Rap Master

| June 16, 2008

If you suspect that a ski descent might require a rappel, it is a good idea to bring a small assortment of gear in case you have to set an anchor.  Trees and rock outcroppings are the best anchors if you can find them, but often times it’s necessary to whack in a piton, Stopper or cam to create a secure point to rappel from.  The amount of gear you need for setting anchors varies, but 10 or so pieces ranging from knifeblade pitons to fist sized cams will get you through, over and around almost any obstacle.

The best gear to use for anchors is your oldest and least valuable, as it will become one with the mountain.  Bring along an ice ax with a hammer on it to apply a little extra lovin’ to those tight fitting pieces and remember, your life is worth far more than a few old nuts and cams.  When it doubt, back up your rap anchor with extra pieces.

Here’s a sample rap kit:

Rap gear

1.   8mm x 30m (or thicker/longer) rope
2.   Full-length runner. Good for looping over rocks
3.   25′ of 6mm accessory cord. Can be chopped up, or used to extend anchor points.
4.   22cm ice screw. A good anchor itself, or useful for making V-Threads
5.   Pitons – these go in when nothing else will and create excellent anchors
6.   Stoppers and/or nuts. The best bang for your rappelling dollar.
7.   Cams – at times, these work when nothing else will.
8.   Carabiners – used to connect anchor points, or as the main rappel point (doubled-up)
9.   Locking ‘biner – needed for a Munter Hitch rappel
10. Harness – the simpler, the better.

Keep the rock gear organized on the full-length runner and packed in a small stuff sack so that it doesn’t shred everything inside your pack and is ready to go.  If you think you are going to rap, put your harness on before dropping in so you don’t have to do it while you’re sketched out on top of a big drop.

 Packed Rap kit

Rap Gear from Backcountry.com at 15% off:

Beal 30m Rando Rope – compact and perfect for ski mountaineering.

Petzl Attache Locking Carabiner – smooth, strong and small.

Petzl locking Biner 

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Category: 06 Downhill

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (2)

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  1. Chris says:

    Hey Andrew –

    What is your opinion on harnesses without a belay loop – specifically for ski mountaineering? I’ve heard many differing opinions, but many say it is an absolute necessity in order to avoid triaxial loading in the carabiner. However, a lot of the minimalist alpine harnesses don’t include it. What do you think?


  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Chris,
    People (including myself) have used harnesses without belay loops for many years and millions of falls without a problem. Probably one of the most popular harnesses of all times is the Bod Harness (endlessly copied), which is a “diaper seat” harness sans belay loop.

    The issue with a belay loop is that it doesn’t allow the leg loops to be dropped, which means that you have to take your skis off to put the harness on, or thread/rethread the leg loop buckles, which is a danger in itself.

    I think the chances of triaxially loading a biner on a diaper seat harness are minimal, and if you are using a locking biner, it won’t make that big a difference (although if you were using a super-light wire-gate carabiner, it would be a problem).

    My harness of choice for ski mountaineering is a stripped down Alpine Bod harness. I like it as I can put it on while wearing my skis and also drop the leg loops to pee while still being clipped in (a nice feature for glaciers).

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