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Rappel Device Extension

Contributed by Adolfo Isassi

When not to use a rappel extension

It seems that this is one of the aspects of canyoneering that is surrounded by mystery, misconceptions and sometimes, misuse.

WHAT ARE SOME GOOD REASONS TO EXTEND YOUR RAPPEL DEVICE?
  • Get more friction out of the rappel device. By extending it, the rope leaves some rappel devices at a sharper angle (noticeably ATCs), thus creating more friction.
  • Make room for a self-belay prusik below the rappel device
  • Make more room to turn sideways to look down at the rappel line. Very useful to going down waterfalls with heavy flow.
  • Tandem rappels
  • Pick Off rescues

WHAT ARE SOME BAD REASONS TO EXTEND YOUR RAPPEL DEVICE?
  • Overhangs. Some people think that extending the rappel device will prevent the tendency to turn upside-down on long rappels with overhangs. It does not. Turning upside-down is caused by your center of gravity being above the attachment point of the rope to your harness. You can modify the center of gravity by hanging your pack. You can modify the attachment point by adding a chest harness.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE POTENTIAL PROBLEMS OF EXTENDING YOUR RAPPEL DEVICE?
  • Getting stuck on edges where the rope makes contact with the rock
  • Your extension making contact with the rope while rappelling. If the rope rubs on your extension, it can quickly damage it and cut it. Nylon and especially Dyneema is susceptible to this. If you can, use Technora extensions that are heat resistant.
  • Try not to extend your rappel device beyond your reach. This will make self-rescue maneuvers unnecessarily difficult. 
 

In this photo, you can clearly see what can happen if you rappel this edge with an extension: You will get stuck.

(photo credit: Jeff Watkins)

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