Rope management using a Butterfly Coil

Careful rope management is an essential part of moving through technical canyons in an efficient and safe manner. By ensuring everyone in your group knows how to correctly coil a rope you will speed up the process of rigging abseils, reduce the risk of getting your rope tangled, and avoid having twists and tangles introduced into the rope.

We recommend using the Butterfly Coil when canyoning. It is simple to learn, fast and easy to do, and unlike coiling in loops it doesn’t introduce any twists into the rope. This makes it easier to uncoil, run through an anchor, or toss down a drop without the rope becoming tangled. Also useful is the fact that — if you leave adequate tails — the rope can be strapped onto your back rather than needing to be put away between drops.

The following video shows the process of Butterfly Coiling your rope — with double strands, single strands, and over your shoulders — as well as the process for undoing and using the coiled rope.

Further information about using the Butterfly Coil:

If you intend to abseil on single strands — either because you are using single rope technique or will be joining two ropes for longer abseils — it can be easier to coil from one end of the rope. For groups that will primarily be abseiling on double ropes, it is generally better to take both ends and coil them together.

A Butterfly Coil — without the final wraps or tie off of the loops — is also a good technique for quickly coiling rope before tossing it down a drop, and generally prevents the rope tangling in the air. (Makes sure you leave adequate tails to ensure the ends can’t go through the individual loops as this can cause tangles.)

When using a Butterfly Coil to manage your rope, always ensure you leave adequate tails to provide enough rope to secure the rope (I recommend at least 1.5 metres or 5 feet on each end of the rope). If you want the option of tying the coiled rope onto your back, you will need additional tails (at least 3 metres or 10 feet).

When uncoiling the rope, the first step is to remove the loop that is securing the strands in place, along with the twists around the top. Next, take your finger and separate the two strands, running it along to the end of the rope. This will separate the strands and remove any twists introduced by the final wraps around the coiled rope.

Next, carefully lay the rope on the ground beside your chosen anchor, aiming to ensure the first butterfly loops created when coiling the rope are on top. This will assist the pile of rope to come apart more cleanly.

For people with shorter arms, smaller hands, or those coiling long ropes, it can be easier to do the Butterfly Coil over your neck. Be aware that if your rope is cold, wet and sandy this can be rather unpleasant. It can also be tricky to hold onto all of the loops and maintain the midpoint when you lift the completed Butterfly Coil back over your head.

If you wish to carry the rope between drops, simply place the finished Butterfly Coil on your back with the tails coming out towards your neck. Take the tails across your shoulders — with the left strand going to your left hand and the right strand to your right hand — before wrapping them around your back. Ensure you get the tails over the top of the main rope coils before swapping which rope is in each hand and bringing them back in front of your body. Using a square knot, tie the two ends together, securing the coiled rope on your back.

The Butterfly Coil is also a good way to store your ropes at home, allowing them to be easily hung out of the way. This also ensures wet ropes can dry, and protects your rope from coming into contact with chemicals, abrasion, or other physical impacts that might cause damage to them between trips.

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