Can You Rappel on Accessory Cord?
A man trying to rappel using an accessory cord next to a waterfall.

There are many questions a curious person (presumably a beginner climber) might stumble upon while browsing online climbing forums. However, not all of them share the popularity with the following one: can you rappel on accessory cord? If you’re one of the aforementioned curious folks, you’ve knocked on the right door.

In today’s article, we’ll consider the issue of rappeling with accessory cords. Is there a security risk hidden somewhere between those lines? Or: what exactly does it mean to rappel? And what’s an accessory cord anyway? Needless to say, you’ll figure everything out pretty soon. In the text you’ll find below, we’ve tackled the topic of whether one should rappel on an accessory cord!

Experts say that it’s very possible to rappel by adding a static accessory cord to the length of your rappelling rope. However, you might want to consider using multiple biners with your ATC (Air Traffic Controller) in order to enhance the friction and, eventually, gain more control. We’d suggest you use gloves, especially when you’re tackling steeper rappels.

Was that satisfying enough? If your answer’s NO, there’s a bunch of other info waiting for you downstairs.

Table of Contents

Rappelling, accessory cords, and all that jazz (FAQ)

Before we can answer the main question proposed by the title of this article (can you rappel on an accessory cord), it’s best we deconstruct the title itself. In other words: let’s define the main terms one could find inside it: rappeling and accessory cords. So, shall we begin?

What is rappelling?

Okay, so you’ll find folks calling this activity abseiling in some countries. Rappelling is a climbing technique in which an individual descends a mountain slope on a rope that’s, of course, attached to an anchor point at the top of the climb. When one thinks about it, it’s the most efficient way to get down from a cliff or a mountain since your other option is to climb back down. Needless to say, climbing down ain’t no easy-peasy; climbers are unable to see the holds beneath them and they’re also pretty tired from the climb.

Now, of course, the info above doesn’t do rappelling any justice; it ain’t just a bonus climbing activity or something. What first started as a technique to help you reach the bottom of your climb, became something you’d call a sport of its own. Also, rappelling can be utilized for lowering into a slot canyon or even – for spelunking (the exploration of caves). Lastly, even the military has a soft spot for rappelling since it’s used as a means of accessing hard-to-reach places.

Who invented rappelling?

Let’s talk briefly talk history. This climbing method (more precisely: a descending method) originated back in the 1800s, in France. We can trace its origin back to an alpine guide called Jean Charlet-Straton, who fronted the expeditions into the Alps. The legend goes something like this:

  • So, back in 1876, Mr. Charlet-Straton found himself stuck on the mountain. He was attempting to summit the famous Petite Aiguille du Dru (Mont Blanc Massif). Okay, once he figured out that he was stuck, he quickly needed to find a way to safely reach the bottom of the climb. This, of course, was synonymous with attaching the rope to the rock face and fixing it around himself. He slowly lowered himself in this manner, releasing tiny portions of rope in order to gradually reach the ground while having total control of the descent. 

And that, folks, is how the activity, sport, method, whatever-you-wanna-call-it better known as rappelling came to be. Now, of course, there are some folks that doubt the origin story that we’ve presented. However, we don’t have time to focus on the debate. What’s more important is that we talk about other important terms we’ll be using ahead.

What is an accessory cord?

Told in simplest terms, accessory cords represent ropes that possess a small diameter. Small meaning 4 to 8 millimeters. The structure of an accessory cord is the same as the one of a regular climbing rope (and here’s how you’ll break in a climbing rope). In other words: the core is enveloped by the jacket. However, their biggest and the main difference is the material ratio when it comes to the aforementioned two structural elements. When talking about the accessory cord, the rope sheath helps not only to protect the cord’s core but also to greatly enhance the breaking strength. This, subsequently, make the thinner accessory ropes good for static loads, but really not that great for dynamic falls.

Also, you’ll want to know that accessory cords are made from pretty strong synthetic fibers. Additionally, they’re heavily standardized (well, of course) and certainly must keep the proposed safety standards and measures (the EU standard is EN 564, while the safety standard reads UIAA-102).

Okay, so we guess you’d agree that this is more than enough for something that’s called an intro section. Let’s finally answer the question that’s on everyone’s mind right now: can you rappel on an accessory cord?

A person rappelling by using an accessory cord while the Sun is shining,

Can you rappel on accessory cord?

Of course, this wouldn’t be such a popular question if it didn’t spark some discussion surrounding the safety of this sport. Since accessory cords are so thin and not long enough, will they be enough for usage when rappelling? That’s what we’re here for!

Here’s what the experts say: yes, it’s possible to rappel by adding a 7-millimeter accessory static cord to the length of your rope. However, you’ll want to utilize multiple biners with your ATC (Air Traffic Controller) just so you can enhance the friction and gain more control. Also, we would suggest that you use gloves, especially when tackling steeper climbs.

Also, you might want to avoid trying this out on a long series of rappels with just the cord we’ve mentioned above. Imagine being stuck halfway down a single wall. You’ll have to force yourself to lead back up, which is certainly not a nice thing to try out. If it’s a single rappel we’re talking about, then it’s totally fine to use an accessory cord for it.

Now that we’ve considered rappelling with a 7-millimeter static cord, let’s see if there’s anything else we’ve unintentionally forgotten to cover.

Can you rappel on 6mm cord?

You’ll want to know that folks also use a 6mm cord as a pull cord/tagline in order to increase the length of their rappel rope. For instance, you can turn a 70-meter rope into an 80-meter one by adding an accessory cord to the length of your rope.

Additionally, if you’re wondering whether you can use a dynamic rope for ascending (since we suggest using the static type for descending), you’ll want to follow this link.

Can you rappel on 8mm cord?

By browsing the online claiming community forums, you’d notice that come climbers suggest you could easily use an 8mm cord for your rappelling adventures. However, you must know how to set your friction in a proper manner, regardless of the rappel device or the method you’ll utilize.

What size rope is best for rappelling?

The width of the rappel rope is always a theme once climbers meet. Anyway, what’s something you’d call a standardized width of the rappel rope? You’ll want to know that it’s about 9-11mm since that’s the ideal ground where your rope can create enough friction in your rappelling device to slow you down, without, of course, getting jammed in the process. The thing is: if your rope’s too narrow – the rappel turns into a more difficult episode (no friction). If it’s too wide – the rope mightn’t fit the device at all. Needless to say, that would make any moving downright impossible.

Here are some of the other characteristics of the perfect rope for rappelling. It’s:

  • Lightweight. 
  • Static.
  • 9-11mm wide. 
  • Abrasion-resistant. 
  • Waterproof. 

And that’s, folks, what you’d call an ideal rappelling rope! We’ve prepared one more round of info before we say goodbye!

What is double rope rappel?

Here’s the definition: a double-rope (or two-rope) rappel is just like a classic, standard rappel you’ll do, but with two strands of rope that are attached to each other with the help of a knot. To phrase it a bit differently: a normal rappel, but there’s more than one rope in the game.

Why do folks use it? Well, its main attribute concerns the fact that this “type” of rappel rope can double the distance you can rappel with each set-up. Therefore, it will save you some precious time when you’re descending a multi-pitch. Also, a double-rope rappel can easily make a difference between two scenarios:

  • Scenario #1: You’re able to repeat a rappel.
  • Scenario #2: You’re stuck at the top of the route.

Needless to mention, you’re free to pick out the one you find the most appealing! Also, if you’re wondering whether should you pick out a climbing rope for a canyoneering adventure, we’ve published an article about it recently.

At the bottom of the climb

That’s that, dear folks, we’ve descended onto the bottom of the can-you-rappel-on-accessory-cord topic. Hopefully, you’ve had no trouble tackling the steep side of this article. For more tips on climbing and climbing-related activities, visit this section of our blog page.

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