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abseiling in safety
- Introduction
- At the belay
- Abseil and next belay
- Summary
Making safe

The first step is to make safe. This is done by clipping into the belay using a screwgate carabiner which, in turn, is clipped into a daisy chain or 3m sewn sling attached to the harness using a bowline or cow hitch.

If using a sewn sling, tie two knots at about half length to create an asymmetrical loop (see photo) to which the descender is attached. The disadvantage of a symmetrical loop is that it can be difficult to clip into when loaded.

- Adjust the length of the daisychain by clipping a carabiner into the appropriate loop.

- To stop the screwgate carabiner from rotating use some tape or tie a clove hitch.

- Keep the belay as orderly as possible, especially when there are other people. Do not cross daisychains and be careful not to invert the order of leader/second.

Preparing the rope

As soon as both climbers are self-belayed, one climber unties and joins the two ends together. The other climber waits tied in while the following manoevers take place in order to avoid the ropes being dropped by mistake.

First thread one rope through the belay anchor, then tie the two ropes together. Be sure to tie the knot on the "lower" rope should the anchor point rest against the rock (as in the case of a maillon rapide (screwlink) in a bolt or ring in a sling). This stops the "upper" rope from rubbing against the rock and knot when being pulled through. Failure to do this may cause the ropes to jam and make retrieving the ropes impossible.

The ropes should be joined using a "floating" knot that flips easily over edges. The simple overhand knot is ideal (with bights longer than 30cm) as is the double overhand knot (better still as this twists less and is easier to untie).

Next prepare to throw the ropes by coiling them separately and tying a safety knot in the ends of both (double overhand knot or figure-of-eight).

Throw the ropes one at a time, holding the other at the anchor so as to stop it from being pulled through by the weight of the falling rope. Alternatively, tie a self-locking Machand knot onto the two ropes before throwing them down.

- Before rappelling remember to check which rope needs to be pulled through. If need be, clip a quickdraw from the daisychain into the rope to be pulled through to remind yourself.

- Descend with the ropes clipped to the harness when plants, spikes etc are in the line of abseil so as to avoid the ropes getting caught.


- left: the sewn sling with asymmetrical loop
- right: tying a bowline with the daisy chain: thread one end of the daisy chain through the belay loop and then into one of its loops. Thread the screwgate carabiner through this loop and pull the daisy chain through to tighten the knot.


- left: the double overhand knot recommended for tying the two ropes together.
- right: the abseil anchor in detail. Note the correct position of the knot on the "lower" rope. This stops the ropes from jamming.


left: the ropes positioned correctly on the abseil anchor.
- right: coiling the ropes. Note the safety knot placed about 40cm from the end of the rope

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