.

You can set up the rappel in a number of ways, but the most common is to place your rappel device in the middle of your rope and rappel. This gives you more control over your descent and allows you to place your rappel where it’s needed most. 

Then it’s time to get ready to rappelling with just rope. Start by testing your rappel by hanging off the end of your rope and swinging back and forth. Make sure your rappel is long enough to lower yourself at least 10-20 feet without hanging off the end of your rope and that your rappel is secure so you don’t swing back and forth too much.

If you’re rappelling down a cliff or rock face, you can find a spot to rappel near the top where you can swing back and forth without swinging to the end of your rope.

Next, you’ll need to make sure your rappel setup is secure. Clip your rappel ring into your rope, and clip your rope into your rappel device.

Using a rappel belt, slide the belt into your rappel device and clip it into your rope. If you’re using a traditional rappel device, clip the carabiner of your rappel ring into the rappel device, and clip the rope into the carabiner.

Once your rappelling with just a rope is set up, you can get ready to rappel. Stand at the end of your rappel line, with one foot in the loop at the end of your rappel.

This foot should be in the middle of your rappel, with your weight evenly distributed between the two feet. Once you’re ready, make sure your rappel is clipped in, and then step off the end of your line, swinging your free leg up and over the top of your rappel.

GETTING YOUR ROPE

How to Rappel with Just a Rope: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Choose a Static Rope for Rappelling

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.

Step 2: Lower 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.

Step 3: Setting Your Anchor

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

When tying the rope, make sure to loop the center part of the rope around the anchor, coil both ends of the rope, 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.

Step 4: Wrap the Rope around Your Body

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.

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.

Step 5: Get Ready to 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 the 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.

The 3 Known and Forgotten Techniques for Rappelling with Just a Rope

There are three techniques for rappelling with just a rope, known (or unknown) to the majority of the people who are practicing rappelling – the Arm rappel, the African rappel, and the most infamous among the three methods the Dülfersitz Rappel.

The Arm Rappel

The Arm Rappel is a unique form of rappelling with just a rope in which the climber grabs the rope with both hands, rather than just one hand. The second hand allows the climber to control the direction of their descent, which is especially helpful when rappelling down a cliff or rock face. 

The benefits of the Arm Rappel are that it is faster and requires less energy than rappelling with just one hand. It is also safer than rappelling down a cliff with just one hand, as the climber can control their descent and avoid accidentally falling backward.

The arm rappel is a fun way to get outside and experience the adrenaline rush of climbing. You need a set of locking carabiners and a rope to rappel from. The rope is attached to the first carabiner, and the second carabiner is attached to your harness. Then, you rappel down the rope until you reach the end.

Arm Rappel
Arm rappel. Photo: PeakSurvival

The African Rappel

The African rappel is a type of arm-rappelling practiced in some parts of Africa. It uses a rope and a rappelling device to rappel down a rock face or cliff. The African rappel is an excellent choice for rappelers who want to use their body weight to descend.

It is also suitable for rappelling in terrains that aren’t very secure, such as loose rocks or dirt. The African rappel offers a descent technique in which the climber is attached to the rope with their legs instead of their arms.

This rappelling with just a rope allows for greater control and precision when negotiating tricky sections of a rappel descent. The African rappel is a great way to descend a cliff or climb a rock face when hands and footholds are few and far between, and the rope is too long to rappel down with the standard method.

African Rappel
African rapel. Photo: Wikipedia

The Dülfersitz Rappel

The Dülfersitz rappel is rappelling with just rope practiced in the Alps and other mountain regions of Europe. The climber is attached to the rope with their legs, which allows them to move freely through the air. 

This form of rappelling with just rope is typically used to descend a cliff face where there are no hands or footholds, and the climber is confident that they will be able to catch themselves if they fall. 

The Dülfersitz rappel is a great way to descend a cliff face when the other rappelling options have been exhausted, but only when the climber is confident of their ability to catch themselves if they fall. The name for the Dülfersitz rappel originates from the name of its inventor – Hans Dülfer.

Dülfersitz rapel. Photo: Wikipedia
Dülfersitz rappel. Photo: Wikipedia

Why Rappel with Just a Rope?

The primary benefit of rappelling with just a rope is that it allows the climber to descend a cliff or climb a rock face using the available equipment. This means that you don’t have to pack tons of extra gear, which saves weight and space in the backpack. 

You can also use just a rope to descend a cliff face if the other rappelling options have been exhausted. This is an excellent way to get back on the route when the other rappelling options have been exhausted.

It also protects the climber from falling while they descend the rope. This prevents the climber from getting hurt if they lose their grip and fall from the rope. 

It also makes it safer for the climber to move through the air, which gives them greater control and balance when negotiating tricky sections of a rappel descent. 

Important Safety Tips for Rappelling

If you’re rappelling for the first time, you’ll want to use a static rope or safety device to rappel with. This adds weight to your rappel rope, which helps stabilize your rappel. It also protects you and the rappel line from getting tangled. On the first rappel, use a short rappel rope and clip in at multiple points using a direct descent rappel (or “draping”).

  • Remove any unnecessary surplus weight.
  • Examine the rope to ensure that it is long, straight, and strong with no indications of strain.
  • Ensure that you are aligned with the rope.
  • Most ideal anchors for rappelling with just rope are those that are stable.
  • Use gloves to protect your skin from irritability.
  • Keep your grip on the rope.

Another important safety tip for rappelling with just a rope is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when attaching the rope to your rappel device. If the manufacturer directs you to attach the rope in a certain way, you should follow their instructions. 

The rope is a very powerful piece of equipment, and the wrong way to attach it to your rappel device can lead to severe injuries. Most rappel devices are designed to be attached with carabiners.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you rappel with a carabiner?

Yes, you can rappel with a carabiner. Carabiners are metal loops used to secure ropes. When you rappel down a rope with a carabiner, you secure the rope through the carabiner. This allows you to rappel down a rope with just the rope and your rappelling device. This is a great way to save weight when rappelling, and it’s much safer than rappelling with a rope and a carabiner.

Can you rappel on a Munter Hitch?

Yes, you can rappel on a Munter Hitch. A Munter Hitch is a great tool for rappelling, but it can be hard to learn. The hitch itself is not difficult to tie, but it can be hard to get the right tension on the rope.

The Munter Hitch provides more friction than other types of belay devices. This makes it easier for you to control your descent speed and stop you from bouncing off the wall if you are rappelling off of an uneven surface.

It also provides more friction than a figure-eight rappel device so that the rope does not slip when you are moving around on rappel devices like an ATC or Jumar.

One downside of using a Munter Hitch is that it can be difficult to untie during a rappel. If you are using a Munter Hitch and want to stop your descent, you can either stop using the Munter or undo the knot and then retie it on the other side of your body.

Concluding Words on Rappelling with Just a Rope

Remember, that rappelling could be dangerous if you are inexperienced. Rappelling 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.

The rankings on rappellingequipment.com are curated to save you time by aggregating the best reviewed products from the most reputable companies. We may receive a commission if you buy something using a link on this page.

About the author 

Jullie

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.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

DOWNLOAD

eBook: Rappelling Equipment Guide

 $ 29.99  FREE

Download our Rappel Rapport eBook: a Rappelling Guide for Beginners. It's free.