How to Use a Rappelling Ring

Rock climber rappelling.

A rappelling ring is a small, but essential, tool to provide a smooth descent off a rock or mountain face. Rap rings are typically left behind by other climbers, and after proper inspection, you may choose to use the existing ring. Otherwise, carry a few with you for personal safety.

Choose the Best Rappelling Ring

A rappelling ring is a continuous ring made of titanium or aluminum. The rings are approximately 1.5 inches in diameter, which accommodates the size of your climbing rope. Older-style rap rings are often incomplete pieces of metal that have been welded together. If you see a welded rap ring, do not use it. Instead, Ron Eng, author of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, recommends using a new, non-welded ring or two for your safety. When using two rings, set each rap ring individually and attach it to its own sling. That way if one sling or ring breaks, the other set will catch you.

At the Top

You need your rappelling ring at the top of the climb, or cliff. Secure yourself with a safety tether to an anchor or sturdy tree at the top. Use a piece of 9/16-inch webbing to make a rappel sling and slide the rap ring onto the sling. Tie the sling to an anchor or around a tree trunk and let the rap ring rest toward the ground. If an existing sling, rappel chain and rap ring are already on the route, determine if the attachments are secure before you trust the device to support your body weight. If you only see a welded rap ring and do not have any new rings, use the welded ring, but also run the rope through a securely anchored backup sling.

Attach the Rope

Your rappelling rope should already be marked at the halfway point. Put one end of the rope through the rap ring and tie a stopper knot into the end. This is the same knot you tie to back up the double figure eight knot. Continue to feed the rope through the rap ring until it reaches the middle. Tie another stopper knot in the opposite end, even if you can see that the rope reaches the ground, or the next rappel anchor. Some climbers set up two slings with two rap rings to increase their comfort and safety. If you decide to set up two rings, pass the rope through both rings.

Rap Ring Benefits

Instead of using just the sling to pass the rope through -- or setting up bolts, which may be rusted or bumpy -- use a rap ring to protect you and your rope. If a rope passes through a sling, the friction can weaken the sling causing it to be unsafe. A bolt may have uneven edges, which can damage your rope and lead to future safety concerns. The continuous rap ring protects you and your rope and makes it easier to retrieve the rope after your rappel.