In an ideal situation, rappelling is a calculated, well-secured activity that comes at the end of a successful climb. Such a situation should not only be safe, it should be fun. But sometimes, rappelling isn’t just the final ride at the end of a day of climbing. Sometimes, it’s a survival strategy necessary to help you get out of a tricky situation. Knowing how to rappel when all you have is a rope is a vital skill for those who explore the backcountry, or for any climber who might end up at the top of a cliff without an established route down. With a strong rope and a sturdy anchor, rappelling on the fly can be readily accomplished. Sometimes referred to as the “expedient rappel,” here’s how to do it.
1: Choose an anchor. Loop the center of your rope around a healthy, deep-rooted tree or a solid rock or boulder.
2: Throw both ends of the rope over the cliff. Make sure they reach the bottom and are not tangled.
3: Face uphill and straddle the double rope. Pull the rope around your right thigh and lead it diagonally across your chest. Thread the rope over your left shoulder and across your back to your right hip.
4: Hold the rope in front of you with your left hand and the rope behind you with your right. Lean back against the rope as you walk backward over the cliff.
5: Step backwards down the cliff as you feed the rope over your body until you reach the ground.
6: When you’re safely at the bottom, pull one end of the rope to retrieve it from the anchor.