RCI Set ups: The Group Abseil

The group abseil is one of the more complex setups shown on the RCI training. Sometimes this leads to confusion with some elements of the setup.

Group Abseil setup

Below are the basic step by step instructions that RCI trainees might find useful. This blog is designed to jog your memory rather than teach this set up from scratch, so if you are not experienced in the skills required to build this setup, do not attempt it without additional guidance.

Group Abseil Anchors

Every crag top is unique, but working on the assumption that you are placing gear for your anchors, you will need a minimum of 3 anchor points for a group abseil.

There will always be exceptions, but for the purposes of this let’s work off 3 placed anchors.

Three Loops

Working off three anchors, it’s quite easy to have 3 loops coming out of your large fig 8 knot (BFK). The common mistake I see made here is that the last strand of rope isn’t included in the BFK when its tied, which can be extremely dangerous as it just pulls through the BFK when weighted.

See the pictures below. If the last strand of rope isn’t coming out of the back of the BFK then it’s not tied properly.

Large Figure of 8 knot for group abseil

Cows Tail, Saftey rope, Abseil Rope

If we’re aiming to deliberately create 3 loops, logic would suggest we must have a use for each loop.

  • For your safety, connect your harness to an outside loop by a cows tail and crab or purpose-designed lanyard.
  • connect the dynamic safety rope to the middle loop using a tied off Italian hitch.
  • connect a separate static abseil line to the last loop via a tied off Italian Hitch, so that it can be completely releasable from the anchor.
Three-loop anchorpoint

Positioning & Final Set up

Take the time to think ahead when setting up. The final picture should be clean, organised and easy to understand what each part is doing in the setup.

  • We shouldn’t have any trip hazards for our clients to navigate around and be set up in a way that they can easily approach.
  • The set up should be an appropriate distance from the edge of the cliff, to allow clients clip in, while still being safe and to allow them time to get used to the process of moving backwards.
  • If we use different coloured carabiners and figure of 8s we can refer to them by colour rather than by use, which makes it easier to instruct our clients when they reach the bottom.
Group Abseil setup

Practice your group abseil

The pictures and instructions above give a good basic example of a safe and tidy set up. While there are many tweaks and adjustments that can be made to improve its use, I have kept the set up as simple as possible.

Once you are comfortable with the basics and have practised working a group abseil for real, then these tweaks should be obvious to you or indeed feel free to get in touch and we can discuss variations to the setup.

Remember to always dress and stress your knots and leave a long tail and/or tie a stopper knot.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this video or other skills.

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