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The Correct Way to Rappel Down a Cliff

The natural world is full of cliffs, ledges, slopes, or just steep hills. And while all you need to tackle these issues is a long enough rope, far too many people are doing it wrong. I’m talking about rappelling.

When you rappel something, you’re using a rope, attached to an anchor point, to climb up or down a surface. In action films, you’ll see SWAT teams rappelling down a skyscraper. The task is primarily used for traversing the wilderness, though. 

In practice, the act is simple: tie a rope to something sturdy and climb down the rope. While technically correct, there are two major issues with this. The first and more important issue is that if you’re not climbing down correctly, you can lose your hold, fall, and hurt yourself. The other is that you can end up having to abandon the rope if you tie it down in a way that cannot be loosened remotely.

The Correct Way to Rappel Down a Cliff

First thing’s first, you need rope. Twice as much rope as you need, actually. Keep this in mind when buying and packing rope for wilderness excursions. Got it? Good, here’s the step-by-step instructions.

  1. Choose an anchor point. This is something large, heavy, and not going to move if you put your weight on it. Sizable trees are ideal, but a rock can also suffice, as long as you know it won’t slip off. In popular hiking locations, you might even find metal loops installed into stone to act as an anchor for hobby mountain climbers.
  2. Find the middle of the rope. Wrap the rope around the anchor point until it’s reached the middle.
  3. Throw both ends off the ledge you intend to climb down. Make sure they are even, that they reach the bottom, and aren’t tangled.
  4. Position the rope along your body. Stand facing the anchor point. Stand over both ropes and lift, so they run into your crotch, essentially. Bring it around the right so that it wraps around the back of your right thigh. Lift it up and over your left shoulder, running across your chest. Hold the draped roper in your right hand. Hold the rope in front of you on the left.
  5. Slowly walk backwards, down the cliff face. Be careful not to let yourself lean back. Your weight will rest on the thigh section of the rope. Keeping a grip on the rope with both hands, feed the rope along your body, sliding down the cliff. 
  6. Once at the bottom safely, unbind yourself from the rope and pull on one of the two rope sides to free it from the anchor.

And there you go! One cliff safely and successfully traversed down, and with all of your gear still in hand. Whether you’re trapped or just adventuring, this information is sure to come in handy.

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