Abseiling

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A time-lapse panorama of a rock climber abseiling off a climb.

Abseiling (/ˈæbsl/ or /ˈɑːpzl/; from German abseilen, meaning "to rope down"), also called rappelling, is the controlled descent down a rock face using a rope. Climbers use this technique when a cliff or slope is too steep and/or dangerous to descend without protection. Rope access technicians also use this as a method to access difficult-to-reach areas from above for various industrial applications like maintenance, construction, inspection and welding. Rescue teams are also known for using this method as a way to access injured or stranded victims.

Slang terms[edit]

Slang terms for the technique include: rapping or rap jumping (American slang), deepelling (Canadian slang), and abbing (British slang for "abseiling").

The term rappel, used extensively in the United States, is derived from the French language rappeler, to recall.

In the Alps, the term "calata" (from Italian, for descending or lowering) is used.

History[edit]

The origin of the abseil is attributed[1] to Jean Charlet-Straton, a Chamonix guide who lived from 1840–1925. Charlet originally devised the technique of the abseil method of roping down during a failed solo attempt of Petit Dru in 1876. After many attempts, some of them solo, he managed to reach the summit of the Petit Dru in 1879 in the company of two other Chamonix guides, Prosper Payot and Frédéric Folliguet, whom he hired. During that ascent, Charlet perfected the abseil.

Equipment[edit]

Application[edit]

A pararescueman rappels from a helicopter during training exercise in Iraq.

Abseiling is used in a number of applications, including:

Styles/techniques[edit]

Australian rappel demonstrated at a dam in Norway.
Rescue-style (eared) figure eight descender and rope.

Safety and ecological issues[edit]

Abseiling can be dangerous, and presents risks, especially to unsupervised or inexperienced abseilers. According to German mountaineer Pit Schubert, about 25% of climbing deaths occur during abseiling, most commonly due to failing anchors. Another frequent cause of accidents is abseiling beyond the end of the rope.[2] Backing-up the rope set-up with a friction knot (autoblock, Kleimheist, or prusik) such that the slipping of the rope is stopped even if the climber lets go of the control rope provides a measure of safety with regard to the control of the rate of descent.

Abseiling is prohibited or discouraged in some areas, due to the potential for environmental damage and/or conflict with climbers heading upwards, or the danger to people on the ground.

See also[edit]

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Roger Frison-Rocheand and Sylvain Jouty. A History of Mountain Climbing. Paris, France: Flammarion, 1996. ISBN 2-08-013622-4. 302.
  2. ^ Pit Schubert, Sicherheit und Risiko in Fels und Eis vol. I, München 2009, p.104

External links[edit]