How To Rappel: Rappel Climbing Techniques


Getting up is just one part of climbing. You also need to know how you can go down. To go down the ropes, you need to learn the basics of rappelling or abseiling. This is essential for your safety. It is a specialized climbing technique that requires knowledge and precision. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the basic techniques so that you will learn how to rappel. Read on and learn how you can descend smoothly and safely. 

10 Tips and Tricks on How to Rappel 

To master the best rappel climbing techniques, here are some of the things that you need to learn and do. Equipped with the right gears, including the best climbing shoes, knowledge of the techniques will help you rappel like a pro. 

1. Rigging a Rappel 

One of the first things that you need to learn is the right way of setting up the rappel. This will ensure stability, and hence, making it safe. If it has a poor foundation, it can wobble and there is a high risk that you will end up falling. 

You will need to set-up your anchor. Use locking carabiners to secure your anchor system. After securing yourself, you can now set-up the rope. Once ready, toss it down the cliff, which will prevent tangling on your way down. Make sure that everything is fixed before you start the descent. Once you have set-up the rappel, signal to the belayer that you are ready to go down. 

2. Know the Rappelling Knots 

In learning how to rappel, you also have to master the different knots that can prove to be handy when you are going down. 

Start by learning the overhand loop, which is the simplest form of all the knots you will use in rappelling. It forms a fixed loop where you can attach ropes, hooks, and clips. 

The bowline knot, which is also one of the most popular camping knots, will also come in handy. You can also do this knot with just one hand if your other hand isn’t free. 

Other knots that you need to learn in rappelling include figure-eight loop, webbing water knot, and stopper knot, among others. From securing your rappelling gear to preventing the rope from sliding down continuously, there are many benefits of learning how to do the most common types of knots. 

3. Mind Your Form 

Rappelling correctly requires the climbers to learn the right form. You need to maintain a proper posture to keep your balance. This will also lessen the chances of ending up in an injury.

You need to maintain a 90-degree position while you are sitting in the climbing harness. Outstretch your legs and push your body away from the surface. This will prevent you from rubbing on the rock as you go down.  

It is also crucial that you don’t exert too much force on your lower body. You need to be light on your feet. This will make it more effortless for you to maneuver over obstacles. 

4. Learn How to Rappel with Just a Rope 

One of the most important rappel climbing techniques to learn is how you can go down with the use of just a rope. Here, the most important consideration is the quality of the rope. Choose static over a dynamic rope. The recommended diameter is 10.5mm and the length should be approximately 200 feet. It is better to go for thicker ropes as they can handle friction. You also need to choose a suitable anchor. Boulders and trees are excellent choices. 

The South African Rappel is a popular technique when abseiling with just a rope. This requires the climber to have a rope wrapped around the body, which makes it more supportive. This will also reduce the chances that your body will be in contact with the rocks. 

5. Rappel with a Friend 

Tandem abseiling is another technique that will come in handy for anyone interested in learning how to rappel. Also called spider rappelling, you and your partner will be attached to the same piece of rope while you both descend. 

You and your partner can be both assisted by a belayer who is at the top. It can also be used by an expert rappeler to help someone who is less experienced while working on a single belay device

One of the most challenging about this technique is coordination. You need to maintain proper communication while you are heading down. You need to step at the same time and your landing needs to be coordinated. Otherwise, this can end up being frustrating. 

6. Use Your Brake Hand 

Using your brake hand properly is another important rappel climbing technique to master. This is one of the best ways to stop while you are on your way down. When you are rappelling, one of the general rules is to never let go of your brake hand. 

Your brake hand is your most important hand when you are abseiling, which is why you need to learn how to use it properly. This is your lower hand, which is the opposite of the hand that grabs the rope.  

Applying friction while you are moving down will also make the most out of your brake hand. 

Using climbing chalks can also help to maximize the effectiveness of your braking hand. This will help to keep your hand dry, which will improve friction and its stopping power. 

7. Learning the Carabiner Brake 

Aside from using your hand, braking is also possible with the use of carabiners. A carabiner brake refers to the use of interlocking carabiners with reversed gates and opposite each other. This will prevent the carabiners from opening. To do this technique correctly, it would be best to use oval carabiners. Work with different carabiners before rappelling so that you will know what works best for your needs. 

With braking carabiners, you will enjoy better friction, which can slow down the abseil. You can add more carabiners as needed. Consequently, this will also increase friction. 

8. Rappel Facing the Ground 

If you see most people descending from their climb, you will notice that they are not facing forward. With the Aussie Rappelling technique, on the other hand, you will descend while you are facing the ground. This can be quite scary for most people, especially for those who easily get dizzy with heights. 

The easiest way to do this is to finish your rig in the same way as an ordinary rappel, but the only difference is that you go facing down. You can also do this by wearing the climbing harness the other way around and brake with the opposite hand. Some harnesses are specifically designed for this type of rappelling. 

Before you try this, be wary about your loose clothing. The rope and belay devices are in irregular areas, which might increase the chances of snagging. You also need to triple-check your anchor to make sure that it is secure in its position. Most importantly, you need to have a belay to guide you. 

9. Practice the Fireman’s Belay 

The fireman’s belay is one of the essential techniques to practice if you want to learn how to rappel. This is one of the most popular safety techniques when rappelling. 

When performing the fireman’s belay, one of the most basic requirements is to have a buddy on the ground to provide the necessary assistance. This person will be holding the rope slightly above the face. If the rappeler seems to be about to fall, the job of the belayer is to pull the rope. When the rappeler does the same action on the climbing rope, this will create a strong force that will stop the rappeler from sliding. 

10. Save a Buddy with Counterbalance Abseiling 

The last rappel climbing technique we’ll talk about is the counterbalance abseiling. Like in the case of tandem rappelling, there are two people involved. However, there is only one person who is doing all the work, which makes it considerably more challenging. This is a rescue type of rappelling. Meaning, when someone becomes incapacitated, this type of rappelling will help save that person. 

The incapacitated climber will be tied to the end of the line, which will also be used as the counterweight. The other climber, on the other hand, will be doing the belay device and will assume complete control of the descent. You should be careful to make sure that the two of you are going down at the same speed. 



Is there anything else that you would like to know about rappel climbing? Allow us to answer some of your questions below. 

Q: Can you rappel on a GriGri?


Yes, you can rappel on a GriGri. A GriGri is a belaying device manufactured by Petzl, which makes it easier to ascend a rope compared to other devices. This also makes it easier to retrieve your rope and to set-up multiple pitches.

Q: How do you rappel down a wall?


To rappel down a wall, identify the place where you will start descending. Next, set up the rappel, including the anchor and the climbing rope. Check the knots, making sure that they are secure. Now, you can rappel slowly until you reach the ground.

Q: What gear is needed for rappelling?


The most important gears you will need for rappelling include climbing ropes, climbing helmets, harness, gloves, shoes, locking carabiner, anchoring materials, and climbing pants.  Before you climb, make sure that you have everything you will need to go down safely and conveniently.

Q: Is rappelling dangerous?


Yes, rappelling is dangerous. You need to trust the ropes and anchors, among other gears that you will use when going down. It is also hard to see what is below you, which makes rappelling more dangerous. For your peace of mind, it is best to work with a buddy to provide helpful instructions as you descend. 

Q: Can you rappel with a dynamic rope?


Yes, you can rappel using a dynamic rope. The bounce of a dynamic rope makes it different compared to its static counterparts. It is springy, which means that you can bounce in case you fall. Nonetheless, if you have the option to choose, it would be better to use a static rope instead.

Q: What is rappelling climbing?


Rappelling climbing refers to the portion of your climb wherein you will need to go down from the route that you have just earlier ascended. It is a dangerous activity that requires precision and the use of the right gear.

Q: Is rappelling the same as abseiling?


Rappelling is the same as abseiling. The two words are used interchangeably. In the United States, most people use the word rappelling. In most parts of Europe, on the other hand, abseiling is more popularly used to refer to the part of the climb where you go down.

Q: Is rappelling a sport?


Yes, rappelling is a sport. Most people would consider this as an adventure or extreme sport because it is dangerous. In theory, going down a climb may seem simple. In practice, however, it is a lot more complicated and riskier, making it important to learn the best rappel climbing techniques.

Q: Can you rappel with a belaying device?


Yes, you can rappel using a belaying device. Belaying devices will help you to rappel safely. From a stitch plate to GriGri, there are many belaying tools that you can use for rappelling climbing. However, you need to know how to use them properly for the highest level of success.

Q: What is the opposite of rappel?


The opposite of rappel is ascent, which means to climb. This is the act of going on the top of the route, as opposed to rappelling, which refers to the act of going down.

Globo Surf Overview 

Whether you are abseiling alone or with a belayer, there are many rappel climbing techniques that you need to learn. Take note of the tips and techniques mentioned above for you to go down like a pro. Doing the rappel properly is vital for your comfort and safety.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!