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Why should you extend your rappel device?

Updated: Apr 19

When you are learning how to rappel, there are a number of ways to set up your rappel device, but the best practice is to extend the device away from your harness and use a friction hitch backup. Before we look at a couple of ways to create an extension, let's look at why this is considered best practice for guides and recreational climbers.

Extending your device has a couple of advantages:

1. It keeps your rappel device separated from your friction hitch backup. If your rap device comes into contact with your friction hitch, it can cause that hitch to slip and cease functionality.

2. By connecting your rap device to a sling, it frees up your belay loop for your friction hitch backup. As mentioned above this separation is an important factor in its functionality, it also has the additional benefit of attaching your backup system to the strongest point on your harness, your belay loop.

3. You can test that your rappel system is connected properly and that your friction hitch backup is engaged before unclipping from the anchor.

4. In a multi-pitch context, an extension allows you to pre-rig multiple people on rappel, which will not only speed up transitions at the belays but also allow partners to double-check one another.

Here's a great tech video produced by the AMGA Instructor Team members highlighting a couple of ways to create a rappel extension.

Now that you've seen a few ways to rig up a rappel extension, let's look at how it's used in practice in this next video. You'll see AMGA Instructor Team Member Jeff Ward already has a rappel extension created with a 48" nylon sling, then he adds his friction hitch backup (autoblock) to both strands of the rope, lastly he loads his rappel device. This order of operations is best practice in addition to having stopper knots tied at the ends of the rope so that in the event both ends don't reach the ground, the climber doesn't accidentally rappel off the end of their rope.

Equipment you'll need:

-Climbing harness

-Tube-style belay device with a pear-shaped locking carabiner

-48" nylon sling, or a PAS or other lanyard like the Petzl Connect)

-Friction hitch cord (Sterling Hollowblock is best, or a 13" loop of 6mm nylon cord or with a small locking carabiner.

-1 extra locking carabiner

If you're new to climbing and want to learn how to rappel, have a look and let us know your thoughts and comments!

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