Braking descenders and backup

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Braking descenders and backup

Postby TheGrave » Jun 28, 2018 4:13 am


I recently graduated the caving course in Bulgaria and feel fairly confident using a Petzl Simple descender. However it has some limitations which you are all familiar with and descending fast or muddy ropes is no joy with this gear.

Some background for what I need to deal with - short drops (rarely above 30-40m), narrow profile, lots of mud, lots of re-belays due to the morphology, ropes mostly in the range 9-11mm with 10 and 10.5mm most common. Racks not popular around here as everybody screams they twist the rope so I have to exclude them as an option (at least for the moment). I personally don't think that's the case with modern high quality 6-bar steel racks based on what I read but they are an overkill for our caves and not sure how suitable for the tight vertical restrictions.

I read quite some articles/reviews by cavers on single and double brake descenders but the problem is they are on outdated gear. Here is what I found interesting on the market as of today:

SRTE (now Capital Safety) regarded by many as the Mercedes of the descenders have stopped offering a double brake in their most popular model and now has a single brake: ... rodId=3276

They have this gadget now which looks questionable at best for muddy pits with all these wholes that will get filled very quickly and probably become inoperable so I'd count it out unless somebody shares a different experience:

The original Anthron DSD was quite superior outside caves but got repeatedly stuck when mud was introduced. Same story with the Plus?

Camp have a product on which I can't find anything as well:

This one looks promising too:

I haven't made my mind on single or double brake so I'm open to suggestions on both types. Also, I'm trying to select a (mechanically) simple device cause if, God forbids, I get knocked unconscious somebody else should be able to easily take it off-rope without sending me down the pit :big grin: That and cooperation with mud, too :)

Now, the way we use Petzl Simple around here is quite common I guess - your upper ascender attached above it in semi-open state and controlled with your left hand, your right hand holding the rope tight to your thigh to control descending speed/stop. I found some stuff about backup techniques for braking descenders but I'm not sure how usable they would be in our narrow pits as they involve the usage of various knots above/below the descender which could complicate passing restrictions. Is this the common way you backup a single or double brake descender? How about gadgets like Petzl ASAP (Lock)? I've heard people in Bulgaria use a Petzl Shunt with Petzl Stop (the most popular braking descender around here due to economic reasons) in a similar fashion on a single rope:

I read this post as well before someone mentions it :)

Also, borrowing to test on a tree/wall not an option at the moment due to vacation season and the few people having anything but a Petzl Stop are untraceable :)

Appreciating any input.
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