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Abseiling with a cut rope

Updated: May 2, 2023

Getting a cut or damaged rope is a rare but realistic scenario when climbing. I have damaged 4 ropes over my years of alpine climbing, 3 by rockfall, one by a lead fall over a sharp edge.

What do you do if you get a cut rope and need to abseil? You can knot the damaged section, and pass the knot, but this is a slow process. An easier solution is to tie off the rope at the anchor, abseil on a single (undamaged) strand and pull the damaged and knotted side.

Thread the anchor in the normal way. Tie a figure 8 on a bight on the damaged side (RHS in pic) and clip into the undamaged side. Abseil on a single strand (undamaged, LHS in pic). Pull the knotted (RHS) strand to retrieve the rope.

This is harder to pull (more friction) than a normal setup, and is more likely to get caught up. It is safer than relying on a knot jamming on the anchor ring.

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