Rap vs. Lower

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Rap vs. Lower

Postby mike_a_lafontaine » Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:59 am

I've seen a lot of conversation about rappelling vs. lowering after cleaning a route, and I honestly don't see how rappelling is more dangerous. I am not saying that I am correct, I just don't see where the point of danger is in rappelling that is not involved in lowering. So I am going to list my "cleaning checklist" and see if anyone can tell me where I'm going wrong if there is a danger that I don't see and could correct. If you save me that blunt-force trauma at the end of a 40 foot fall in the future by setting me straight, then thank you in advance!

Step 1, gear: I gear up with my ATC with a locking biner and have a two pieces of sewn nylon webbing girth-hitched to my harness with lockers on the ends of each. Each hitch is set approximately on the iliac crest so that they are symmetrical about my sagittal plane. My locker that is associated with my ATC is already set up ready for rope insertion for rappel and checked by my belayer.

Step 2, at the anchor: Once I reach the anchor, I use my webbing that is girth hitched to each side of my harness and I clip direct into the chains somewhere in a place that is not cluttering my existing anchor draws. They are clipped to different load-bearing chains. I ask my belay for slack so that I can test my directs, and once satisfied that I am on direct ( I usually have my belay then take, then give me more slack again to test my directs twice because I'm a coward) I let my belayer know that I am off him/her.

Step 3, disassembling of the anchor: At this point, I am in directly to the anchor chains, I unclip the rope from my anchor biners, tie an overhand hitch low in my rope, and clip it into one of the anchor biners. Then I untie my knot and pass the end of my rope through the rap rings. I tie another overhand knot on the end of my rope that is already through the rings and clip it into the other anchor biner. (If I were to lower at this point, I would instead have tied back in after having passed the rope through the rap rings). Once enough rope has gone through the rap rings that I don't have to worry about the opposite-side weight taking to the ground if I drop it, I unclip the end of my rope from the one anchor, leaving the knot in, then unclip the other end, taking the knot out. The rope is now through the rap rings and I lower the end until my belayer lets me know that both ends of the rope are down. I recover my anchor draws and place them on one of my back gear loops.

Step 4, setting up my rappel: I thread both ropes into my ATC and set it up as a double rope rappel. I take up slack so as to put weight on my ATC and let my girth hitches go limp so as to prove to myself I am on my ATC and not my webbing. (I do this at least twice as well, because again, I'm a coward.) I inform my belayer that I am starting the rappel and to assume fireman's position. Once convinced I am on rappel, I unclip one of my webbings and test my weight on the ATC yet again (seriously, I am a wuss). I then unclip the second and begin lowering down. Once on the ground, I stop sweating.

So I guess in my mind, the most dangerous part of this is when, while I am in direct, I untie from my knot to pass the rope through the rap rings, but I have to do this even if I am lowering, so at the very least, the most dangerous step for rapping is common to both practices. Am I wrong about this? Is there a hidden danger that I am not seeing?

Again, I'm not trying to be a smart ass, just wondering if I'm over-looking something that I might be doing wrong.
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby tbwilsonky » Thu Oct 07, 2010 11:04 am

1) go direct to chains. inspect. say "in direct".
2) tie off to self. untie figure 8.
3) retie through chains. inspect. say "back on you".
4) be lowered.

the proof is in the pudding...
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby bcombs » Thu Oct 07, 2010 11:05 am

I feel like I'm in the movie Groundhog Day. Also, I read your post in the voice of Justin Timberlake's Dick in a box...

Step 1: You cut a hole in the box...
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby tbwilsonky » Thu Oct 07, 2010 11:12 am

just for the record. i did not read the OP.
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby Shamis » Thu Oct 07, 2010 11:16 am

Rappelling a single pitch route really isn't much more dangerous then lowering. If you can see the rope hit the ground, then that aspect of danger should be completely eliminated (going off the end of the rope), and for most sport routes, you can usually see the ground. The only other thing that makes rapelling a little more dangerous is if you're trying to clean while on rappel, then you might need some kind of backup on your rappel to do it safely, although I typically just rap the rope around my leg anytime I need to do something awkward on rappel. I guess it's also possible that you screw up going over a big roof and bash your face/upper body on the roof as you go over and let go of the rope, falling to your death, but that kinda seems like Darwin's plan.

And for a vertical route, or a route that you cleaned on the way up on TR, I think rappelling should be done whenever possible to preserve wear on the anchors and your rope. Obviously you can't really rap if you need to clean a steep route while lowering though.

I think the most important thing when cleaning or lowering is to make sure your weight is fully on the rope before you unclip from the anchors. For instance, if there is a nice stance at the anchors you may be tempted to just stand there and not weight anything while making the transition, but then you're relying only on visual inspection to know if everything is gonna hold when you lean back, and I prefer to feel my weight on the rope before I unclip so I know what's going to happen when I lean back.

EDIT: after actually reading the rest of your post my only comment would be that instead of tying the rope off to the anchor, clip the bite of rope onto your harness somewhere. It's stupidly over paranoid and probably futile, but should the anchors both fail while you are cleaning, or you somehow manage to unclip yourself from the anchors, you'd fall to the last bolt instead of the ground.
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby Andrew » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:04 pm

The original post is retarded. Of course its perfectly safe if done properly, so is space travel, but lowering has less and simpler steps. Also Rapping isn't possible on steep routes. Case closed, move on.
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby brooke » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:10 pm

statistically speaking, descending is where most accidents occur in our sport. i'm not saying that one is guaranteed to have an accident while doing this, but i think it is important to keep in mind that there is the potential for catastrophic failure in the system at this point. a few arguments between the two:

when choosing to lower off, we create more friction on the anchor hardware, meaning that they will have a shorter life span and should be checked more frequently. also, when lowering, there is more potential for communication breakdown between climber and belayer. especially at busy and loud crags. for this reason, i think people should always use names when using climbing commands. for example, "chris, i am in direct."

when choosing to rap clean, there are more steps involved, which creates more potential for a mistake on the part of the climber. rappelling is the only time when you are completely reliant on the system. there is no backup if the anchor (in all unlikelihood) fails. more steps to set up the system means more potential for something to go wrong.

in my opinion, lowering is probably safer than rappelling. that said, i choose to rap when i clean for the most part because i don't want to wear rap rings and quicklinks (unless it is an overhanging climb that would be more easily cleaned on a lower). there is no right answer, and i think that is what makes ethics in climbing such an interesting discussion. in general, i try to look at every situation as a unique one that may require a specific action (lowering or rappelling). take into consideration what the ethics of the particular area are; at rumney, i would lower more frequently than rap. at the rrg, i would do the inverse.
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby jay2718 » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:22 pm

When you rap, you control your decent. When you lower, your belayer controls your decent. So I guess the answer depends on who you climb with...
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby Toad » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:42 pm

brooke wrote: rappelling is the only time when you are completely reliant on the system. there is no backup if the anchor (in all unlikelihood) fails.



How is this different from being lowered?
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby Toad » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:44 pm

When a person rappels, it just the weight of one body on the anchors. When being lowered, it's the combined weight of the belayer and climber and then some.
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby mike_a_lafontaine » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:53 pm

Andrew wrote:The original post is retarded. Of course its perfectly safe if done properly, so is space travel, but lowering has less and simpler steps. Also Rapping isn't possible on steep routes. Case closed, move on.


I apologize if, in my attempt to learn something from those more experienced than myself, that I have revealed myself mentally handicapped and inconvenienced you. I guess all those times I have set a rappel line from the anchors on routes that were not vertical most have been in my imagination as well.
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby Savage » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:55 pm

brooke wrote:statistically speaking, descending is where most accidents occur in our sport. i'm not saying that one is guaranteed to have an accident while doing this, but i think it is important to keep in mind that there is the potential for catastrophic failure in the system at this point....



Yes, most accidents happen on the decent, but keep in mind that it is not specifically talking about rappelling. The are talking about climbing in general (mountaineering, ice climbing, etc...). Most accidents happen on the decent because people are tired or rushed, usually because they pushed the limits of good weather or daylight. Not that I have ever done that.... =)
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby blakeleathers » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:57 pm

*yawn
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby Toad » Thu Oct 07, 2010 1:00 pm

Also, one might want to consider the anchor configuration before deciding to rap or lower. Lowering off of anchors that are set far apart will put kinks in one's rope for days.
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Re: Rap vs. Lower

Postby rjackson » Thu Oct 07, 2010 1:02 pm

blakeleathers wrote:*yawn


+1
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