Top Tips #12 (Rope Balls)

18th Sep 2013

For most climbers abseiling isn't done just for fun - it's a tool.  A tool for accessing climbs on certain sea cliff venues, for descending from routes that you can't easily walk off or for escaping down multi pitch crags if the weather conspires against you or there's an emergency to deal with.
 
However, abseiling has many potential problems and one of the key ones is the need to make sure the ropes get to the ground (or at least a pitch closer to the ground) without tangling or getting caught on something.  This is easy enough if conditions are calm and the route lies down a face without entrapment hazards.  But, of course, it's a different story if the wind is stopping the rope from getting down effectively or it's a convoluted line.
 
One solution is a rope ball.  This involves rolling the rope into a sphere shape starting from the ends and smoothly wrapping around this initial small bundle until you have a substantial sized ball.  They take a few minutes to make but you get quicker with practice, and spending a few minutes before the rope is thrown down will potentially save you from far more time consuming problems further down the line.  The weight of rope contained in the rope ball will get it down the crag far easier and, if you've rolled it well, it will simply uncoil as it goes.  One other way you can help to get it to the ground is to throw the ball downwards with some force rather than simply dropping it.  The added momentum and ball shape should beat most windy up draughts!
 
Posted by Paul