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Do you use an autoblock?

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Do you use an autoblock?

Postby d_baker » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:25 pm

I've experimented with an autoblock, but I don't use it much. I carry a cord w/locking biner on my leg loop in case I want it, but most times I don't use it.
Plus, the length I have works fine without the need to extend my device.
And I'm quite sure it won't jam in my device.

So...
Do you use an autoblock on rappels?
If so, do you find it necessary to extend your device?
Pro's & con's of extending/not extending?

Just curious of what other climbers do, both how and why.

Thanks...

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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby schrund » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:36 pm

Do you use an autoblock on rappels? Yes (maybe not on short ones with PG consequences)

If so, do you find it necessary to extend your device? No

Pro's & con's of extending/not extending? The main thing that occurs to me is ease of escaping the repel in the event that becomes neccesary. An extended device could be harder to escape depending on how "extended" it was.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby Brian C » Sat Jan 23, 2010 7:35 pm

I've always used a prusik and it works fine for me. I'll always backup (and sometimes extend) if I'm using my 8mm rope just because it can be easier to get away from you than with a thicker rope. I'll skip the backup and extend the device if the rappel is cake though.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby BaronVonBergschrund » Sat Jan 23, 2010 8:59 pm

d_baker wrote:I've experimented with an autoblock, but I don't use it much. I carry a cord w/locking biner on my leg loop in case I want it, but most times I don't use it. Plus, the length I have works fine without the need to extend my device. And I'm quite sure it won't jam in my device.

Carry a standard prusik loop (about as long as your forearm) on a regular carabiner instead. The standard prusik length is better for ascending or escaping the belay, and you can quickly shorten it simply by tying an overhand knot in the loop to make it smaller. More versatile and you are not carrying much extra weight. Use a regular carabiner instead of a locker. You will be using this as a backup system anyway and it is quicker to clip into and clip out of a standard carabiner when doing multipitch rappels. The extra safety of a locking carabiner just is not needed in this case.

d_baker wrote:Do you use an autoblock on rappels?
If so, do you find it necessary to extend your device?
Pro's & con's of extending/not extending?

Yes, I use an autoblock on rappels, unless the rappel is clean and I can visually see the ends of the rope on the ground. An autoblock backup allows you to fix a tangled rope easily and gives you the extra margin of safety during the most dangerous part of climbing - the descent.

I do not extend my belay device. The pros of extending:

* more control over the brake strands of the rope because your hands can be more directly in front of you
* less chance of the autoblock backup tangling into your device
* less chance of a shirt tangling your device
* multiple people can be set up to rappel in series and still be comfortable (great for n00bs)
* if using a PAS or Chain Reactor the rappel device connection can be made redundant (clip the end back into your harness)

The cons of extending:

* more chance your hair will get caught in your device
* more cluster around your belay loop, one more thing to check before descending
* cannot easily take in slack if you are on a ledge and walking back up
* cannot easily change into an ascending system with a prusik while on rappel

The last two are my main reasons for not extending. If I want to go back up the rope or take in some slack, it is much more difficult when the rappel device is extended on a sling. If you are taking a beginner out who has rappelled before but is still shaky on rappel it is a great idea to set them up on the rappel first with an extended rappel device, and then rappel off their brake side first. Once you are down all the beginner has to do is start the rappel, and you can control their descent by tensioning the brake side if needed.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby Moboy56 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:29 pm

once again the Baron explains the why's and how's of climbing. truly a wizzard! =D>
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby Daniel Trugman » Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:34 am

I don't use an autoblock. I don't know many people that do, but maybe it's only my climbing buddies that aren't big on autoblocks.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby SandstoneSmitty » Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:39 am

Just learned about 'AutoBlock' last fall when I completed a climbing instructor course. I am a long time climber (Old Dude!). Have done many free rappels. I am still not a great fan of autoblock!
.
Reflecting back I can remember when 'Mary's Crack' ate my rope at E-Rock. Lucky for me I had some Pro to tie myself off to come out of the ATC from a double rope to a single rope rappel. Still thinking about it, the autoblock would have hampered the situation. I digress....
.
I have found to tie the autoblock onto the lower leg loop of your harness. This will keep your lower hand down so you can use your butt to lock off and the cord away from you ATC. My 2 cents....
Last edited by SandstoneSmitty on Tue Jan 26, 2010 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby d_baker » Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:59 am

Thanks for the feedback everyone.

Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby its_not_a_tuba » Mon Jan 25, 2010 1:47 pm

I nearly always use an autoblock - the margin of safety it adds vs. time to set up is a no brainer to me. Consider where it will save your life:

If you let go of the rope because you are stupid
If you let go of the rope because you are startled (i.e. you step into a bee hive while on rappel)
If you let go of the rope because you are incapacitated (i.e. a rock falls on your head mid rappel)
If you accidentally only get one of the two ropes through the belay device and clipped into the biner before the rappel. (very common occurrence according to Accidents, and deadly without backup)
Improved safety margin from rapping off the end of the rope provided you have tied your knots. (it is easier for a know to go through a device than an autoblock)

That said there is the question of which type of auto-block to use, to my knowledge there are three common variations:

1) Prusik above the belay device attached to load loop.
2) Prusik below the belay device attached to rear gear loop.
3) Autoblock below the belay device attached to leg loop.

You don't have to worry about #1 getting jammed in the device, but I never use it because if you set it you can't release it without getting your weight off the rope. This is a good setup however if you plan on ascending the rope after the rappel.

#2 is easy to keep out of the device, just clip it to a gear loop on the back of your harness. You can use a longer cord and tie a knot as mentioned by the Baron. The draw back here is that it takes time to set up.

#3 is my, and most others' (that I know) preferred choice. It is quick to set up and easy to control. Many guides show both ends of the cord being attached to the biner. I usually girth one end to a leg loop before I get near the rappel edge to avoid dropping the thing as I set it up and clip the second end into the biner. This has the added benefit of taking in some length.

That's my $.02.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby Doug Shaw » Mon Jan 25, 2010 2:26 pm

its_not_a_tuba wrote:1) Prusik above the belay device attached to load loop.
...
You don't have to worry about #1 getting jammed in the device, but I never use it because if you set it you can't release it without getting your weight off the rope. This is a good setup however if you plan on ascending the rope after the rappel.


Pull your foot up, wrap the rope around your foot three or four times, stand up on it. Load is now on your foot, unlock the prussik.

There are other notable limitations to an above-the-device prussik as well. It's both easier to lock up than a below-the-brake autoblock (if you don't keep your hand sliding steadily at the same rate as your rappel, oops!), and easier to KEEP from locking up - if you make the mistake of grabbing the prussik in your hand and deathgrip it if you fall there's a risk it won't lock. I've seen someone who once had a very fast rappel because of this latter scenario; he was fortunate to walk away without any significant injuries.

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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby BaronVonBergschrund » Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:01 pm

its_not_a_tuba wrote:3) Autoblock below the belay device attached to leg loop.
...
#3 is my, and most others' (that I know) preferred choice. It is quick to set up and easy to control. Many guides show both ends of the cord being attached to the biner. I usually girth one end to a leg loop before I get near the rappel edge to avoid dropping the thing as I set it up and clip the second end into the biner. This has the added benefit of taking in some length.

This is the widely preferred and taught rappel backup method and also the one that I use. Girth hitching the cord through a leg loop is also a valid way of attaching it to your harness, remember that a simple overhand knot does a great job of shortening a loop of cord (or sling) if you find the cord is too long. Your reasons for backing up your rappel are also very good.

I suspect that people who do not use an autoblock or rappel backup have never rappelled on skinny cords, never rappelled with another person or never rappelled with a haulbag. Probably sport climbers, now that I think about it.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby AzScott » Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:30 pm

I usually have one with me while rappelling - in order to get through the AMC outdoor climbing classes, you have to learn how to use them and why to use them, so I just got in the early habit.

While I was doing a volunteer project cleaning up trash beneath some Grand Canyon overlooks, it was handy for stopping at ledges to collect garbage (coins, mainly), and also for stopping in mid-rappel to take pictures. That's about it, though. I suppose it's a matter of personal comfort.

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