Releasable Rigging

· Education

Scenario: Your friend is on rappel when suddenly they come to a complete stop. You look down to see that a backpack strap is caught in their descending device. Let's discuss some ways to avoid and solve this scenario.

First off, don’t let your friend pull out their knife. Knives around taught ropes can cut like butter. Instead, consider making it a habit to rig releasable for your group. There are simple techniques that will allow you to lower a teammate if they become stuck on rappel.

Reasons someone might become stuck on rappel:

1. Hair, shirt, backpack strap, glove, or fingers got pulled into the descending device.

2. There is a knot in the rappel rope that the rappeler cannot untie.

3. There is a core shot in the rope making it unsafe to continue past.

4. A tangled rope at the bottom of the rappel has caused a bottom-belay.

Releasable rigging is rigging the anchor so that the rappeler can be lowered in the event of an emergency. Once you have practiced it, it takes about as much time as a carabiner block and releasable rigging and can solve all four of these problems described above. Popular techniques for releasable rigging can be done as follows:

1. Jester: Can be rigged on devices with double stitch plates such as the Rock Exotica Totem, Kong GiGi, and the Sterling ATS. This setup often feels intuitive to climbers familiar with rigging a top belay on an ATC. In our experience, this has the highest friction setting and takes a little more work to release. It must be re-rigged for the last person down, but it is quite slick because the last person can flip the rigging over and rappel right down the rope on the stitch plate. This helps to clean out twists in the rope and that helps prevent stuck ropes.

2. Compact Secure Figure-8 Block: Can be rigged on any figure-8 descender. This setup works much like a carabiner block but is releasable. It really shines in dry canyons since it is so small and can be pulled without re-rigging for the last person down.

3. Eight-Mule-Overhand (E.M.O.) Can be rigged on any Figure-8 descender. This set-up really shines in aquatic canyons where time might be of the essence. It releases the most smoothly and quickly and allows for a fast lower. It can be pulled as a block or can be re-rigged before the last person comes down. If you do pull this set-up as a block, be aware that it incorporates a bite of rope that could snag if there are branches or other obstructions in your pull line.

To learn more about releasable rigging check out the “I’d Rather Be Canyoneering” Podcast Episodes 2 and 3 where Carma and Katie will share these techniques on how to rig for rescue and quickly solve some of the most common problems. Look forward to learning about the Compact Secure Figure-8 block, the Eight-Mule-Overhand, the Totem Jester, and Joker Mickey.