Making a retrievable anchor — abseiling double rope

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Most of the time in canyons you will be using existing anchors. Where they aren’t up to scratch they should be cut off and replaced, which is one of the reasons to always carry a few spare slings. But there are times where you simply don’t want to leave an unsightly sling behind.

I have used this setup when entering more remote canyons, where an off-track entry route can leave you on a cliff edge still high above the creek. It can also be of use in more exploratory expeditions where you don’t want to be chewing through a heap of slings, or taking away from the pristine environment.

There are a range of ways to create a retrievable anchor, but this technique is particularly good when abseiling on doubled ropes. To make it, simply take a length of tape, about 3 metres in length. Tie a tape knot at each end to create two loops. Close to one end tie another loop into the sling. For the smoothest operation, place a maillon on each end.

To use, simply run the tape sling around your anchor, run your abseiling rope through both maillons and throw your rope down as normal. Tie one end of another rope to the extra loop in the sling (this rope doesn’t take any load, so feel free to use a thinner hand-line etc).

Once everyone is down, pull down your abseiling rope as normal. Once it comes through the anchor the loop is broken, allowing you to pull the remaining single rope and have the whole rig come down. Be aware that the extra knots and maillons mean that there are more items to get stuck in cracks etc, so be careful when and where you use it. Where there is a serious risk of it getting stuck, just bite the bullet and sacrifice a sling.

Retrievable anchor rigged and ready to abseil

Once the main rope is pulled down the loop is broken, ready to be pulled down using the extra rope

The retrievable anchor pulls smoothly away once pulled on

— Tim Vollmer


3 thoughts on “Making a retrievable anchor — abseiling double rope

  1. This is crazy. You will pull 2 maliions down the cliff after you after the abseil. There is no need to do this. On a single rope one end can be tied to one end of a sling looped about a tree and the balance of the rope looped thru both ends of the sling etc

  2. Hi. Nice set up but those tape knots look more like an overhand on a bight. With a tape knot the ends of the tape would be coming out opposite sides. Ed

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