To rappel effectively pitch after pitch, climbers need to be able to make their transition at each belay station as quickly and as safely as possible. These days, with so many routes equipped with fixed anchors, many people are rappelling routes they used to walk off from. With the right procedures, the time spent at each belay can be kept to a minimum-just a couple of minutes in most cases.
The ability to efficiently rappel pitch after pitch may save your life, in the case of an approaching thunderstorm-or at least make life more comfortable by getting you to the ground while it is still light.
For a party of two climbers who are equally proficient, rappelling from anchor to anchor, each equipped with rappel rings, the following system works very well:
1. Each climber clips to the first anchor with a sling girth-hitched to the harness and a locking carabiner.
2. One climber unties the climbing rope from the harness while the second climber prepares the extra rope for the rappel by uncoiling and stacking it (the second climber stays tied into his or her end of the climbing rope at this time-if both ends are untied at once, the rope can be accidentally dropped).
3. The first climber threads his or her end of the climbing rope through the anchor and ties it to the bottom end of the extra rope.
4. The first climber then prepares to rappel by attaching his or her device to the rope, clipping it to his or her anchor sling with a locking carabiner, and clipping in his or her autoblock backup; at the same time, the second climber unties the rope tied to his or her harness, ties figure eight knots in the bottom end of each rope-so that no one can rappel off the end of the rope-and then throws both ropes off.
5. The first climber unclips from the anchor and rappels while the second climber attaches his or her autoblock backup to the rappel ropes (the second cannot clip his or her device in yet because the rope is taut).
6. When the first climber arrives at the next anchor, he or she clips the free locking carabiner on the rappel sling into the anchor, removes his or her device and backup, and shouts “Off rappel!”
7. The second climber pulls up slack, attaches his or her device, unclips from the anchor, yells “on rappel,” and descends.
8. When the second climber arrives at the belay, he or she clips in with his or her locking carabiner and removes his or her device and backup from the rope; while the second is doing this, the first climber pulls up the rope ends, unties the backup knots, feeds the slack from the correct strand through the anchor ring (the correct strand is always the strand that is on the knot side of the anchor-you cannot pull a knot through an anchor no matter how strong you are), and ties another backup knot in it.
9. The second climber now pulls the free strand through the top anchor while the first climber feeds it through the current anchor; when the knot attaching the two ropes is reached, and sometimes before, the second rope will fall from the top anchor; when it does, the second climber should try to control it, grab it near the end, and tie a knot in the end before tossing it off for the next rappel.
10. Repeat steps 4 through 9 for each pitch.