Backing up a Rappel Part 2: Setting up an Autoblock

As outlined in the first “Backing up a Rappel” post, Rappeling is a decievingly dangerous aspect of climbing, with rappeling accidents causing  disproportionate deaths in not only new, but experienced climbers.

One of the main ways to backup the rappel from the climber side is a friction knot. There are different ways to do this but this video from Peak Mountain guides shows one of the current best  known ways to hook up a friction knot rappel backup.

This is NOT a rappel lesson and there is no way that you should be doing a rappel without qualified instruction from a professional. This article and the video included are supplements, not replacements for qualified training.

Important notes about this method

As always, even with an autoblock backup you still need to practice basic rappelling safety:

  • Tie stopper knots (a double fisherman is the standard) in the end of the rope so you cannot rappel off them.
  • Check that both ends of the rope reach the ground! Do a visual inspection and have a partner on the ground confirm it.
  • Test your rappel system by weighting it with your body weight(or even more by jerking around) before you trust your life to it.

We recommend even if you use an autoblock backup to have a belayer on the ground give you a fireman’s belay.

Once learned, Autoblocks are simple to setup, but if you still find them a hassle, some newer belay devices such as the Mammut Smart Alpine and Climbing Technology’s Alpine Up offer built in rappel backups which can make rappelling safer yet easier. These are not always foolproof so read the instructions carefully and supplement with a fireman’s belay.

Disclaimer:  If you had trouble understanding this post or the terminology used, chances are you shouldn’t be rappelling. Please  find qualified instruction from your local rock climbing gym or guide.

Climbing is dangerous. You are responsible for your own safety. Please get advice and practice climbing techniques with professional guides or experienced, trustworthy climbers before trusting your life to something you read off the internet.

Source: Chockstone “Backing up an Abseil” ,  Traditional Mountaineering -”How do I Self-belay my rappels?”

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