Climbers have heard that the most dangerous part of the climb is the decent or “most accidents happen on the way down”. Rappelling is unnerving for most climbers and it is the part of our climbing day when we rely one hundred percent on our gear. There are many ways to set up a tether system for rappelling. Let’s look at a safe, efficient, and practical way to set up an easy rappel rig that does not require any special gadgets other than what you would already have with you.
Step 1. Girth hitch a double length sling to your harness going through your leg and waist belt tie in points (the very same places you would tie your rope into).
Step 2. Grab the free end of the sling and clip a locker into the loop. With your other hand pinch roughly the middle if the sling and clip that locker back to your harness belay loop.
Step 3. You should now be holding the middle of the sling with one end girth hitched to your harness and the other end clipped to your belay loop. At that middle point you are holding tie a simple overhand knot on a bite using both strands of the sling. You will end up with an overhand knot in the middle of the sling that has two loops. Clip your belay device and locking carabineer through that loop (clip through both strands).
Step 4. Rig up a rappel as you normally would. Rappel of the belay device that is clipped to the over hand knot on the sling. Use the end of the sling with the locker attached (clipped to your belay loop) has your tether to clip to multiple rappel stations on the way down.
You know have a very easy and safe rappel rig to descend with and clip into anchors on the way down.
This system offers several advantages:
You have extended your rappel device offering you more control.
You can easily set up a third hand backup (prussic or similar type friction hitch) without it getting sucked up into the belay device.
You have a tether to clip into other rappel and belay stations.
You have a redundant system when the end of the sling is clipped back into your belay loop.
Not only is this system easy to set up, it makes for a super clean and organized way to descend with multiple people, keeping the rappel stations clean and organized making for a faster and safer descent.
A few notes on safety: Keep tension on your tether as you are clipped into the anchor. Do not climb above the anchor as this can result in a short static fall with very high loads and could potentially break the sling you are attached to. If you need to be closer to the anchor for some reason, you can always clip a second locker to the overhand knot that your belay device is clipped to and use that has another shorter clip in point. Practice this technique on the ground first and make sure you understand the system before you start bailing from El Cap Spire. Always double check your system and have your partner look at it as well, have fun and be safe!