How To Rappel With A Figure 8

Learn how to rappel with a Figure 8, because it can be a good way out from a variety of uncomfortable situations in the mountain, or the only way into a canyon, or just a good backup plan. So, learning how to rappel with a Figure Eight is a very important activity if you´re a real outdoor enthusiast. The Figure Eight is a piece of mountaineering equipment that should be carried in every climber, skier, snowboarder, hiker, espeleologist, mountain enthusiast´s backpack. This is because it´s design is so sturdy, simple, effective, slick, small and light. And if the preceding is not enough, it is also inexpensive. Other than being light and inexpensive, the Figure Eight is also very versatile. It can make for a good belaying device, but it´s most practical function is as a rappel tool. Because of it´s shape, it can work with a very wide range of rope widths.

To rappel with a Figure Eight, you will need:

  • A Figure Eight They come in a variety of colors and brands. Some of them are lighter, close to two ounces, others a little heavier, but every Figure Eight from a renowned brand will do it´s job perfectly.
  • A harness
  • A locking carabiner  
  • A rope

  • A cliff
  • An anchor It has to be firm enough to withstand not only the nominal weight of the climber and the rope, but also the force of an eventual fall, which can be, depending on the length of the fall, up to ten or fifteen times that weight.
  • One climber (or rappeler): for rappelling with a Figure Eight, there´s no need for more than one person.
  • A rappel ring, or a couple of carabiners.

To rappel with a Figure Eight you have to:

  1. Find a good reliable anchor. If no major anchors are available, use a set of smaller anchors linked with webbing and compensated. Usually, alive trees of reasonable size make good anchors. In sites that are regularly used for climbing or caving, a set of anchors can be found. You can use them, but don´t trust old webbing. It´s preferable to use your own.
  2. Clip a rappel ring or a pair of carabiners to the anchor. If you use the carabiners, make sure you place them with their gates opposed to each other, and try to keep a constant load on the rope to prevent them from twisting and eventually opening. Locking carabiners are recommended.
  3. With the harness secured and fast, clip the Figure Eight to the belay loop. Always read and follow the harness manufacturer´s instruction, as there´s a variety of designs with their own mechanics. A Figure Eight usually has a window bigger than the other. Try the rope in the Figure Eight. If a bite goes in the bigger opening and is too lose, try it in the smaller side. If it´s too tight that will not run, use the bigger side, but if it runs smoothly use that one.
  4. Whether you will be using the big or the small opening, the other one will be linked to the carabiner and your harness. Before you do that, take a bite on the rope, and with the side of the rope fixed to the anchor on your weaker hand, make it go through the chosen opening.
  5. With the bite going in one of the windows, make it go in three inches, and then make the end of the bite go around the neck of the remaining opening, as if you were to put a scarf around it´s neck.
  6. After putting the scarf on the Figure Eight, clip the unused window in the carabiner and to your harness, and close your carabiner´s gate.
  7. Throw the coil of rope down the cliff, always making sure that the coil is on your stronger side.
  8. Test the anchor by laying back holding the downhill rope towards your back. A narrower rope angle means more friction, thus brake.
  9. Walk backwards towards the cliff, keeping a constant tension on the rope.
  10. Take short but decided steps to the vertical wall, slowly releasing rope with your strong hand as you stay on the axis with your left hand on the anchor side rope.

Have fun, be safe!

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