Ask Cavers: Do you Use a Rappel Backup Device?

September 26, 2012

Caving News reader Lois wrote in with a question for her fellow cavers:

I’d like to know how many cavers use a rappel backup device (shunt, stop, etc.), and which is most popular. I am dubious about adding more equipment to my system, as I favor simplicity. But I can also see a good reason to have it. Thanks!

So, vertical cavers out there, let’s help her out. Share your experiences with rappel backup devices in the comments section below.

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Comments (4)

  1. September 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Almost nothing is as enjoying the wonderful world of signing a statement showing the spellunking is at your risk. Had a course in geology and got hooked on seeing the sparkling waters and all the sites underground, including the danger and commitment it takes to be a cave explorer. Climbing the rope upward was one hell of a job. Thanks for allowing me to express my appreciation for this dynamic, exciting experience. Not recommended for youngsters. Respectfully. a beach bum.

  2. J. Warner
    September 27, 2012 at 10:03 am

    For me it comes down to what system am I comfortable with.Have i used and a few times and trusted the system. I personally do not use backup devices but carry them. I trust in my skill set and my gear. Unless is a a straight free drop, your are going to use more than your device, ie arms, legs and hands to navigate downwards.
    Respectfully Da Cave Monger!

  3. Dan Chase
    September 27, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I carry a small figure 8 as back up.

  4. Kuenn
    October 3, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Based on the varied replies I’m not sure I understand the original question.

    If by back-up you mean having a second descending device, the answer is yes. Frankly a biner is a backup descending device if you know how to tie a munter hitch and you limitations. If by backup you’re referring to some type of auto-block to support/backup the primary rappelling device (i.e. loss-of-control during descent, etc.), the answer is no.

    I cave with people who do use auto-blocks (i.e. French wrap, prusik, valdotain, etc.) and to each his own, however, personally I’ve never felt the need and there are far too many failures “in the name of safety” when auto-blocks have contributed to disaster even fatalities. (most recent: http://home.nps.gov/applications/digest/headline.cfm?type=Incidents&id=6381)

    Bottom-line, use what you trust but know how to use it… and escape from it if necessary.

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