September 7, 2021

A Simple Guide on How to Use a Prusik in Rappelling

by Brad

When tying knots for rappelling, you only get confident if the knot you have tied will offer a tight and powerful grip in case of a fall. Rappelling prusik seems to be the best solution.

Most climbers cherish it because it’s multi-directional and easy to master. The guide below will take you through the Prusik knots and your general understanding.

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

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. 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 cord in rappelling.


Table of Contents
How to Use a Prusik

What is a Prusik in Rappelling?

A prusik in rappelling is a motion-resistant knot designed to tighten up when weighted. It functions as a secondary safety measure and rappelling back up. Tying them to your rope and attaching them to your harness will catch you in the event that you fall while rappelling. Among the different backup knots, the prusik stands out for being easy to tie yet effective. 

What is the Prusik Knot Used for Rappelling?

Prusik knots used for rappelling are friction knots that tighten up when stressed to build up friction. These knots tighten up to the degree that makes the rope restricted from passing through it.

Stopping the rope from moving consequently prevents you from falling and rids off the generated momentum. It’s rigged to be effective only when stressed. It doesn’t interfere with your rappelling. The rope will be allowed passage if you do not fall.

How to Tie a Prusik Knot when 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:

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GM CLIMBING 8mm (5/16') Prusik Sewn Eye-to-Eye Pre-Sewn 30 inch
885 Reviews
GM CLIMBING 8mm (5/16") Prusik Sewn Eye-to-Eye Pre-Sewn 30 inch
  • GM CLIMBING 30” 8mm pre-sewn eye-to-eye prusik cord is made of double braid 8mm polyester rope which features excellent abrasion-resistance, high strength and long lasting performance.
  • Supple in handling, flexible and easy to tie knots. Simple While Powerful! You could find it an amazing gear in 100 outdoor applications.
  • Where you need a Bachmann knot or a French knot, an eye-to-eye prusik cord will do it well to be a great help for you. The ends of loop / cord are sewn professionally by machine with high strength thread and tightly covered by a heat shrink plastic sheath to guarantee safety in a further consideration.

Last update on 2023-02-05 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Blue Water Static Cordelette Cord - 7mm x 20ft Red, 7mm x 20ft
174 Reviews
Blue Water Static Cordelette Cord - 7mm x 20ft Red, 7mm x 20ft
  • Less stretch and higher strength than a traditional accessory cord
  • Excellent durability with the nylon core and polyester sheath

Last update on 2023-02-05 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

However, it would be good to ensure that your locking 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.

When Should You Tie a Prusik Knot during Rappelling?

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 on your static rope for rappelling or even on 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 the equipment for rappelling, then you need to use a prusik. It could provide the proper backup that you didn’t know you needed.

How to Rig a Self-tending Prusik for Rappelling?

How to rig a self-tending prusik for rappelling is a simple process that won last for more than half an hour. You should have a 4 feet paracord or cordelette and a 24kn or above standard carabiner. The cordellete needs to be weaved into a circle that will withstand pressure. The best way to be efficacious when rigging the self-tending prusik for rappelling is by using the figure 8 passthrough. 

When all the requirements are in place, then proceed by following the steps listed below.

  1. Taking the cordelette and holding it perpendicularly to the rappelling rope. The rope should be at the cordellette loop’s center. 
  2. Pass the loop on either side of the rope. This should remove It from the center and have it placed quarter way within the circle. Now pull the cordellete’s small ending across the rope. This should be done as girth hitch tying, except the cordellete is weaved all around on the rappel rope. Repeat this entire step about four times. 
  3. Lastly, with the long end of the cordelette, weave it through the diminutive ending just as you would a girth hitch. 

Now, use the carabiner and attach the long end to the harness loop. The knot is never to clip on the leg loop as it makes rappels safe. Now that you have tied the prusik knot, ensure the cordelette is of the correct length such that it hangs loosely when rappelling but is intuitive to tightening, should you fall. 

Where Should You Tie the Knot?

There are two options when tying the prusik knot. That is placing it above or below the rappel devices. Generally, the prusik knot has to be tied below the rappel device. This approach makes the rappel device bear less weight. 

When tied above the rappel device, it will have to bear all your body weight, but when tied below, it only has to provide a little resistance as the brake hand would.

In the latter, the pressure is lessened, and so are the chances of the knot failing. Again, extra weights make it difficult to undo the knot. So, you can hang on the rappel when the prusik knot is tied above the rappel device.

How to Avoid a Prusik above Your Device?

How to avoid a prusik knot above your rappelling device follows the knot positioning choice. That is where you clip your biner from the point of the rope anchor.

To avoid having the knot above the rappel device, you must clip it above the knot. You should have the rope from the anchorage point followed by the rappel device and then the prusik knot. 

What are the Pros and Cons of a Prusik Knot? 

The pros of using a prusik in rappelling are listed below

  • Easy to tie. As previously stated, this knot is easy to master and tie. It, therefore, leaves fewer spots where you may make a mistake.
  • Multiple-directional. If used correctly, the knot may serve as a backup or an ascender.
  • The powerful catch. When the prusik is pulled, it makes an extremely tight closure, with little danger of rope slipping through. This guarantees your safety. 
Sale
GM CLIMBING 8mm (5/16') Prusik Sewn Eye-to-Eye Pre-Sewn 30 inch
885 Reviews
GM CLIMBING 8mm (5/16") Prusik Sewn Eye-to-Eye Pre-Sewn 30 inch
  • GM CLIMBING 30” 8mm pre-sewn eye-to-eye prusik cord is made of double braid 8mm polyester rope which features excellent abrasion-resistance, high strength and long lasting performance.
  • Supple in handling, flexible and easy to tie knots. Simple While Powerful! You could find it an amazing gear in 100 outdoor applications.
  • Where you need a Bachmann knot or a French knot, an eye-to-eye prusik cord will do it well to be a great help for you. The ends of loop / cord are sewn professionally by machine with high strength thread and tightly covered by a heat shrink plastic sheath to guarantee safety in a further consideration.

Last update on 2023-02-05 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

The cons of a prusik in rappelling are listed below

  • Considering how excellent it is at gripping, the prusik might be difficult to remove after it has been loaded unless it’s tied below the rappel device. 
  • The several loops you make on the first few occasions could result in the strands of ropes being entangled or crossed over one another, making it rather tricky to “stack.”
  • Rappelling with the prusik can sometimes be problematic since it tightens automatically and does not permit a smooth descent.

What are the Alternative Knots to Prusik?

There are more options than the prusik knots and the best alternative knots to prusik in rappelling are Klemheist, Auto-blocks, and Backman. Should you feel that the benefits exceed the drawbacks, or if you like to explore a few choices, consider these three alternative knots to the prusik.

Klemheist 

Klemheist knots are comparable to the prusik as they can be easily tied, but they don’t promise similar safety levels. Rather than just the collapsing rappelling rope, klemheists are tied by wrapping the ropes over the rappelling rope in a stacking pattern.

Despite being easier to make, they are not multi-directional. It won’t be efficacious to stop you during falls if you tie it upside down. 

Auto-Blocks

Although you wouldn’t girth hitch these on the ends, auto-blocks are nearly comparable to the klemheists. The knots are the simplest to tie and untie, but it has the lowest gripping power in the backup knots family.

Bachman knots 

The Bachman кnots have largely been disregarded in the climber’s world, yet they remain relevant within rescue missions.

The auto-block is fitted on a carabiner inserted and the rappel rope at the knot’s center. Though the rope’s halting force is reduced, it’s much simpler to untie, rendering it excellent for halt-and-start rappelling.

Why Should You Use a Prusik Instead of an Auto-block?

The use of a prusik knot instead of an auto-block is dictated by the strength of the knot in case of a fall. Suffice it to say, prusiks have a stronger “grip” than auto-blocks. Their only downside is that they are more difficult to reverse after weighing.

On the other hand, auto-blocks seem favorable because they provide smooth descents and can be undone with great ease by wriggling the carabiner when loaded. Prusik is the perfect backup plan as they have tighter and firmer grips during a fall. 

Again, in cases where the rappel device may get jammed into the harness loop, it can be minimized in prusiks by placing the rappel device above the knot. By doing so, you also allay the chances of the knot floating into the rappel device and making it useless. 

How to Rappel with a Prusik Cord?

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.

Should You Add Prusik to Grigri Rappelling?

No, adding a prusik to a grigri when rappelling could be more perilous. The grigri allows you to manage the braking by changing the angle of the braking rope over the lip. Thus, you pull it down and upwards.

Should a prusik be added, you won’t be able to change your brake angle with the braking stand. The lever will only control the descent velocity. Thus, you will lose control of the descent in the long run. 

Longer rappels on fuzzy 9.8 have substantial weight, which will restrain your movement in the full braking stance (where it’s possible to move with a prusik) with the cams open.

Prusiks only grips once you remove your hand off it, similar to how the grigri’s grip works. By mingling the two up, you are risking it. 

What Size Prusik Loop Should You Use for Rappelling?

If you’re using a prusik on a single rope or double, the cord’s diameter must be 60 to 80 percent of the entire rope diameter. Should you choose thinner cords, they will readily constrict around the ropes, making it harder to move freely.

If you choose an extremely thick chord, there will be insufficient friction for it to lock during use. Generally, 6-8mm cords are better with a 10mm rope, and 5mm cords are suitable for an 8mm rope. Your loop’s length must be between 1.2 and 1.5 meters.

GM CLIMBING 8mm (5/16in) VT Prusik Swen Eye-to-Eye Pre-Sewn Heat Resistant Friction Hitch Cord Kevlar & Polyester 30inch One Unit
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GM CLIMBING 8mm (5/16in) VT Prusik Swen Eye-to-Eye Pre-Sewn Heat Resistant Friction Hitch Cord Kevlar & Polyester 30inch One Unit
  • GM CLIMBING 8mm pre-sewn prusik eye-to-eye cord, made of double braid 8mm with 50% kevlar sheath which features excellent heat resistance, abrasion-resistance, high strength (Basket MBS 29kN / 6500Lbs) and long lasting performance.
  • Supple in handling, flexible and easy to tie knots. Simple While Powerful! You could find it an amazing gear in 100 outdoor applications.
  • With heat shrink tube over solidly sewn stitching part, the prusik loop is safer and better than prusik cord with knots.

Last update on 2023-02-05 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Which Carabiners are Used for Rappelling Prusik?

Rappelling prusik uses locking gate carabiners. They feature spring-tensioned gates that unlock when pressed by fingers. They are therefore simple to attach to other climbing equipment, including ropes.

The gates are generally held shut by the spring within the carabiners. Once forced open by a finger, they allow a rope and other gear to be fastened on it. 

Upon release, they snapshot again. While the gate is locked, the locking gate carabiners become tough and strong. However, when opened, they are less strong. Prusik knot users frequently utilize locking carabiners as they can bear heavy weights during falls. 

Petzl SM'D Carabiner - Versatile, Lightweight, Compact, D-Shaped Locking Carabiner for Rock and Ice Climbing - Screw-Lock
637 Reviews
Petzl SM'D Carabiner - Versatile, Lightweight, Compact, D-Shaped Locking Carabiner for Rock and Ice Climbing - Screw-Lock
  • LIGHTWEIGHT PERFORMANCE: D-shape is functional regardless of orientation, meeting multiple uses: attachment of a belay system, a pulley, or on the end of a lanyard. Light enough for mountains, durable enough for the crag.
  • ERGONOMIC: H-shaped cross-section contributes to better grip when wearing gloves. Keylock system, to avoid any involuntary snagging of the carabiner. Keeper hole allows a TIBLOC or a MICRO TRAXION to be connected to the carabiner with a cord, helping prevent accidental gear dropping.
  • SCREW-LOCK: easy-to-open system. Suitable for harsh environments where dirt, mud, or ice could cause an automatic locking system to jam. Red band provides a visual warning when the screwgate carabiner is unlocked.

Last update on 2023-02-05 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

What Prusik Length Should You Choose for Rappelling?

The prusik knots employ between 5 mm and 8 mm supplemental cord for rappelling, linked at both ends with 2 or 3 fishermen or figure-8 follow-through knots. The typical prusik length for rappelling is 1.5 meters for a small prusik, while 1.80 meters can be used for longer prusik knots. 

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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