One of the types most practiced by climbers is known by the name of rappelling , which is a type of mountain sport. Long ago it was considered a type of auxiliary sport but today, it is seen as an adventure and adrenaline sport that gives those who practice it a feeling of complete freedom.


What is rappelling?


The rappel is a type of sport adventure based on down the vertical surfaces found in the mountains or rock formations through a descent controlled to maintain security.


What does it consist of

Rappelling is an adventure sport , full of adrenaline and, at the same time, risky since in order to practice it, the athlete will need great experience and prior preparation . It is an interconnected system that is used to be able to descend vertically on any type of surface, for which it needs a rope system which is formed by the interconnection of elements of the equipment of the person who practices it towards the safe point of the anchorage.

Rappelling characteristics

Among its main characteristics are the following:

  • It is a sport that is based on the descent using a rope .
  • It is done on vertical surfaces or on walls .
  • It is practiced in open spaces and in other types of activities such as rock climbing, caving and mountaineering.
  • It is based on a system of objects and equipment which are interconnected using rope and personnel.
  • It is considered an extreme outdoor adventure sport .
  • It is also considered as a rescue activity , mainly in those places that are difficult to access.


The first data available regarding the history of rappelling date back to 1876 when the first descent was made using a metal device . From this date, the sport became more popular especially after the creation of a braking system for the harness. In 1980 , it was incorporated into the industry market where lighter ropes were invented but at the same time with greater durability and resistance . At the beginning, it was a technique used mainly for rescues but with the passage of time, climbers began to practice it as well.

In the 20th century , the International Union of Associated Mountaineers was created , who began to create teams and competitions. Today the activity has evolved in a remarkable way including six different degrees of difficulty that can be practiced. In addition, several security measures and a high level of knowledge have been incorporated to practice it.

Who invented it

The sport was invented by Jean Charlet Straton in 1876.

Where to rappel

Rappelling can be done or practiced in places where there are cliffs or steep surfaces . High- altitude rocky mountain walls that are mostly parallel are the main places where rappelling can be practiced.

Rappelling systems

  • Body rappelling : in this technique the legs and arms are used mainly. The following techniques are included in this group:
  • The arm : used on walls that are not very vertical and a rope is used on the shoulder to pass it through the outstretched arms to control the speed of descent.
  • Dufler rappelling : the rope is passed between the legs, turns around the hips and passes over the shoulder crossing the chest diagonally.
  • Comichi rappelling : the rope does not pass between the legs but through the harness and the back.
  • Carabiner rappelling : This technique is based on turning around the carabiner and does not need a lot of equipment. The following techniques are found:
  • Gramminger : 7 oval carabiners are used, one with safety, two facing and four without safety.
  • Musketeer : use a locking carabiner.
  • Rappelling with dynamic knot : uses an asymmetric carabiner.
  • Rappelling with a descender : it is one of the most used and safest techniques, especially for beginners. It includes the following techniques:
  • Eight : it is a descender that is shaped like an eight and is easy to use.
  • With pulley : makes it possible to control the descent more efficiently and in this technique a letter S is formed with the rope when it passes through the pulley.
  • Tubular Instruments : The technique uses a series of useful and easy-to-use instruments.


Rappelling can be classified into several types depending on the purpose of the activity. The following classifications can then be found:

  • Industrial rappelling : use a double rope for safety, long harnesses and, in addition to the rapper, two more insurance. It is a type of activity that needs a lot of knowledge.
  • Tourist rappel: it is done using one or two ropes, a safety and a rapper. It can be done by anyone but with the help of a guide.
  • Tactical rappelling: uses only a rapper and a rope that gives you greater speed and maneuverability. It is more used by the military or by tactical specialists.
  • Emergency rappelling : used when needed in situations where chairs or more ropes must be deployed.


The main technique of rappelling is based on the principle of friction generated by the rope through a braking system , this friction helps the person who climbs to descend with a desired rhythm and speed, always controlling the descent . The body must have a position that must not vary greatly, it must be balanced and have a perfect balance .

The legs should be placed perpendicular to the wall which are separated at the distance of the shoulders, the body is placed a little seated and stretched , without bending too much. The descents must be done slowly , without jumping and always watching the place where the feet are placed . The legs should also be kept slightly away from the wall .


The material that is needed to be able to practice rappelling safely is mentioned below:

  • Main and auxiliary rope .
  • Harness with various types of carabiners.
  • Special shoes that help you descend with less effort.
  • Protective helmet to protect against blows to the head.
  • Descender .
  • Gloves to protect the hands from friction.
  • First aid kit in case of emergencies.


When rappelling is practiced, several types of risks can arise, especially when the activity is not carried out following the safety protocols and the appropriate techniques to carry it out. In this case, there are usually scrapes , falls , sprained ankles , broken bones, burns to the skin due to friction, blows to the head . Some of these falls can even cause serious injury.

Famous people who practice rappelling

Some recognized athletes who are dedicated to practicing this type of sport are the following:

  • Barbara Riveros
  • Gabriel Ramirez
  • Daniel Mayor


Some curiosities of rappelling are mentioned below:

  • It is one of the main activities related to tourism worldwide.
  • Rappelling, before being a sport, appeared as a technique used by cavers to investigate caves and reach inaccessible places , around the second half of the 19th century.
  • When practiced recklessly , it can become a great danger to practitioners.

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