Master Class: How to Rappel With a Core-Shot Rope

If you climb long enough, you will likely encounter a core shot that significantly weakens your rope. These four steps will show you how to rappel with a core-shot rope.

By Jeff Ward (AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide) | October 27th, 2016

 

The best way to deal with a core shot is to avoid it in the first place. Watch out for sharp edges and loose rock that can cut your rope. Use gear to route your rope out of harm’s way, and climb carefully through loose sections to avoid kicking off rocks. When you rappel, go gently past the lips of roofs, and don’t kick and swing around—a weighted rope is much more likely to cut than an unweighted one.Climbing ropes have gotten skinnier and lighter. This advancement in rope technology is a huge asset by lightening our loads on climbs and approaches, and making belaying and rappelling less sticky. Since I have been guiding for over 20 years, my knees and elbows really appreciate this evolution.

While there are upsides to the lighter ropes, they do come with a price. Skinny cords are usually less durable than thicker ones, making them more susceptible to damage. Indeed, if you use a skinny rope, you will likely encounter a “core shot” at some point in your climbing career. While this isn’t a big deal at your local sport-climbing crag (your day just got a little shorter), a core shot can complicate your day when you are 10 pitches off the deck.

If you have a core-shot rope and have to rappel, you can cut the rope, salvage the longest good piece and make short rappels, although on routes with fixed rap anchors you likely won’t have enough rope to get from station to station, necessitating constructing anchors of your own and leaving gear behind.

There is a better way—you don’t have to cut your rope to rappel on a core-shot rope. These four steps will show you how.

<strong>[1] IF YOU HAVE ONE ROPE,</strong><br />thread it through the rappel station as usual. Once you get to the middle of the rope, tie an overhand on a bight on the damaged side of the rope, near the rap anchor. Clip the loop of that knot to the good side of the rope. Use a locking carabiner, and lock it. This creates a closed loop on the undamaged side of the rope. If you had to cut your rope for the ascent, just tie the ropes back together using a flat overhand. The spliced side of your rope will be used for a retrieval line and does not need to be full strength.
[1] IF YOU HAVE ONE ROPE, thread it through the rappel station as usual. Once you get to the middle of the rope, tie an overhand on a bight on the damaged side of the rope, near the rap anchor. Clip the loop of that knot to the good side of the rope. Use a locking carabiner, and lock it. This creates a closed loop on the undamaged side of the rope. If you had to cut your rope for the ascent, just tie the ropes back together using a flat overhand. The spliced side of your rope will be used for a retrieval line and does not need to be full strength.
[2] IF YOU ARE RAPPELLING with two ropes, tie them together, and thread the undamaged rope through the anchor. Now, just as you would do if you only had one rope, tie an overhand on a bight on the damaged side of the rope, near the rap anchor. Clip the loop of that knot to the good side of the rope.
[3] RAPPEL ON THE UNDAMAGED side of the rope. The knot and carabiner you tied and clipped will cinch below the anchor when you weight the rope. Since there is no way the knot can pull through, you can rappel the same as you would if your rope wasn’t core shot. As always, tie a stopper knot in the end of your rappel rope—you’ll be seriously injured, or worse, if you rappel off the end.
 

<strong>[4] WHEN YOU FINISH THE RAPPEL,</strong><br />just pull on the damaged side to retrieve the rope. This system of rappelling on a “blocking knot” clipped back to the load strand also works well for rappelling with a Grigri or other single-rope rappel device. Note that this system can get hung up more often than a standard rappel, but it is still better than the option of tying out the core shot and doing a knot-pass maneuver while you are on rappel. I have used a blocking- knot rappel many times and have never gotten a rope stuck (knock on wood). If you pay attention to how your ropes are routed on the way down, you shouldn’t have a problem.
[4] WHEN YOU FINISH THE RAPPEL, just pull on the damaged side to retrieve the rope. This system of rappelling on a “blocking knot” clipped back to the load strand also works well for rappelling with a Grigri or other single-rope rappel device. Note that this system can get hung up more often than a standard rappel, but it is still better than the option of tying out the core shot and doing a knot-pass maneuver while you are on rappel. I have used a blocking- knot rappel many times and have never gotten a rope stuck (knock on wood). If you pay attention to how your ropes are routed on the way down, you shouldn’t have a problem.
 

Dealing with a damaged rope on the ascent is straightforward. Cut the rope at the damaged portion, and climb on the longest side. You may need to shorten your pitches, but other than that you can proceed as normal.

 If you are roped up and not placing gear, i.e. you are on a glacier, low-angle snowslope or ridge, you can tie out the core-shot as shown, or with an Alpine butterfly, and keep your rope intact.

To rappel, though, tying out the core shot presents a problem: The knot won’t pass through your rap device. Then, use the “blocking-knot” technique described above.

 


ILLUSTRATIONS BY SAMANTHA ZIMMERMAN.


Jeff Ward is an IFMGA-licensed and AMGA-certified Alpine, Ski and Rock Guide. He grew up in the Northwest and is co-owner of North Cascades Mountain Guides (www.ncmountainguides.com) based in Mazama. Ward is a lead instructor for the American Mountain Guides Association and serves on their technical committee.


Got a question about climbing? Submit your question to Gear Guy at rockandicegearguy@gmail.com


 

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