How To Go Faster And Lighter: Single-Strand Descents

Using and sharing an assisted-braking belay device is a great way to increase safety and efficiency on multi-pitch routes. It does present a challenge, however, when rappelling. Luckily, this challenge is easy to overcome.

By simply pre-rigging your ATC on the rappel ropes, thereby blocking the ropes from slipping, you can rig and rappel with a Gri-Gri as usual on a single, fat strand. This system has the added benefit of allowing both partners to double check the set up. Using a rappel extension, like the PAS may be more comfortable for the second person whenever pre-rigging rappels.

Another quick and easy technique for allowing single-strand descent is to simply clove-hitch the fat rope to the anchor master point. This system has the added benefit of allowing the first person to start rappelling while the second person is performing other tasks—this technique can be extremely fast and efficient. One caveat is that the second person MUST remember to undo the clove-hitch, or say goodbye to speed and say hello to jugging back up the rope!

If you’re using a tag-line or pull-cord, you’ll have to use the Reepschnur method. The Reepschnur is essentially a girth-hitch, and jams against the anchor to keep the fat rope from slipping, thus allowing safe single-strand descent. As with all new techniques, especially those used to save time, be sure to practice and become familiar with all aspects and subtleties involved before deploying on route.

Check out more about sharing a belay device here.