by Brad

September 7, 2021

How to Use a Prusik in Rappelling

A prusik is a friction hitch that’s often added below or above your rappel and is often used as a backup in various climbing, abseiling, and bouldering activities.

The friction knot is designed in such a way that it tightens when it’s put under stress, which allows it to act as a backup second to your main rappel. Read on and find out more information on how you could use a prusik in rappelling.

The prusik tightens around your rappel, making it impossible for any rope to pass through. In this way, the prusik acts as a backup since it holds you in place whenever pressure is applied by holding on to the rope and preventing any unwanted descent.

The prusik could also be rigged in such a way that it only tightens whenever you lose control of your rappel. This, plus other measures, ensure that you get to stay safe during your rappelling activities while simultaneously letting you proceed with regular progress.

Prusiks are some of the essential, easy-to-design knots that you’d want to learn to tie if you are out rappelling or bouldering. It allows you to experience a controlled descent, ensuring that you get to the ground safely. This article covers everything that you’ll need to know to use a prusik.

How to Use a Prusik
Prusik Cord

How to Use a Prusik in Rappelling

One significant benefit to using prusiks, apart from acting as backup to other safety measures when rappelling, is that the knot is quite simple to make. Plus, it requires minimal equipment. These are the equipment that you’ll need when tying a prusik:

  • A carabiner;

However, it would be good to ensure that your carabiner is standard and sustains at least 24Kn of static tension. On the other hand, the cordelette should also be fashioned in a circle, ensuring that the knot created isn’t likely to come undone under pressure.

NB: You could also go for a double bowline knot or a figure-eight pass-through, ensuring that the knot stays in place. Read how to tie rappelling knots, including a prusik knot.

Follow the following steps to tie the prusik knot after ensuring that the cordelette is secured in place.

  • Hold the cordelette perpendicular to the rappel line, ensuring that the rappel line goes through the middle of the cordelette’s loop;
  • Next, you’ll have to slide the cordelette’s loop to one side, ensuring that the rappel line isn’t centered still. (Roughly, have 25% of the cordelette to one side and 75% to the other);
  • Take the 25% end and pull it across the rappel line like you’re tying a girth hitch. However, instead of tying the girth hitch, wrap it around the rappel line;
  • Repeat the step three to four times;
  • Thread the long end of the cordelette through the shorter end (girth-hitch fashion) and secure the longer end to your harness loop using the carabiner. Take caution not to clip the knot to your leg loop since it may make the prusik knotless safe.
How to Use a Prusik Cord in Rappelling
Prusik Knot

When Should You Tie a Prusik Knot?

It’s always advisable that you always tie your rappels. The procedure is quite simple, and it could end up saving your life. However, not everyone will follow this advice since most will forget it or ignore it altogether.

In other instances, most people, especially those who are great and confident in their rappelling activities, may not see why prusik knots are necessary. If you are one of the rappellers mentioned above, then here are some situations where you’ll need a prusik knot.

Pumped forearms/cold hands

Such situations make it harder for you to get a decent grip of your rope or even the rocky surface. Therefore, please take extra precautions and tie a prusik knot right before you begin your journey down.

Thin or single strand rappels

Single-strand or thin rappels are notorious for burning through the climber’s hands (if they lack protective equipment), making it harder to hold on to the rope during an uncontrolled fall. Using a prusik knot in such situations is quite beneficial and could save a life or two.

Significant rock or icefall danger

If you are rock climbing in icy areas or areas with loose rocks, then there are chances that an accident may occur where ice or rock debris could knock you over, which could be fatal. The best backup safety measure that could stop an uncontrolled descent in such accident scenarios is by using a prusik.

When you require frequent stops or when your rappel requires pendulums

If you plan to rock climb in situations where you are likely to swing across different areas on the rock’s surface or make regular stops to use equipment, then you need to use a prusik. It could provide the proper backup that you didn’t know you needed.

Best Prusik Cord
Prusik Knot tied with a Prusik Cord

How to Rappel with a Prusik

There are two simple ways to go about it depending on where you place your prusik (above or below). If you place your prusik above your rappel device, then it’ll have to hold your whole weight in case your rappel device gives out.

Plus, you’ll have to adjust your weight to loosen the knot, which can be a little hard if you don’t have the appropriate knowledge.

However, if you place your prusik below the rappel device, you could easily unweight or weigh the device as required. If you lose control of the brake hand on your rappel device, then the prusik will hold your weight. You only need to pull on it, and friction will do the rest.

However, the first instinct from most individuals is to hold on to the prusik or the rope above it. This may be dangerous since it could cause you to slide down even faster.

You could attach a backup to your leg loop; however, this could be dangerous because the reaction may cause you to lose control and hung upside down completely.

Conclusion

Prusik controls are all about safety, and while rappelling can be dangerous if done minus the appropriate gear, using prusik knots could help you stay safe. Take some time to learn and practice tying prusik knots because it’s infinitely better to be safe than sorry.

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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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