Some things may forever remain apocryphal: Why can’t anyone take a clear photo of the Loch Ness monster? Did Reinhold Messner really see a yeti? Who stole JFK’s brain?
Rappelling past a knot that links two ropes end-to-end, however, need not puzzle you, nor must you learn this seemingly complicated yet vital bit of ropework the hard way. The following five-step method for passing a knot is easy to master, safe and efficient. It does assume that you have two ascenders and are using one on the rope above your rappel device, as a back-up, held with the cam thumbed open by your “guide” hand. (For more on rappel back-ups, see Rock and Ice No. 136.) Though prusiks can substitute for ascenders, they are much harder to operate. Since you are most likely to pass knots in a big-wall situation, where ascenders are necessary and standard gear, we’ve used ascenders to demonstrate the five steps. Regardless of whether you use ascenders or prusiks, connect them to your harness by girth-hitching a sling or daisy chain through your belay/rappel loop before you begin the rappel. Clip the sling or daisy to each ascender or prusik with a locking carabiner, or two standard biners with their gates opposed and reversed.