Rappelling a Knotted Rope
Sometime a descent will present unexpected situations, for instance:
- a 500 foot drop when you only brought 300 foot ropes
- a 300 foot rap but you have coreshot your only 300 foot rope
A VT prusik and a FiddleStick are effective ways to overcome these issues without abandoning gear, however other techniques can also be used.
- Two ropes can be joined or a core shot isolated simply by tying a knot. However, this will require passing a knot while rappelling.
- Using a VT prusik is an effective way to pass a knot; it will work on single or double rope.
- You can pass a knot using mechanical ascenders too, however most ascenders only work with one rope (the Shunt works with 2). If rapping double strand you will still need to block the ropes above the knot while passing it
- if someone is not familiar with passing a knot you can pull up rope to the knot and have them tie below it, then you lower them as far as the upper rope allows, and they rap the rest. This way only the last person has to pass a knot.
- You MUST use special techniques in order to retrieve a knotted rope. A knotted rope will NOT pull through the anchor in the conventional way because of the knot block. You can solve the problem in many ways.
- A FiddleStick is one effective way to retrieve knotted ropes. This works with natural anchors and bolts as well. With a FiddleStick you can rappel a 400 foot drop tying together 2 x 200 foot ropes, with 2 x 200 foot ropes on the pull side, and recover them all. It also works if you have coreshots on all ropes, just isolate them with a knot.
- Long FiddleStick pulls are usually done with a lightweight pull cord, as the weight of regular ropes, past 100 feet, can cause a pre-release.
- A Virtual fiddlestick or CEM knot or other releasable knot can also be used. These methods are more complicated to tie than a FiddleStick, and potentially less reliable.
- Abandoning a carabiner can also work. Replacing the rapide with a large carabiner will allow you to pull the ropes even if there's a knot in both sides. It is best to tie the ropes with an offset overhand bend (EDK) as it travels over edges better than other knots. The knotted rope could be rapped double strand or one strand if using a big enough block (ie: a Totem), or bottom-anchoring the pull side.
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