How to Rappel With a Pirana

How to Rappel With a Pirana
Rappelling devices come in a wide variety of styles, but the Petzl Pirana is a versatile unit that allows the descending climber to set up the device in three different configurations for different amounts of friction. This allows you to rappel with a lot of friction for slow descents, a moderate amount for standard descents or low friction for low angle rappel descents on slabs. The horns near the small end of the device also allow you to lock off and stop the descent for rescue situations.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Piranha
  • Locking carabiner
  • Harness
  • Rope
Step 1
Thread one end of the rope through the rappel anchor, grab both ends of the rope and pull through until the halfway point of the rope is reached.
Step 2
Tie the ends of the rope together, coil the rope, and throw it well out from the cliff face, yelling "ROPE" as you do to warn people at the bottom.
Step 3
Clip the Pirana to the locking carabiner, and clip the carabiner to the belay loop on the front of the climbing harness.
Step 4
Grab a bite (small loop) of rope close to the rappel anchor and slide the bite through the large hole at the front of the Pirana, then clip the rope into the carabiner and lock the carabiner. Make sure to set it up so the loop is formed to make the rope running to the ground on the side of your dominant (brake) hand.
Step 5
Pull the rope with your brake hand and hold it close to your body, then step over the edge and lower yourself, controlling your speed by pulling the rope into a closer angle to your body to slow down or allowing the rope to run more freely through your brake hand for faster descents.
Step 6
You can increase the friction for single rope rappels from fixed anchors by running the rope over one or both of the small horns at the base of the Pirana near the locking carabiner.

Tips & Warnings

Rappelling is extremely dangerous. Before committing to the rappel, make sure you have tied the ends of the rope together or that they hit the ground, so that you don't rappel off the rope and fall. Also check to make sure the rappel device is properly clipped to your harness with a locking carabiner.
Never let go of the rope with your brake hand. If you do, the rope could easily slide through the device and you would fall to your death.

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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