Survival Blog: How to abseil without a belay device or harness

by Kenneth Leung on Jun 22, 2020

Survival Blog: How to abseil without a belay device or harness

We all love getting outdoors, there are many times when all goes well and others when we need some extra help, or come into some problems that were unforeseen. 

Hiking in the mountains can be easy, or very dangerous. What counts might not necessarily be the gear you take with you...but the knowledge you have. 











Say for example you are in the mountains for some light hiking and scrambling on rocks, you take a rope incase you need it for something.

...on the return trip you come to a small cliff edge that is too risky to down climb, but walking back the way you came could add hours on your trip. What do you do?

The rope! But do you just hold on and go down hand over hand? What if you accidentally let go and fall? "This is too dangerous" you think...

Luckily your hiking partner has done some mountaineering and has learned a great little trick to descend a rope without a harness or belay device safely.

The technique is called the Dulfersitz Rappel.

It has been used in mountaineering for many years. It uses your body as the friction point so you can slowly rappel down the rope

 How to do it?

1) Firstly the rope needs to be secured through an anchor that will not fail or break.

2) Make sure the rope touches the ground of where you want to go.

3a) The rope first goes between your legs front to back, then around your leg and across your chest. Then it goes over your shoulder, and you hold the loose end of the rope with the arm opposite of the shoulder the rope just went over..

3b) explained again...Place the rappel rope between the legs, and with the right hand bring it under the right butt muscle,  across the chest, over the left shoulder, around the back and under the right arm (it forms a cross with the section of rope that goes from butt to left shoulder), and across the belly in the right belay hand. (Change right to left for left handed folks.)  Keep the left feeling hand high and the right holding hand well forward, look down to the right and rappel down somewhat sideways. Go too fast and your pants will burn!  Only use this technique over Gore-Tex if you can go very slowly. 



DISCLAIMER - do not try this unless trained properly by a mountain guide. Mountaineering and rope work can be dangerous and you must learn properly before attempting any of the above. 

If you want to learn more please look at books such as these:

The Mountaineering Handbook:

Rock Climbing essential skills and techniques