Karabiner brake (karabiner cross)
The fixed ropes at high mountains, especially in the countries of the former Soviet Union, are often fixed so tightly that the western mountaineer cannot use his figure of eight for rappelling. As an alternative to "classical" rappelling there are three alternatives:
The author declines any responsibility for the techniques shown here. Who wants to be up-to-date about alpine technique should attend courses e.g. of alpine clubs.
Rappelling with half clove hitch (HMS)
Especially if the rope is tightly fixed, you soon notice that this knot strongly introduces torque into the rope. If you don't notice that, at the end you'll find yourself in a very tight mess of rope which is hard to get out again.
Works like this: Stand with your back to the rope, thrash both your arms backward around the rope and then keep the rope with both your hands. If you now move sideways along the rope, the rope's friction at the arms leads to an efficient braking effect.
By changing the angle of the arms, one can change the deceleration. Of course, one should have thick clothing for not damaging or injuring by the rope friction. Normally, at reasonable speed there is no damage.
Attention - you are not really secured since it is only your arms that hold you to the rope. Therefore this is only good for uncritical pitches.
Karabiner brake (biner cross)
Besides your normal karabiner that connects you to the rope (this is always a screwable biner), you need another screwable biner. The fixed rope is put through both biners such that a braking effect is reached.
Attention: The braking effect is not as good as with half clove hitch or figure of eight. You should never use the karabiner brake for perpendicular or overhanging pitches.
The following sketches show the usual biner attached to your harness in black, the additional biner in blue, and the fixed rope in red. The black biner is never opened throughout all the action. The brake is removed by opening the blue biner.
Black biner is put over the fixed rope.
Pull a sling through the biner.
Put the second biner into this sling.
Now put the second ("blue") biner into the fixed rope again, above.
A little idealized, the result looks like this. By the forces acting, the two biners will move and rotate; therefore it is adviseable to use screwable biners.
As for all alpine techniques: Try until it works automatically! Only practice helps, and mountaineering remains dangerous enough, so sufficient routine your best life insurance.
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Last updated July 05, 2000 by Hartmut Bielefeldt