Makeshift Descenders

08 December 2008

Makeshift Descenders

Category: Descent

Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2021).

There may come a time when you are forced to descend without a proper descender, most probably due to its loss. Here are a few ideas how to do this.

The Italian hitch

Although simple and easy, this technique is best avoided if at all possible as on multiple abseils it introduces too many twists into the ropes and therefore should only be used as a last resort.

Karabiner break

For multiple abseils a more rope friendly option is the classic karabiner break, as this causes the least amount of twisting of any descender, and is one of the most adjustable when it comes to friction. Care must be taken when setting up that gates are apposed and that the rope can not escape from the set up. One major flaw with the standard break is that once the ropes are removed the whole matrix of karabiners falls apart, often leading to them being dropped. Therefore on multiple abseils it is worth attaching both pairs of karabiners with a wire nut or extender, which can in turn be used to attach all four karabiners to the attachment screwgate. If more friction is required, say when abseiling with a large load, then add a ‘cross bar’ third karabiner, and friction can be further increased by adding a karabiner so as to introduce a further angle through which the rope must pass.



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Andy Kirkpatrick
Andy Kirkpatrick

Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.

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