How to Improvise a Rappelling Device With Carabiners

How to Improvise a Rappelling Device With Carabiners
You're three pitches up a long rock climb, getting ready to descend, when disaster strikes and you drop your belay/rappel device, watching it clatter to ground 400 feet below. You're stuck. How do you get down from the climb, short of calling for a helicopter rescue? If you have five to six carabiners, you can set up a carabiner brake rappel, which is what climbers used to use before belay devices became common.


Difficulty: Moderate

Setting Up

Things You’ll Need:
  • 6 carabiners
  • 4 locking carabiner
  • 4 regular carabiners.
Step 1
Take two carabiners and put them next to each other so that gates are reversed and opposed. Set this up by holding the carabiners so that the gates are in the same direction and open the same way, then flip one carabiner upside down and rotate it so its gate faces the opposite direction.
Step 2
Take a bite of rope and slide into the carabiners, in between the gate of the carabiner and the spine of the carabiner.
Step 3
Take one carabiner and clip its gate first around one side of the two carabiners, then the other, so that the rope can't be pulled back through the carabiners.
Step 4
Take another carabiner and set it with the gates opposed to the third biner, clipped around the gate and spine, so that it is next to the third biner. You should now have a bite of rope going through two carabiners and two more carabiners providing a bar to the rope sliding back out.
Step 5
Clip the first two carabiners to the rappel loop around your harness, preferably using a locking carabiner. If you don't have a locking carabiner, use two carabiners with gates reversed and opposed.

Tips & Warnings

A carabiner brake rappel works best with oval carabiners. Use them if you have them. Otherwise, use D-shaped carabiners.
An improperly setup carabiner brake rappel can be fatal. Before rappelling all the way, take two slings and girth hitch them together. Clip one to your anchor and the other to your harness and test the carabiner brake rappel to make sure the gates don't open under the load your weight puts on the rope.

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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