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March 6, 2019 8:33 AM   Subscribe

That is a lot of rope. I had no idea it came in that much length.
posted by pashdown at 8:53 AM on March 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

The first and only time I rappelled was into a cave near Yosemite. I loved it and then when we saw El Capitan the next day, my first thought was how awesome a rappel that would be.
posted by soelo at 8:54 AM on March 6, 2019

That's very cool, I've never seen a rope that long, it must be 3,600 ft? It must cost a fortune!

20 years ago I used to rappel out of helicopters with army, doing shows in the the summer and such, usually on a 120ft rope, even got to rappel from the inside roof of the Olympic Stadium onto the visiting team's dugout. The equipment then was so primitive, a hand made Swiss seat, two static ropes, a beaner and enough friction on your glove that anything more than 200 ft would end in pain. Being military we used to go for speed, many of us would wait until the last second to slow down and one friend named Bourne got nicknamed "Airbourne" after he failed to stop and literally bounced on the tarmac. Still walks stiff to this day.
posted by furtive at 8:58 AM on March 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Wow. That was the most boring thing that sounded exciting I've seen this week.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:00 AM on March 6, 2019 [26 favorites]

Personally, I appreciate it more for its deliberate pace, lack of extreme guitar shredding, and absence of energy drink branding.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:10 AM on March 6, 2019 [11 favorites]

this is how i feel when i try to climb down a ladder, weird how this guy didn't shake or cry tho
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:11 AM on March 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

Huh. Came expecting nerve-wracking-high-speed-plummet-while-bouncing-off-cliff-face-like-in-the-movies. Was surprisingly soothed by slow-hanging-decent-while-enjoying-the-magnificent-view. Cool!
posted by Thorzdad at 9:30 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

that's very cool, I've never seen a rope that long, it must be 3,600 ft? It must cost a fortune!

If you think it cost a lot, think how much it weighs. And that weight had to be hauled to the top of El Cap, too, along with the rest of their gear.

I wish they had included in the video letting that rope down the face before they started, and then coiling it afterward. You couldn't just shake that thing to get a knot out. Rope management with that much length has to be a particular learned skill.
posted by barchan at 9:32 AM on March 6, 2019 [9 favorites]

What's the point here? Seems you could have accomplished the same with a parachute and way less time, money and effort.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:50 AM on March 6, 2019

I found it both boring and terrifying
posted by supermedusa at 9:50 AM on March 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I never said it was exciting. I found it soothing and beautiful.
posted by bondcliff at 9:55 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

From the comments: it's 3000' of 11mm nylon line from PMI Rope, it costs about $.70 a foot & weighs over 200 lbs.
posted by gyusan at 10:09 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

(climber here) I kept freaking the f. out when he took his hand off the brake end of the rope (below the device). I know how much weight there is under him with 1000m of static line, and the device is specific to long rappels, but still. Don't. Take. Your. Hand. Off. The. Brake.

It must have been a production just to set up the rope. In a normal climbing scenario you yell "ROPE!" to tell (ask, really) the people below that a rope is about to drop from above. That wouldn't be possible here. They (hopefully) had to do a lot of coordination work just to make sure that setting up the rope wouldn't interfere with ascending parties.

Nice to see all that stone close-up.
posted by Dashy at 10:17 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Speaking as a climber, rappelling is the most tedious and boring part of climbing but unless there is a walk-off you’re stuck doing a lot of them and the maximum rappel length is about 70 meters and usually a lot less. Plus you spend most of your time worrying about your rope getting stuck when you pull it which is a major PITA.
posted by misterpatrick at 10:19 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thorzdad, swinging around and bouncing results in rubbing the rope up at the top where it's attached (remember the taped-off box of padding?). You do NOT want to rub a weighted rope 300x against a sharp thing or any rough edge of rock. It would accelerate your descent unnecessarily.
posted by Dashy at 10:19 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm sure this is his first time rappelling.
posted by Flashman at 10:20 AM on March 6, 2019

How do you retrieve the rope and all the other hardware when everyone makes it back down the cliff?
posted by backseatpilot at 10:24 AM on March 6, 2019

For most rappels, you thread a 200' rope through fixed equipment (bolts, or webbing around a tree with a rappel ring), and you pull your rope through once you're at the next stance below or the bottom. In this manner you rappel at most 100' in one step.

Here they broke down their own equipment and either used the normal procedure to rappel >20 sections down the cliff, or they walked down. The normal descent from El Cap is to hike down the East Ledges, which itself has a few short rappels on it to get down stuff that's too steep to hike.
posted by Dashy at 10:29 AM on March 6, 2019

(or you have two normal 200' ropes and tie them together, so you rappel at most 200' in one section)
posted by Dashy at 10:32 AM on March 6, 2019

I was amazed (and the guy rappelling said as much at the bottom) that they found a place to rappel from where he was able to hang free of the wall the entire way. Admittedly I don't know the layout of El Cap very well but I'd have assumed he'd run into a slab at some point on the way down.
posted by bondcliff at 10:44 AM on March 6, 2019

Negatronic, Ghostrider. 16 seconds is all I lasted.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:09 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Which is to say, too scary for me.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:10 AM on March 6, 2019

If the boredom doesn't get you, there is always the gravity of the situation. I could barely watch the getting ready, part, with the mini ledge on the edge of yonder.
posted by Oyéah at 11:18 AM on March 6, 2019

Came expecting nerve-wracking-high-speed-plummet-while-bouncing-off-cliff-face-like-in-the-movies.

Also expected them to say “hut...hut...hut...” all the way down.

Good story about an even longer rappel (giving some idea of the technical and logistical difficulties involved) is here.
posted by TedW at 11:23 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

> I found it soothing and beautiful

I, on the other hand, found it unwatchable, as my brain and stomach said "nope nope nope."
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:33 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

wow, that was impressive. I didn't understand that it was all one rope at the beginning, and I kept expecting them to stop to switch out ropes.

Even when I was climbing outdoors a lot, I still found rapelling to be the scariest part of the process.
posted by suelac at 11:42 AM on March 6, 2019

Back in 2001 or so, an adventurous friend of mine was rappelling from Papago Buttes here in Phoenix. The drop was about 100 feet.

He'd been smitten with a technique he'd picked up from some other rappelers, which was to do it "Aussie style" (i.e., head first) and to basically leap off of the peak in a crazy head-first plummet, and only put on the brakes at the very end.

After doing this a half-dozen times or so, he tried it and the descent speed made the line whirl out of his braking hand. He grabbed for it a couple of times, but could never take hold of the line. Thus, he smacked face-first into the rocky desert floor from a hundred-foot fall.

He could easily have broken his neck. Or his back. But as it happened, the carabiner's friction on the spiraling line was still enough to slow him a bit. And he landed right between two rocks. His face was cut up pretty badly, but other than that, he walked away okay. I guess his guardian angel was rappeling with him that day.
posted by darkstar at 11:58 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

What's the point here? Seems you could have accomplished the same with a parachute and way less time, money and effort.

Parachuting would be the more expensive choice after rangers arrest you for base jumping without a permit and disorderly conduct for knowingly or recklessly creating a risk that causes public alarm or nuisance, each charge carries a penalty of six months in jail and/or a $5000 fine. Yosemite takes it seriously after some high profile base jumping deaths in 2015. This guy was arrested in 2017, he appealed because the park permits other dangerous sports but lost.
posted by peeedro at 12:24 PM on March 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Why not just watch Free Solo in reverse?
posted by ejoey at 12:39 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is this just a one-time thing with these folks, or A Thing that you can do? Because this is an adventurous activity I could actually see myself doing.
posted by zardoz at 1:16 PM on March 6, 2019

Wow. That was the most boring thing that sounded exciting I've seen this week.

With a little more context, this is the most boring looking thing that sounds exciting, that is actually terrifying.

The very excellent "On Rope", by Bruce Smith and Allen Padgett, has an entire chapter dedicated just to "Long Drops". There's a number of considerations that come into play when descending very long continuous sections of rope that the average climber does not need to consider. The weight of the rope (as mentioned previously) is the big one, and leads to other considerations like managing friction. That big metal doodad attached to the rope is called a rack, and the horizontal pieces that weave between the rope are called bars. For big drops like this, the bars need to be spaced out just so (if you look closely, you can see metal spacers between the top several bars), and you need to use the right number of bars (and potentially change the number of bars as you descend, due to the change in the weight of the rope below you relative to your position). "On Rope" describes a time someone got this wrong, on El Capitan (the same location as the video):

"It is believed that after a stop just below the lip, the unfortunate rappeller plumeted at an ever-increasing speed to the bottom of the drop. He did not survive. The bars of his rack had globs of melted nylon the size of oranges plastered to them. Because of the small number of bars, spacer size, and extreme speeds, the surface temperature of the bars exceeded the melting point of nylon. It is believed he entered into a nylon-lubricated slide down the rope."

When your bars heat up too much, they start glazing the rope, a terrifying verb that is important to learn when you train for doing long drops. Even on shorter drops, this can be a problem with aluminum racks, as they do not dissipate heat as well. As long as you keep a nice, gentle pace without stopping, you'll probably be fine. But if you start going too fast, or come to a complete stop with a hot rack, that's when the nylon starts to sizzle. And sizzling is not something nylon should be doing when you're hanging on it.

You'll notice, at the end of the drop, he moves really quickly to get his rack off the rope. That's not nerves or efficiency. He's trying to not partly melt the rope.
posted by slagheap at 2:21 PM on March 6, 2019 [21 favorites]

Missed the tick and expected 2,650 simulantaneous rappellers.
posted by joeyh at 2:24 PM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I love videos like this and watching them in the comfort of my own home, because when it comes to experiencing that in real life I would have enough nopes to share with everyone, no matter how many friends they brought along.
posted by Inkslinger at 3:21 PM on March 6, 2019

Oh man, I really want to do this or something like this. Mayyybe not quite such a big drop. I used to be scared of this kind of stuff, but a switch flipped a couple years ago and suddenly I found myself wanting to climb mountains and go skydiving. I hope this isn't a sign of an early midlife crisis or some kind of brain trauma, and just a sign that I'm further out of my shell, or something.

Anyway, I was watching this next to my mom, and she said "oh, I rappelled off El Cap! Not from that high up, but your uncle took me. And Delectable Pinnacle." Because of course, my uncle was a well-known mountain climber in the 70s, and my mom visited him in Yosemite a few times (back when he lived there).

Now she's telling me stories about my uncle and his mountain climbing friends. "Yeah, I remember him telling me about the guys who wanted to rappel 100' but only had 50' rope. They fell. They died. He said some people just didn't think through what they'd need to be prepared."
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:32 PM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

It was too bad he didn't look around more.

I've climbed for years and I definitely find rappelling to be one of the scariest parts. All other times there is so much else to think about except that there is a thin piece of nylon between you and death.
posted by lab.beetle at 2:27 PM on March 7, 2019

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