How to Rappel with Just a Rope

How to Rappel with Just a Rope

How many of you know about Jean Charlet-Straton? He was a Chamonix guide who first used the rope rappelling method at Petit Dru in 1879.

With so much safety equipment, harnesses, belay devices, and advanced gear available, many people might wonder why they need to learn rappelling with just a rope. The answer is – in such adventurous journeys, you must always be prepared for the worst-case scenario!

Consider the following scenario: you’re on a hilltop or peak and need to drop down, but you only have a rope. Due to whatever reason, there are no additional gears to assist your descent safely. In an unsafe situation like this, knowing how to rappel correctly while prioritizing your safety is critical.

So, imagine you only have a rope with you – how are you going to rappel? We are here to guide you how!

Which Rappelling Techniques Use Only Rope

When you are climbing, it is wise to always carry a rope or a cable in emergency situations. If you know the basic rope rappelling techniques, you can safely descent even without other gear.

However, before you attempt any of these rope rappelling techniques, ensure you have a good quality rope at your disposal. Your cable should be capable of withstanding frictional damage just enough to guarantee that you land safely.

You can then begin rappelling your way to the ground using a Dülfersitz rappel, an arm rappel, or the South African rappel method.

However, determining which of these approaches is best for you will be influenced by many factors. So, suppose you’re wondering how to rappel with simply a cable. In that case, it’s vital to grasp the fundamental distinctions between these methods, assess your scenario, and select the best approach.

Dülfersitz Method

The body rappel, also known as the Dülfersitz, is a traditional, non-mechanical rappelling method that includes winding a rope around yourself to control your drop. It was invented by a climber called Hans Dülfer and was primarily used in rock climbing and mountaineering.

The method is no longer as popular as it once was due to the emergence of belay devices, which are far more effective at managing ropes. Even yet, if you find yourself in an unexpected crisis, rappelling with only a rope is a viable option provided you follow the procedure correctly.

If your legs can touch the ground of the slope – this rope rappelling technique makes the most sense. The rope goes below your thigh and must cross over to the opposite shoulder, making the alphabet ‘Z .’Grab the rope hanging behind your shoulder with one hand. We call this the brake hand, and this should be the same side as the leg you chose to put the rope under.

The other hand will be the guiding hand. Once you have everything in control, gradually push your feet off the ground and pull the brake hand away from the body. Stay calm and do not try to unnecessarily rush the descent.

Because the rope is not exposed to intense friction using this approach, it will not suffer significant damage. The disadvantage is that constant resistance generates heat, which can ruin garments or cause discomfort, particularly in the shoulders and thigh regions.

South African Rappel

Andrew Friedemann, a South African climbing trainer, first used the South African rappel. It is advised to use extreme caution when using the South African rappel. This will be employed in a steeply slanted descent. Ascertain if there is a cliff wall from which to drop and bounce off.

To ensure that this backup technique does not lead to a dangerous outcome, it’s best if you practice it first on shallow inclines with less risk of falling.

A great tip is to tie the two ends of the string before throwing it where you want to land. This ensures that both ends land at the same place. Again, this is a tip and not a necessary step. Also, remember that the string’s length will be reduced to half because you are looping it around a tree. Gear yourself with a string that is long enough to reach the ground.

Take both ends of the string behind your back and cross it to bring it forward. Both lines should be hanging freely between your legs. Now take these ends back again – but this time from below your groin area. Now bring the string over to your side and wrap it around your hand. When you release the string in your hand, you will fall backward and start your descent.

The Arm Rappel

This rope rappelling technique is better suited to sloping terrain that may also be slick owing to loose pebbles or perhaps even rain. This is because, in such cases, it can get tough to have a good grip. The arm rappel gives you the required stability but is only recommended as an emergency option. It is not wise to completely depend on this technique.

This technique is pretty simple. All you have to do is run the rope behind your back. Then wrap each arm around it such that the rope rests between the forearm and the bicep. Wrap it again so that it eventually rests in your palms. Grip the rope on both sides and descend slowly. Naturally, the hand above and facing the anchor is the guiding hand, while the other one will be the brake hand.

How to rappel with just a rope step-by-step guide

It is important to know the basic steps of rope rappelling regardless of how prepared and equipped you are. You never know when this might come in handy. Here is a step by step guide to walk you through the process:

Choose a rope

The first step is to select your string, which must be at least 8millimeters thick and around 98 feet in length. Rappelling does not necessitate the use of a dynamic cable.

A static rope, such as the AOLEBA 10.5 mm Static Climbing Rope from Amazon, would suffice.

amazon buy now button

Another thing to keep in mind is that the intense friction will lead your string to wear out, so make sure it’s in excellent shape.

Get rid of unnecessary weight

Next, you’ll eliminate any unnecessary weight. The easiest way to drop your backpack is to pass the string through the straps until it’s centered. After that, just drop the bag by clutching both sides of the rope until it reaches the ground. 

Choose a sturdy anchor.

The anchor must be sturdy enough that it doesn’t move or loosen because of your weight. Check if the rope might slide under or go over it during descent. If it is a tree, it must be deep-rooted and have a diameter of at least 6 inches.

The structure you choose to fix your rope around must be free of any sharp edges so that the movement does not cut the rope. The object also needs to be strong enough to hold your weight.

Protect yourself from rope burns

Make sure you’ve tied the rope around yourself in a way that keeps you comfortable and allows you to regulate the pace of your drop. Also, it is best if you have any protective gear or fabric on you. You can use them to shield yourself from rope burns, which are otherwise unavoidable.

Wrap yourself

Next, position yourself and the cable according to the cable rappelling technique you choose. Your guiding hand should be your dominant hand.

You should expect your fall to be slowed by the friction of the rope around your body. The situation might get a little unpleasant as you drop yourself down, but it all varies with your pace. To avoid harm, keep your cool and go gently.


How do you rappel without a belay device?

If you just have one locking carabiner, you can use a munter hitch, which only takes that and a climbing rope, as an alternative belay method. Another option is to use a four-carabiner double carabiner brake rappel. Otherwise, you and your companion can attempt a single rope rappel with only one belay device.

How do you rappel with just a rope and a carabiner?

Pass the end of the rope through the gate, or locking mechanism, on the securing carabiner, and then clip it to the anchor. Twist the brake strand upward with one hand to form a knot. Insert the loop through the biner after opening the gate. By forming a ring with the loose strand of the rope, you may fasten a Munter hitch with a Munter-Mule-Overhand (or MMO) tie.

Can you abseil on a single rope?

Yes, you can. Pass one end of the rope through the rappelling point if you’re abseiling with just one rope. Draw the ropes across, keeping both endpoints together until half the rope is at the abseil spot.

How do you descend with a rope?

If you only have a rope with you, you can descend using three approaches: Dülfersitz Method, The South African Rappel, or the Arm Rappel. However, it is advised to only use these as a backup in emergency situations unless you are adequately trained

How do you ascend and descend with a rope?

To ascend or descend using a rope, there are two things that you need to be careful about. First is the anchor you choose. The second is the quality of the rope. Ensure that the anchor is sturdy and the rope is strong enough to hold your weight. Fix the rope in the anchor. Then fasten the remaining rope to your back, under your groin, and even across your arms to ensure stability.


As stated early, traditional rappelling techniques using only a rope are largely irrelevant these days. On the other hand, any real rappelling lover should be able to do an emergency rappel.

When rappelling with only a rope, be cautious about everything from the anchor to choosing the most suitable technique. Refer to the 10 Types of Rappelling Gear [Ultimate Beginner Guide] for comprehensive insights. There are no safety measures available to halt your descent if you make a mistake or come into contact with an item.

That being said, Happy Rappelling!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop