The concept of switching from rappel to ascend may seem simple enough, but the actual process of how to go about this transition needs attention, especially because it can be dangerous if not done correctly. After all, if you are on rappel, you are probably high off the ground and a fall could be catastrophic. But before we begin to explain Kerr's process of how to safely switch to ascending the rope, be sure you know how to safely rappel. Kerr explains and demonstrates a safer way of rappelling in this blog post here.
-3 to 4 locking carabiners
-10 foot cordelette
-rappel/belay device with a rigger loop (like the Black Diamond ATC Guide)
Here's how to transition from rappel to ascend in 9 easy steps:
Step 1. Lock off your extended, hands free back up rappel system. (again, learn how to do this here). Tie a back up knot below your belay device and clip this into your belay loop with a locking carabiner. Why your belay loop instead of your leg loop like you see others doing? Because this is what the belay loop of your harness is designed to do, to hold weight, sudden weight. A leg loop is not designed to do this and may actually cause you to invert.
Step 2. Now that your hands can be completely free of your rappel device and you have a back up incase it fails, tie a fiction hitch above the belay device with the long cordelette. Kerr's suggests using a Klemheist, but if you prefer another fiction hitch, like a prusik, that is okay too. Whatever you use, just be sure you know how to tie before hand. This is why practice is so important. Messing up this friction hitch could be dangerous. After tying the friction hitch, you should have two long strands of cordelette.
Step 4. With the other strand, tie an overhand on a bight to create a foot loop. It's easier if this loop is bigger.
Would you know what to do if your climbing partner fell and was badly injured? Learn these life saving techniques here.
Step 6. Unweight the system by standing up on the foot loop. Connect the carabiner on the rigger loop of the belay device to the belay loop of your harness. Now your belay device is in autoblocking mode. You are almost ready to start ascending.
Step 7. Clean up the system. Remove any unnecessary attachments. This will help make ascending smoother.
Step 8. Ascend the rope by standing up on the foot loop and pulling slack through the belay device. Sit back into your harness to unweight the friction hitch. Move the friction hitch up the rope and stand up on it again. Pull slack through the belay device. Repeat this step to move up the rope but be sure to. do step 9 as you ascend.
If you have never done this before, you may see these 9 steps as overwhelming. For safety and to throughly explain this transition process, we felt it necessary to break it down step by step. However, as you can see, Kerr makes the entire process look fluid and not so complicated. For you to also get to this point practice is essential. Using this process for the first time in a real and potentially serious situation is not ideal. Practice a few feet off the ground at your local climbing wall.
Knowing how to safely rappel, how to safely ascend a rope, and how to safely transition from rappel to ascend are basic to climbing self rescue and avoiding trouble. Other basic techniques include carrying the right equipment on your harness, knowing how to tie and use prusiks or other friction hitches, how to escape a belay, and how to safely secure an injured climber.
Read about what Kerr packs when he is mountaineering here.