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Do you use an autoblock?

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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby Andy » Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:08 pm

If a rappel is near vertical then I always use an autoblock (using the same method the Baron describes / its_not_a_tuba's #3). I'm terrified of rappelling and this gives me a lot more control and a sense of safety. If a rappel is vertical or overhanging then I also usually stick a couple of carabiners through my belay device to add extra friction and slow the rappel down that much more.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby cheeseburglar » Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:35 pm

I don't use one when sport climbing.
And I have never called it an autoblock. I call it the GRB (Guides Rappel Backup).
I'm not going to change my lingo. I think GRB sounds better.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby BaronVonBergschrund » Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:58 pm

cheeseburglar wrote:And I have never called it an autoblock. I call it the GRB (Guides Rappel Backup).

The hitch commonly used to back up a rappel below the device is an autoblock hitch. The system may be referred to as a rappel backup, but the knot is what most people refer to. The autoblock hitch is rarely used outside of a rappel backup, hence the common reference to an autoblock as a system for backing up a rappel.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby Doug Shaw » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:11 pm

cheeseburglar wrote:I'm not going to change my lingo. I think GRB sounds better.


And it probably makes for some right funny moments when your astronomer climbing buddy keeps wondering why the hell you're always on about gamma-ray bursts.

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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby d_baker » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:11 pm

its_not_a_tuba wrote:1) Prusik above the belay device attached to load loop.
2) Prusik below the belay device attached to rear gear loop.

I've seen #1 and it didn't turn out well. Rappeller did not manage knot well during the rappel, consequently it locked up and she could not unwait the rope to unlock it. I came onto the scene after a "rescue" was in place. No one was hurt. Good learning lesson.

In #2, I wouldn't clip the prusik into a gear loop since it should be able to hold my weight.

its_not_a_tuba wrote:3) Autoblock below the belay device attached to leg loop.

I like option #3, and people I know that use an autoblock do that. When I've used one, I use a keimheist (sp?) and clip it back into a biner.

I'm not against using them at all, I prefer to use it in situational circumstances.
I don't do a lot of multi-pitch rappels (not sure I ever have), so typically only one rappel, so I'm comfortable with the risks I'm taking without an autoblock.
Too risky? Maybe for some, but I don't think so.

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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby BaronVonBergschrund » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:33 pm

d_baker wrote:I don't do a lot of multi-pitch rappels (not sure I ever have), so typically only one rappel, so I'm comfortable with the risks I'm taking without an autoblock.
Too risky? Maybe for some, but I don't think so.

Typically only one rappel = sport climbing?

Almost all rappel accidents described in ANAM could be avoided by doing 2 simple things: knotting the ends of the rope and using a rappel backup system as described above. The time and effort it takes to do these two things is insignificant when looking at the consequences. There is no disadvantage to a rappel backup other than the effort it takes to do it. The potential disadvantage to knotting the ends of the rope is possibly getting the rope stuck. Rappelling off the end of the rope is a much bigger risk and one with more immediate consequences.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby d_baker » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:52 pm

BaronVonBergschrund wrote:Typically only one rappel = sport climbing?

Yes, guilty.
At least most of the time.

The autoblock is a habit I haven't gotten myself into, yet. That's all.
I knot the ends of my rope though! ;-)

Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby its_not_a_tuba » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:53 pm

d_baker wrote:I've seen #1 and it didn't turn out well. Rappeller did not manage knot well during the rappel, consequently it locked up and she could not unwait the rope to unlock it. I came onto the scene after a "rescue" was in place. No one was hurt. Good learning lesson.


This method should not be used by anyone who does not know how to ascend the rope, for exactly this reason

d_baker wrote:In #2, I wouldn't clip the prusik into a gear loop since it should be able to hold my weight.


I understand your thought on this and it is a common concern. The reality is that the force applied to the attachment point is very low, provided that the backup is below the device. Gear loops on any but the flimsiest of harnesses work fine.

d_baker wrote:I don't do a lot of multi-pitch rappels (not sure I ever have), so typically only one rappel, so I'm comfortable with the risks I'm taking without an autoblock.
Too risky? Maybe for some, but I don't think so.


I never understood this thinking. If you are rappelling more than 20' or so you are entering into a bet where the result of a mistake could be your life. Why would you not take 30 seconds to drastically improve your odds? Furthermore, the number of "pitches" doesn't apply - the result will be the same if you crater off of a 50 ft cliff or a 1500 ft cliff, at least as far as you are concerned. The recovery crews out there will disagree with me I know.
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby d_baker » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:00 pm

Good points tuba, in particular to your last comment. Like I said though, it's a habit I haven't gotten into yet, for whatever reason.

Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby its_not_a_tuba » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:31 pm

d_baker wrote:Good points tuba, in particular to your last comment. Like I said though, it's a habit I haven't gotten into yet, for whatever reason.
I understand. I can sit here and pontificate about the advantages of what climbers should do all day long. Truth is that when we are cold, tired and ready for a beer it is hard to take that extra moment before stepping off. I have been guilty of rushing off more than once without an autoblock, but the older I get the harder I try to take those seconds!
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby fletchersteel » Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:29 pm

You guys have enlighted me on autoblocks. I grew up doing ropes courses and short one pitch climbs, and I never considered an autoblock, until now. Here's a link to a decent write up about them: http://alpineinstitute.blogspot.com/2009/07/rappel-rope-climbing-trick.html
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Re: Do you use an autoblock?

Postby BaronVonBergschrund » Mon Jan 25, 2010 10:07 pm

Another site with a few good techniques is this one by Eli Helmuth.
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