Rappelling With a Pirana

Rappelling With a Pirana
The Petzl Pirana is a device designed for rapid descents in caving and canyoneering. It can also be used by mountaineers and rock climbers, though its weight discourages its use by climbers. The Pirana looks like a modified figure-eight descender, with angled horns at the top and bottom that can be used in modified positions with the rope to slow the rate of descent. Its three braking positions let you choose the desired speed for your descent.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Locking carabiner
  • Climbing harness with belay loop
  • Rope
Step 1
Clip the locking carabiner through the small hole at the base of the Pirana, and clip the carabiner to the belay loop of your harness.
Step 2
Take a "bite" of rope (a small loop about 6 to 12 inches long), slip it through the large hole of the Pirana and then clip the bite to the locking carabiner. Set the bite so that your strong hand is the brake hand, meaning the end of the rope touching the ground is on the same side as the brake hand. Your brake hand is used to slow the rate of descent.
Step 3
Experiment with different positions for the rope on low-angled terrain (less than 45 degrees) to find your preferred setup. Try it in the standard position first, with the carabiner the only part holding the rope.
Step 4
Set up a slower rappel by shifting the rope around the small horn at the base of the Pirana on the anchor side of the rope.
Step 5
Slow the descent rate further by looping the rope around the big horn and then running it to your brake hand.

Tips & Warnings

Petzl recommends against using the Pirana in a straight figure-eight rappel setup.
Keep your brake hand on the rope at all times; letting go can lead to catastrophic injury.

Article Written By Candace Horgan

Candace Horgan has worked as a freelance journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Denver Post" and "Mix." Horgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and history.

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