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Definitely not a duplicated question to this one... Rather a much more specific question...

The situation arises when there are bolted anchors at foot level on the edge of the cliff:

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The issue is that if you have set up the anchor off a cordelette (or a sling) as in...

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and you clip a dynamic rope to this anchor, and then set up the rappelling device (extended ATC with Prusik knot)

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you may very well find yourself hanging from some 4 to 5 feet of slack.

If you can't set up a static rope in the back of the ledge (say, off a tree or boulder) to lower yourself smoothly until the rappel device comes under tension, I only see two solutions to avoid downclimbing on a slack rappel setup with a possible nasty slip:

  1. Set up a static rope off one of the bolts (using one of the locking biners already in use for the main anchor), and use a grigri to lower yourself until the Prusik engages the ATC and makes the rappel device taut. This would entail connecting a dynamic system and the static rope to a single biner, which is probably not a good idea.

  2. Perhaps using a personal anchor system. And this is the question. Good idea? Can the Petzl device below (with progressive lengthening options) avoid a bad fall with a huge fall factor? How can the PAS be disengaged after placing the rappel system under tension?

Like this...

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... using the Petzl personal anchor system:

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Here is a way of lowering oneself to make the rappel device taut below the bolted anchors using the Petzl PAS (biner to one of the anchoring biners). In this case, the system is tied to the bolts via a figure 8 bunny-ears knot, leaving two strands of a static rope to rappel down, or lowering oneself using one strand and a GriGri.

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  • This seems like a crag setup for top roping. Are you sure you cannot just walk down some other way?
    – StrongBad
    Jun 3 '19 at 15:24
  • @StrongBad Totally correct on both accounts - let's say that you want to rappel for fun. Is it just not advisable given the premises? See, a different way to set up a smooth transition would be to use a tree in the back of the ledge to establish a static rope on a grigri, but I was just curious to know if the situation as described had an elegant solution. Jun 3 '19 at 15:34
  • 1
    Seems to me like the setup is just incomplete. If the ledge is wide enough, a second set of anchors further from the edge would make setting a top rope much safer; there are more than a few places I've seen with at least one glue-in eyelet bolt so when you get to the edge, your personal anchor is taut.
    – Gabriel
    Jun 3 '19 at 17:52
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    Unless you can find an anchor higher up, there's really not an ideal way to get down there. You can't lower yourself on nothing. Often, a tree can be useful for getting down to an anchor like this safely.
    – Qudit
    Jun 3 '19 at 18:47
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As you are looking to rappel for fun, you should find a place better suited for it. As you mentioned, the anchors are not well situated for an easy rappel. If you want to rappel off that cliff, just set the anchor off the trees and and use a static line running over the edge so you can use do a straight simple setup.

If somehow I was forced into this situation and for some reason I did not want to use the trees, I would just use a regular non-extended setup. I would tie the rappel rope off and attempt to down climb. If I fall, no big deal, the rope will catch me.

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  • +1 and thank you! I still would be interested in thoughts about the very specific scenario where all you had is the bolts. Jun 3 '19 at 17:43
  • +1 With an anchor like this, simply walk around. It is simply not suitable for rappelling. I won't say that I haven't rappelled off similar anchors, but each time I knew I was acting against better judgement.
    – Guran
    Jun 5 '19 at 10:29
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Break it down into a passing-a-knot problem: Set up and lock off your (extended) rappel system in a safe place, and then use The Rope to do the rappelling job you were going to do with the awkward-to-release PAS.

For example, pre-set and lock off the ATC to a comfortable distance below the foot-anchors, then put the end of The Rope through the higher anchor/strong point/bolt carabiner to make a doubled rope, and rappel down over the edge and onto your locked-off ATC using a munter on the doubled end. When you've transferred yourself to the locked-off ATC, release and disassemble the munter, pull the rope end out of the upper anchor and check your descent, and then un-lock-off the ATC and go as normal.

You don't want to try to control essentially two simultaneous rappels with separate hands as you show in your last pic, you want to transfer safely from one (short) rappel to a second rappel, which is a good-to-know pass-the-knot skill (but it's made a bit easier, since you can pre-setup before you start off.) With a munter on a doubled rope, you can snug up and limit a fall to inches and rappel farther than any PAS can reach.

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There are two issues here:

(1) You're extending your belay device more than necessary. It's hard to tell because of the perspective of the photo, but it looks like you're extending it by about 40 cm. The only reason for extending it is that you want to make sure that your autoblock can't get jammed into your belay device. That doesn't required that much extension.

(2) You're rappelling off of an anchor set up using a long cordelette. The only reason we normally put a long extension on this type of anchor is if the anchor is above the lip, and we want to toprope on it. The setup you would use for toproping is then not the same as the one you should use for rappelling. The toproping setup includes a lot of gear that you don't want to leave behind, and has to be extended over the edge so the rope can travel freely. The rappelling setup, in a real situation where you need to rappel, doesn't include any gear that would be left behind, and is much shorter.

The anchor in your photo doesn't have any chains or rap rings, so it's not intended for this purpose. Don't use it for rappel practice. If you had an anchor positioned like this, below the edge of a cliff, and it did have chains and rap rings, normally you'd lead the route, and when you got to the top, you'd hang yourself off of the chains, then convert to a rappel setup. You would not get up above the anchor and then set up for the rappel.

It's very common that starting a rappel from above the lip of a cliff is awkward. Normally there is not four feet of slack, so the issue is just how to stay stable while getting your weight onto the rope. I usually sit on the edge and then scoot my butt off. Putting your left hand on the rope above the belay device can help to keep you more stable while you do this awkward maneuver.

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  • Thank you. As you can see, I asked the question in June 2019. I have changed a lot of things since then. Lately I have been TR soloing, and I use (as in the last picture) a fig 8 bunny ears on a static rope with 2 biners. I use the PAS to get to the level of the bolts, and then lower myself on a Grigri. I do the self-belaying part with 2 Micro Traxion, one in each rope strand, and transition to lowering using a Jumar to remove them. Dec 5 '20 at 16:42
  • In the original setup, I had a dynamic rope setup to climb in a group, and just wanted to rappel off of it for fun, as opposed to walking around. In this setting, a lot of the comments in your answer make sense. Dec 5 '20 at 16:47

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