Canyoneering Question

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Canyoneering Question

Postby Scott McCrea » Mar 18, 2012 9:01 pm

So, we were doing a vertical training session at the local quarry this weekend. A canyoneering guide service showed up after lunch to teach clients rope work. They hiked to the top and lowered a rope. The rope stopped 20' off the bottom and did not have a knot in the end. I said to myself, this could be bad, but surely they know what they are doing. Then a client backed over the edge. We yelled up that the rope was short and unknotted. The guide responded, "I know. No worries." :yikes:

Turns out they lowered rope as the client was rappelling. I approached the guide later and apologized for the ruckus we raised—we were just concerned. He said the knotless rope was standard practice, incase the drop ended in a pool, they could just rap off the end. And, it is standard procedure to lower someone down a pitch to set the proper rope length because canyoneers can rarely see the bottom of drops. I said, "Oh. Ok..."

I have never done any canyoneering. Is knotless ropes standard procedure?
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Re: Canyoneering Question

Postby Chads93GT » Mar 18, 2012 9:35 pm

Ive been told the same thing. the last thing you want to do is rappel into a deep pool of water, weighted with gear, tangled in rope and you cant get away. they do rap right off the end so they can swim freely.
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Re: Canyoneering Question

Postby Scott McCrea » Mar 19, 2012 7:25 am

Yes, I agree that if a rope ends in the water, there should be no knot. But, when you are lowering a rope or rappelling down the first time, I think it is foolish to go knotless. You can always stop before the water and untie the knot.
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Re: Canyoneering Question

Postby Chads93GT » Mar 19, 2012 8:24 am

I agree, that part does sound kind of dumb, afterall, if you slip and go into an out of control rappel, at least the knot at the bottom "may" save you from goin splay.
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Re: Canyoneering Question

Postby caverdan » Mar 19, 2012 10:00 am

Apples and oranges is what it is when comparing canyoneering with caving. They do a lot of things cavers would not do underground. Things like filling a bag full of dirt, then repelling off it and pull it down behind you. :yikes: The devises they repel on might not give them the option to stop and lock off the rope easily to untie a knot in the end. Check out Bogley.com if you want to find out more about canyoneering.
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Re: Canyoneering Question

Postby Anonymous_Coward » Mar 19, 2012 10:23 am

I think I can help with this one.

First of all, I am not some kind of expert canyoneer guy. I am just a caver that goes canyoneering quite a bit.

The answer is yes and no. Yes, it is standard practice to leave the rope unknotted. This is a safety consideration for rappelling into water. It avoids the dreaded "floating disconnect" which can and has been fatal, especially in whitewater. No knot also greatly increases efficiency on dry bottom rappels, especially with large groups. Pulling the rope through your rappel device (once on the ground) is faster than disconnecting for anyone, regardless of what device you use. Multiply that by 6-8 people, plus rigging, pull-down, and rope stuffing for each drop X 15 rappels + racing approaching T-storms and you start to get the idea.

However, we do not usually lower people with the method that you described seeing at the quarry. Our normal mode at the top of the drop is to first see if you can see the bottom.

If you can, you lower enough rope down to touch the bottom, (rock, sand, or water) and then run the rope back up about 3 feet to account for rope stretch. We then set a carabiner block at the anchor. If you do this right, when your feet touch bottom, the rope pulls right through your rappel device. In water, as soon as your body is in the water, the rope pulls through. If the pool has been safety checked for obstacles, then the rope can be set even higher for cannonball action, but I digress.

If you cannot see the bottom of the rappel, then someone must be lowered to set the rope length. This requires either a contingency eight block or a munter mule at the anchor. We attach the lower-ee directly to the bottom of the rope with a munter-mule hitch on their D-ring or carabiner. The brake end of this is held together against the rope by the lowered person. When you are lowered to within 5 feet of the bottom, you can pull the "rip cord" on the munter-mule, the munter starts moving, and you come right off the end of the rope with your feet on the ground or with you treading water. It is a pretty slick system when done correctly.

This all takes practice of course, and trust in your partners.

The way you saw demonstrated at the quarry we would only do if we THOUGHT we had the rope length set correctly, but then the first rappeller tells you that you were sadly mistaken. This guy would need to be lowered until the rope touches bottom, or if a carabiner (not able to lower) block was set, this guy would need to ascend back to the top. This is one reason why we always wear our up gear, even though many canyoneers out there do not.
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Re: Canyoneering Question

Postby Scott McCrea » Mar 19, 2012 10:45 am

So, it seems the idea is to always end up with the perfect rope length so everyone, even the first down, can rap off the end. Makes sense. Reasonable. Speedy. Safe.

I guess I'm just going to have to come out there and try this crazy slot stuff for myself.
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Re: Canyoneering Question

Postby Anonymous_Coward » Mar 19, 2012 1:08 pm

Scott McCrea wrote:So, it seems the idea is to always end up with the perfect rope length so everyone, even the first down, can rap off the end. Makes sense. Reasonable. Speedy. Safe.


Correct. Another bonus to setting the rope length is so you only have to stuff twice the length of the rappel back into the rope bag instead of the whole rope, therefore saving time again. You become a believer in this when your rope is 210' long and the drop is 25' long.

Scott McCrea wrote:I guess I'm just going to have to come out there and try this crazy slot stuff for myself.


Correct again.
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