Rappelling A guide to descend a mountain adventurously!

Rappelling: A guide to descend a mountain adventurously!

About 25 of us went on a bike expedition, to Savandurga, very close to the Indian city Bengaluru (without bear inhabitants). We were about 19 years of age then, so the journey was not tiring.

Though we were all adventure enthusiasts, we did not realize that the hiking experience was not just enough. Once we went to the place, looking at the rocks, we not only decided against getting any further, we immediately started back.

One of us saw something very new to us then. Two men who had driven their camping-car, climbed one of the rocks to the top and were trying to get down using sturdy ropes.

We had hiking boots, jackets to protect us from the cold, climbing pants, down pants, etc. the gear that this activity required was different. In fact, we had kettles for making a cup of coffee atop the cliff.


Coming back home (in a room with a modern wood-burning stove), when I searched for it using the words how I understood the activity, I realized that this was nothing but Rappelling.

What is Rappelling?

Rappelling, also known as abseiling, is the art of getting down from a cliff using one or more strong ropes attached to an anchor at the top that acts as a support to the person sliding down the rope.

There could be multiple ways to get down from the top of a mountain or a cliff. All the paths used to get down using a rope are not called rappelling. There are some criteria that differentiated rappelling from getting down using a path.

What is the difference between rappelling and abseiling?

As we have used right in the definition that both the words are the same. While in most places the word Rappelling is used, in some places, for the same activity, the term used is abseiling.

What does the rappelling activity involve?

Rappelling or abseiling is when:

  • you choose to get down the most efficient way
  • the most efficient way is always getting down vertically as that distance will be the shortest
  • you use the pre-decided gadgets like harnesses, descenders, and ropes, to name a few
  • you rely on the gears along with the technique that you have learned from an expert

Is rock climbing and rappelling the same?

Climbing up a hill is not referred to as rappelling. It is only the process of getting down that is called rappelling. As this involves fun and risk, this process of getting down in itself is an adventure sport.

Many people take an ordinary path to get on a hill while finding the vertical way just to experience rappelling. Apart from adventure enthusiasts, it is adapted by the military forces to reach out to places that are otherwise not possible to reach.

Rappelling pronunciation

If you thought you can pronounce it right, please watch the below video to see if your pronunciation matches that of how it is actually pronounced.

How is Rappelling pronounced?

Is it Repelling or Rappelling?

The right way of spelling this word is Rappelling. There are two Ps and two Ls.

It is often misspelled with the following words.

  • Repelling
  • Rapelling
  • Rappeling
  • Repeling
  • Reppeling
  • Rapeling

How do you Rappel?

Well, till now what we have learned is all about what rappelling is. Let us now dig a little further and try to understand how it is done along with the gadgets required to do the same.

Rappelling is an activity that cannot be learned by reading on the internet. It has to be experienced hands-on, on the spot by a trainer.

Rappelling Gears Explained

Before understanding how it is done, let us learn about the gears used one by one.

Static Rope

The first and foremost thing that is used is a rope. The strongest rope that we have figured out is the Static Rope. A static rope is a kind of rope that stretches minimally when placed under load, typically less than 5%.

Static Rope
Top Anchor

When you want to rappel, the ropes are passed through the top anchor making sure that you don’t fall off while you are rappelling.

Top Anchor

A harness is a rappelling gadget that fits through the waist and thighs supporting your body throughout the process of rappelling.


While the optimists contribute to the other supporting gadgets, the pessimists contribute to the gadgets that prevent damage like helmets.


While you are coming down handling the static rope it is advisable to wear a pair of gloves.

These are the ones that connect the harness to the rope. This is what directly helps you descend. There are different types of descenders based on their shapes.


These are shackles made of metals that are used to connect components in different ways.

They are measured in KN units. The more this unit the stronger the carabiner. You need to find a carabiner that is at least 25 KN for rappelling.

Belay devices

The most critical part of rappelling. Belaying is a technique used by climbers to create friction to control the speed while rappelling. Belay devices help in exactly doing this.

The figure 8
How to use a Figure-8 belay device

These belay devices are in the shape of figure 8. They have a bigger circular hole on one side and a smaller circular hole on the other side. Essentially the rope has to be inserted as shown in the image.

How to use the figure 8 belay device

A tubular-shaped belay device evolved from Sticht plate’s concept has more surface area. This supports bringing down the heat produced during belaying with sharper angles of the rope.

Tubular Belay Device

What does it mean to go rappelling?

Rappelling is a not-so-easy adventure that has to be learned through a trainer. Let us see the step-by-step procedure to better understand this adventurous experience.

  1. The first step to rappelling is to pass the two ropes through the top anchor
  2. After passing it through the top anchor, the rope has to continue to pass through the belay devices
  3. While on one side of the belay device will be the rope, on the other side the belay device will be attached to the harness
  4. You will be sitting on the harness lying back and facing the top of the mountain like you are climbing it
  5. You should slowly feed the rope through the belay device so that you will be descending the mountain slowly
  6. In addition to feeding the rope, it is also advisable to push against the rock, using your feet as if you are taking long slow jumps
  7. Once you reach the bottom, land slowly on your feet so that you don’t damage your legs

Well, this is what it means to go rappelling.

What is rappelling called in the UK?

In the UK both terms Rappelling and Abseiling are used. But, if you ask me what is the preferred word, I would suggest Abseiling.

What is rappelling down a waterfall?

Adding a little more adventure to rappelling, many people have gone ahead to select locations like waterfalls. All that we are doing on a mountain can be done in selected waterfalls starting from where the waterfalls start.

Waterfall rappelling

What is the difference between rappelling and belaying?

Rappelling is when you are descending from a cliff while belaying is when you are trying to catch someone who is attached to the same rope as yours.

Similar Posts