Securing the first rappeller - Petzl USA

Securing the first rappeller


  • Carefully read the Instructions for Use used in this technical advice before consulting the advice itself. You must have already read and understood the information in the Instructions for Use to be able to understand this supplementary information.
  • Mastering these techniques requires specific training. Work with a professional to confirm your ability to perform these techniques safely and independently before attempting them unsupervised.
  • We provide examples of techniques related to your activity. There may be others that we do not describe here.

When rappelling in a waterfall, it is important to correctly set the rope length in order to: 

- Avoid having to remove the descender, thus enabling a quick exit from turbulence in the landing pool

- Avoid getting tangled in the end of the rope

The rope end should be set about 1 m above the landing pool.


When installing the rappel, there are two possible scenarios:

- the base of the waterfall is visible from the top of the rappel, so it is easy to set up the rope from the top on the first try

- the base of the waterfall is not visible; setting the rope length is done when the leader descends, using a releasable system

Correct and incorrect rope length settings for a rappel

1. The rappel is set up with a rope length of about 1/4 to 1/3 less than what is required to reach the bottom.

A releasable system is put in place, for example a tied off Munter - mule knot.

Setting up a releasable system

2. The leader descends. When he sees the base of the waterfall, he stops and instructs his partner to lower him using whistle signals.

Establish a whistle code depending on noise levels and/or distance.

The leader descends and communicates with his teammate

3. Once the rope length is set, the leader advises his partner with one or two short whistles. The partner re-ties the Munter - mule knot.

Correctly setting the rope length


4. The leader continues the descent. The rope is set for the rest of the team.