Simul Rappel Variations
I have heard the term “simul rappel” used and misused. For this discussion I am going to use the term in reference to a system that involves two people, each relying on the weight of the other for their own security. Two strands of rope are typically hanging down the wall and each person rigs for rappel on one of the strands. There is no rigging at the top. The rope simply passes through a rappel ring (or rapide) or passes around an object such as an arch, column, etc.
Using the basic system I just described it is usually safer when the rope is passed around a rock feature that provides some amount of friction that can compensate for differences in the rappeller’s weight. However, when accidents have occurred it is usually not because one person outweighs the other. It is because one person didn’t realize (or forgot) that their weight was necessary for their partner’s safety. He/she arrived at the bottom first and released from the system, allowing their partner to drop.
Connecting the two people together with a sling will prevent one person from arriving at the bottom prematurely, but does not address the potential issue of one person losing control during the rappel and causing both people to plummet.
I have used two variations that are only a bit slower, but I consider much safer when the rope is passed through a rappel ring (rapide).
Pass the rope through the rappel ring (rapide) and tie the tail end to your partner’s harness. On your side (rope bag side) rig for lower/rappel with the rope bag clipped to your harness on your brake side. Lower your partner, making sure they understand not to untie the rope before you are standing next to them because you will be relying on their weight for your security. When they are at the bottom there is nothing for you to change. The rigging you used to lower your partner is already set for you to rappel (with the rope deploying out of the bag as you go).
2. The Ashley System
Named for my daughter, Ashley, who was the first person I did this with when she was 10 years old.
Pass the rope through the rappel ring (rapide) and tie the tail to your partner’s harness. On your partner’s side of the rappel ring rig a static block (knot or carabiner). This is only so your weight is not transferred onto your partner. I definitely outweighed Ashley when she was 10. Space the block away from your partner so they have just enough rope to position themselves comfortably. If you leave too much space they might have difficulty leaning back to be lowered. Rig for rappel/lower on your harness with the rope bag clipped to your brake side. Rappel with the rope deploying out of the bag as you go. When you are on the bottom, yell up to your partner letting him/her know you are ready to lower them.
When your partner is at the bottom be sure to untie the knot from their harness and remove the block to allow for rope retrieval.
Instructor and Adventure Travel Addict