Rappelling waterfalls

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Rappelling waterfalls

Post by Barrett »

I have seen a number of photosets on HAZ where members rappel through medium to heavy waterfalls, and even though it looks like a blast, I've wondered how risky this might be. When the water is not flowing, one usually sees an assortment of round rocks and boulders at the bottom of most falls - rocks that rolled downstream and over the edge during times of forceful flow.
I suppose knowing the characteristics of the streambed upstream would make some waterfalls more desirable than others, and a helmet would offer some protection against small stuff, but this seems really risky nonetheless.
Climbers generally avoid areas where rockfall is common, should waterfalls be included in this category?
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Re: Rappelling waterfalls

Post by cactuscat »

Rappelling waterfalls risky? Nah!! :?
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Re: Rappelling waterfalls

Post by toddak »

Not to mention how the force of the flowing water against the rappeller puts extra stress on the anchor, which in a lot of cases aren't all that solid to begin with. But water is such a huge part of canyoneering, the risk tends to get justified by the even higher reward.
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Re: Rappelling waterfalls

Post by Hippy »

Rappeling + water + waterfalls...that actually sounds like a really dangerous and exciting adventure! But really I can't imagine it being any riskier than regular climbing or rappeling, you're anchored and harnessed and protected by your helmet and hopefully you know what you're doing and started small! I wouldn't jump in to a canyoneering gig with a ferocious waterfall, I'd practice in a trickle and learn the tips and tricks, how to either counter or "go with the flow" of the water...this is just me speculating how it's done, I've never done it.... :-k yet.

And I think it's also got a lot to do with when and where, I'm sure most people who go to these places test the waters so to speak before hand and are mentally and physically prepared for anything. I know canyoneering guides that take people out a few times a month and have never had any accidents with their clients, the clients usually being 100% clueless as to the process...*shrug* everything has a risk, we can only hope people know what they're doing and take every precaution and make smart decisions.
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Re: Rappelling waterfalls

Post by Jim_H »

As far as safety is concerned, I think the risks are low, so long as you don't go chasing them.
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Re: Rappelling waterfalls

Post by oceanwithin »

It's like anything else in canyoneering, you have to carefully assess the situation and anchors. Waterfall rappels are super fun but there's a limit of how much water you want pummeling down on you during a controlled descent while hanging from a rope. It's not uncommon to build an alternate anchor out of the water flow, or where your head is only under the water for a brief amount of time. For the most part, if there is enough water to be moving large rocks, you don't want to be in a narrow canyon with that much water anyway. It doesn't take much water for the pics to turn out awesome. :D
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Re: Rappelling waterfalls

Post by nonot »

Rappelling a waterfall is more risky than rappelling off a dryfall, or a cliff. If the force of water is strong, then any type of problem encountered during the rappel can become life threatening. E.g. if you get something caught in your device in the middle of a heavy flow waterfall, you may either drown on rope, or get hypothermia and die. There are a few fatalities every now and then due to this. The last one I recall was a man in Zion who flipped upside down in a waterfall. Hypothermia got him.

Also, it is inadvisable to throw the pull cord down the waterfall as it could wrap around the main line.

The biggest danger due to rocks is the people above you. Everyone who is in the group should be on alert and avoid kicking rocks at all times. Precarious rocks should be dealt with before the first person rappels.

I would not advise beginners to practice rappelling waterfalls. Start with easier things and work up to them. You should feel comfortable on rappel and have an excellent track record of perhaps 60-100 incident free rappels before tackling a class C canyon. While history is no guarantee of future success, it is an indicator you have mastered the basics.

Assuming you have enough experience, the biggest problems you will have with your first waterfall rappel will likely be:

-the water hurts
-your fit slip often
-you can't see well
-the water and slipperiness can cause you to slam into walls
-you have to plan ahead of time when you want to breathe
-the water increases your overall weight due to its force pressing on you and makes you weigh a ton

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Re: Rappelling waterfalls

Post by azbackpackr »

Tell you what...you go ahead, I'll watch! ;)
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Re: Rappelling waterfalls

Post by big_load »

azbackpackr wrote:Tell you what...you go ahead, I'll watch! ;)
I don't know if I could even watch. :scared:
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