How To Rappel With Atc

How to Rappel with ATC: A Step-by-Step Guide


Rappelling, also known as abseiling, is a thrilling activity that allows adventurers to descend cliffs, rock faces, or other vertical terrains safely. One essential tool used for rappelling is the ATC, or air traffic controller, which is a type of belay device commonly employed in rock climbing. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced adventurer looking to brush up on your rappelling skills, this step-by-step guide will help you learn how to rappel with an ATC effectively.

Step 1: Gather Your Gear

Before you begin rappelling, it’s crucial to gather all the necessary gear. Besides the ATC, you’ll need a climbing harness, helmet, climbing rope, locking carabiners, and a sturdy anchor. Make sure all your equipment is in good condition and properly maintained before embarking on your rappelling adventure.

Step 2: Attach the ATC to Your Harness

The next step is attaching the ATC to your climbing harness. Thread the climbing rope through the main hole of the ATC device and secure it by threading the rope through one of the carabiner holes. Ensure that the rope is threaded correctly and that the ATC is oriented in the correct direction.

Step 3: Perform a Safety Check

Safety should always be a top priority when rappelling. Before you start your descent, perform a thorough safety check. Double-check that your harness is correctly fastened, your carabiners are locked, and your anchor is secure. Verify that the rope is threaded correctly through the ATC and that the free end of the rope reaches the ground or a safe landing area.

Step 4: Back Yourself Up

To add an extra layer of safety, it is advisable to back yourself up while rappelling. One way to do this is by tying a prusik knot onto the rope above your ATC. The prusik knot acts as a friction hitch and prevents you from sliding uncontrollably down the rope. Practice this technique with an experienced climber or consult an instructional guide to ensure you tie the prusik knot correctly and understand its usage.

Step 5: Position Yourself for Rappelling

Once all safety checks are complete, position yourself correctly for rappelling. Face the cliff or rock face, ensuring that your feet are firmly planted and shoulder-width apart. Grip the rope with your dominant hand above the ATC device and hold the rope against your hip with your non-dominant hand. Lean back into your harness, keeping your weight distributed evenly between your feet and the rope.

Step 6: Initiate the Rappel

With all preparations in place, it’s time to initiate the rappel. Begin by slowly releasing the rope from the ATC, allowing it to slide through the device and control your descent. Maintain a steady grip on the rope with your non-dominant hand against your hip to stabilize yourself as you descend.

Step 7: Control Your Speed

While rappelling, it’s crucial to control your speed to ensure a safe descent. To slow down, apply gentle pressure on the rope above the ATC with your dominant hand. Conversely, if you need to speed up, loosen your grip on the rope slightly. Keep in mind that finding the right balance of speed may take some practice, so maintain your focus and make gradual adjustments as necessary.

Step 8: Maintain Proper Rope Control

Throughout the rappelling process, it’s essential to maintain proper rope control. Avoid excessive twisting or tangling of the rope, as this can lead to dangerous situations or difficulties during the descent. Regularly check that the rope is passing smoothly through the ATC device without any snags or obstructions.

Step 9: Reach Your Destination and Land Safely

As you approach the end of your rappel, pay close attention to your surroundings to ensure a safe landing. Slow your descent as you near the ground or designated landing area. Once your feet touch the ground or platform, release your grip on the rope, remove the ATC, and detach from the rope.


Learning how to rappel with an ATC is an invaluable skill for any adventure enthusiast. By following these step-by-step instructions, you can master the art of rappelling and enjoy breathtaking descents with confidence. Remember, safety is of utmost importance during every stage of the rappelling process, so always prioritize proper gear, thorough safety checks, and controlled rope management.

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