Abseiling Meaning

Abseiling is a method of descending off a mountain or other high object using a rope and harness. Abseiling (also called rappelling) involves the controlled descent of a person down a rock face, cliff etc using an abseil device attached to a belay rope. The skill and technique of abseiling is often performed for the following reasons:

  • Climbing in the mountains where access to the top of a cliff or mountain is possible by abseil descent.
  • For fast, easy retreat down a badly broken path when faced with an obstacle.
  • To explore and inspect caves and rock formation without having to negotiate more difficult terrain.
  • As part of a group training exercise.

In some cases abseiling can be free-hanging on a rope, but more often the person descending will have to be tied into a harness and a secure anchor point is used at the top to which the belay rope is attached. The word ‘abseil’ is used as a verb as, for example, ‘to abseil down a building’.

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Why is it called abseiling?

The term abseil in mountaineering is defined as a controlled slide down a rope using an abseil device. The word has its origins in the German language, although it was originally used to describe descending on a rope from any height. Abseiling was originally referred to by mountain guides as rappelling which comes from the French word , rappeler, which means to pull back or withdraw.

What is the difference between abseiling and rappelling?

The two terms are often confused but there is a difference. Abseiling refers to the activity of descending down a vertical drop, whereas rappelling refers to the activity of descending down a vertical drop using an abseil device.

How do you spell abseiling?

There is no right or wrong way to spell abseiling. In the UK it is often spelled with a double ‘l’: abseil and in the US it is sometimes spelled with a double ‘ll’: abseil. The shorter version (i.e without the second ‘l’) can be found in both spellings.

What does an abseil harness look like?

An abseiling harness is usually similar to a mountain climbing harness with a few minor differences. The abseiling harness will have an extra loop of material that goes between the legs and sits on top of the buttocks. This loop is called a crotch strap and helps to hold the harness in place when abseiling. The waist belt of an abseiling harness will also generally be thinner than that of a mountain climbing harness.

What is another word for abseiling?

Abseiling is also often referred to as rappelling – this comes from the French word , rappeler, which means to pull back or withdraw.

What is abseil used for?

Abseiling is used for a variety of reasons including:

  • Accessing difficult to reach places, especially off of cliffs or mountains.
  • To descend a dangerous face such as an overhanging rock face.
  • To descend to the ground from a building or tree.
  • As part of a group training exercise.
  • To inspect an area of cliff face or mountain for geological research.
  • To descend into a cave or crevice without having to negotiate the surrounding difficult terrain.

How does abseiling work?

An abseil works by using a dynamic climbing rope to allow the abseiler to safely descend down an overhanging face or cliff. With each step of an abseil, the force on the anchor changes dramatically. The force will decrease as the person descends but it will increase again if the person has to climb back up the rope to get down. To ensure an abseil works safely, the belay system has to be able to absorb this force and it should never exceed a certain amount or level of force so that the person abseiling does not experience slack in the rope and therefore risk injury.

How do you perform an abseil?

An abseiling technique, like any climbing technique, has its own unique set of procedures. Some key points to remember when performing an abseil:

  • Face the cliff and stand in the harness with your back against the rock.
  • Grab the rope below your descender device and clip it into your belay loop.
  • Attach your descender device to the rope.
  • Lower yourself down until there is some slack in the rope below you, this will allow your descender device to take up most of the rope’s weight and prevent it from catching on anything.
  • Once at the bottom untie yourself from the climbing rope, release your harness and coil up both ropes for next abseil.

How is an abseil performed?

An abseil is done by rappelling down a vertical drop or cliff on a rope with the help of some different tools such as carabiners, descender devices and harnesses. To perform the activity safely and properly, there are several important factors to remember:

  • Stay away from any areas of the drop that are big enough to get stuck in if you stop during your abseil.
  • Take extra precautions when abseiling near loose rocks or cliffs.
  • Tie into a climbing rope below you before starting an abseil.
  • Attach your descender device and harness properly to the rope.
  • Use your descender device to control your descent.
  • Lower yourself slowly down the cliff face, keeping your weight over your feet.
  • Move the rope beneath you as you descend by using a hand or foot to push it along.
  • Ensure that you have adequate protection in place for when you get closer to the bottom of the cliff. Some climbers may stop a foot or two from the ground and set up an anchor for a second person to join them.
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