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Descending Tools
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Figure 8 descender - it's all I know

I guess some people like gizmos and others like simplicity. Not a blanket statement, as there will always be both. But in terms of what attracts me... A lot of times simplicity appeals to me. This and the munter is all I have ever used.

I think these things are the bomb. It threads on fast, below your friction hitch, you put a couple of wraps around it, and the ears hold the line fast. Then you can untie your friction hitch, unwrap it and down you go. Or, descend with your friction hitch still in place. That's the safest way to go but be prepared to go thru tails.

If I'm descending SRT, part of my changeover from the Texas system is to use both the Figure 8 above and a Munter below through a 'biner in one of my side rings. With this 1-2 punch of friction, I can hang hands off without slipping at all. When I do get going, 2 fingers on the line below the Munter will stop me.

I tried it a few times SRT descent without the Munter, and without gloves, just because you always want to know how you can deal with difficult scenarios. And here's how it goes - it burns a bit. Of course I'm using as much body friction as possible, reaching around my back.

But with DdRT, it's much easier to control - you do not need gloves at all. But heat? Hell yeah. It gets hot enough where you can't really grab it sometimes when you're done. And wear? Man, I have an old Kong that has rope grooves so deep that my dealer told me to retire it. All my 8's have always been aluminum. I guess theoretically they can hold up for a long time, but that one I used day in day out for years, it's showing big wear for sure.

If my descent is frought with obstacles, and I have to manuever around branches, I am practically chanting an audible mantra to always keep at least one hand surely on the line. It's a "Do As I say, Not As I Do" scenario, as I would never recommend using this without a friction hitch backup unless the path to the ground is a wide open, unobstructed belay. And even then, it's only for those with a lot of experience.

So yes, there are some amazing devices available that make descent as safe as going up - I even read about one in the Sherrill catalog that stops if you take your hands off it, AND if you grip it too hard.

But sometimes I like simple, and when I climb I have faith in my skill and my ability to keep my mind on what I'm doing. So I love the 8.

And it's also good for lowering medium sized branches from up top if there's no one down on the ground to help me.



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