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Old 11-08-2015   #1
bobbuilds's Avatar
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Using a 3/8" throw rope for rappelling and portages

What are people's thoughts and experiences with rappelling with a 3/8" throw rope?

I am considering using my 3/8 rope more for steep portages this year and for better camera angles and opportunities when on the river. I do not pack a climbing rope and I'm curious what people have put their throw rope through in a season.

I feel like the throw rope is static rope and not ideal for rappels, what do people think about short rappels and using the rope for accessing hard to reach areas of the creek?

I feel like a lot of people take honest risks with throw ropes all the time I know climbing law says you should use dynamic rope for rappelling, what are people doing with their ropes and what kind of ropes are you using?

I understand some people pack a full on climbing rope, I'm interested in other ideas as well.

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Old 11-08-2015   #2
Carbondale, Colorado
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I say go for it Darwin

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Old 11-08-2015   #3
Steamboat/Missoula/Moab, Colorado/Montana/Utah
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Most throw bag lines are totally suitable for rappelling. In climbing and canyoneering, it is totally acceptable to rap on static line. Static vs. dynamic does not matter for rappelling because you are not shock loading the system if you are doing things right. Lead climbing is what requires dynamic line. Also, 3/8ths is roughly 9mm, which is pretty standard for climbing and will work with any rappel device.

However, keep in mind that the more you use a throwbag for non emergency situations, the more wear it receives, which could affect its breaking strength in high force situations such as pins and z drags.
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Old 11-08-2015   #4
Arkansas during the off-season Nomadic during the summers! :), Arkansas & Colorado
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What climbing rule says you can only rap on dynamic ropes? Been climbing 10 years and I've never heard that. Keep in mind the durability of the sheath that protects the core. How much abuse will it go thru regularly rubbing on cliff edges/rocks/trees when loaded with a big guy? Also you said for pics...are yo going to ascend the rope? Will you have a 100lb boat/gear plus your body weight?
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Old 11-08-2015   #5
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Fraser, Colorado
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Hmm. Haven't looked at the spec's for various throw ropes lately, but thinking the official answer would be no, at least partly because that is not the ropes intended use. In reality, a throw bag probly would hold you, at least if there was no shock loading the system, there might not be a very comforting safety margin though.

Another thing to keep in mind is that not all throw ropes are created equal, what material and construction makes a big diference in the ropes strength. And as already stated, what condition it is in makes a big differance, life on the river is not always the greatest for the life of a rope, sand getting in to it eats it up, and the bag does not always keep out all the U.V.'s for instance.

I have definately used my throw bag as a safety rope for my self in a few instances, but an actual section of climbing rope may be a bit safer.

If you were to use throw bag rope, comparing the strength rating to climbing rope intended for that purpose would be a good idea, also you would want kearn and mantle rope, and taking care of it like a climbing rope would be wise also.

If you get a piece of climbing rope, static should be fine as long as you won't be taking much of a fall on it (taking more then a minimal fall on static can damage internal organs). We used to use blue water 2 for most thing's on the challenge course and it was great for that, it is made for caving and is meant for that type of rough, damp, enviroment, so should be a good choice for the river.

Actual climbing rope is probly the safer idea.

Don't consider myself the final authority on ropes, but hope this helps.
And no winning darwin award's!
" I wish I were a headlight, on a North bound train..."
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Old 11-08-2015   #6
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,932
Statis is better for rappelling as it often reduces abrasion.

But "throw rope" is a generic term so you will want to specify materials. Many materials are horrible for rappelling as they melt at extremely low temperatures, including those generated by friction devices on longer rappels. The core material and construction is also of critical importance.

What does well in water and saturation isn't necessarily great for dry rappels. For example, polypropylene as a core can be great (canyoneering rope for example) but is a poor choice for a sheath like we see in many throw ropes.

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Old 11-08-2015   #7
Join Date: Aug 2014
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Phillip is correct. The problem is not whether the rope is static vs dynamic. Static rope is generally preferred over dynamic rope for rappelling-only applications where fall-shock is extremely unlikely (vs. compbined rappelling/climbing where you need dynamic for the climbing part). For example in the canyoning/canyoneering/search & rescue/fireman world, static rope is the standard.

Width also isn't an issue. 8mm/9mm is also standard in canyoning.

The problem with using throw rope to rappel on is that the rope is probably not built nor intended to be rappelled on nor tested for that application, and you can have all sorts of issues. One of the most likely would be sheath slippage or bunching. This happens when you rappel on a rope and the friction of the rappel pulls the sheath past the core leaving your rope with some serious foreskin problems. This can not only ruin your rope it can make it dangerous to rappel on since a bunched up sheath may not be able to pass through your rappel device, leaving you stuck mid-cliff as if you hit a knot. Another problem would be whether the sheath is built to withstand friction, heat and abrasion that happen in rappelling.

If rappelling was really going to be part of my regular game, I would consider buying some static canyoneering rope and cutting it to the length of my throw bag -- but there's a big caution with that-- unlike throw rope, most canyoning rope, albeit water resistant and non-absorbant, doesn't float or only floats for a few seconds. Sporting a non-floating throw rope seems like a really bad idea. The Sterling C-IV is the only one I've seen that is made for canyoneering purposes but branded to "float pretty well" Sterling Canyon C-IV Rope - 9mm | Backcountry.com I haven't tested it to know whether its floatation is similar to a throw bag rope.
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Old 11-08-2015   #8
Canon City, Colorado
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I've made fairly substantial rappels on 6mm accessory cord. It works, but be ready to apply some friction-increasing techniques. Truthfully, it's not the most comforting thing ever, but if you're prepared for it, and it's your best option, then it will work.

Bluewater 6mm cord is rated at ~1900lbf.

Some of the Spectra and Dyneema throwbags might be tempting, but they have a comparatively low melting point. Really, if you're serious about doing some real rope work, get a chunk of 8mm static line, and keep in in the back of your boat with some other tools- couple biners, rap device, slings, etc. You can keep it small.

At around 3 lb for 30m of something like the Bluewater Canyon rope plus some other hardware, I'd say it's worth me not having to worry about melting my throw rope or something like that. You could make full 100' rappels with a system like this, using the throw rope as a pull-cord.

But if I were in a position where I needed to rap on my throw rope, yeah, I'd do it.
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Old 11-08-2015   #9
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Eastern Slope, Colorado
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Hell no to the polyester rope, maybe in an emergency for the dyneema. The fact that you didn't ask about the two different types tells me you should learn more about the materials and properties of the equipment before committing your life to it.

In my opinion you need a separate rap line, purchased for - and maintained for - that purpose.
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Old 11-09-2015   #10
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Up North, Oregon
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As a boater and and climber, been putting up new multi-pitch climbing routes for more than 20 years and boating more than 20 years, get yo self some 9mm dry canyoneering static line for your boating throw line and rap line. Don't rap on a standard throw rope unless its an emergency and you don't have anything else. Static line is preferable for strict rappeling applications over dynamic line for a host of reason and also better for boating applications.

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