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What is a dulfersitz rappel?

The dulfersitz rappel is a basic safety skill all mountaineers should learn, practice and use.

Loop the rappel rope through a SERENE anchor so that it can be recovered from below. Tie a large knot in the two even ends so that you won't rappel off the end of the rope. Get into the dulfersitz rappel position well back from the edge so you won't fall off. 

Place the rappel rope between the legs, and with the right hand bring it under the right butt muscle (no, not in your butt crack!), across the chest, over the left shoulder, around the back and under the right arm (it forms a cross with the section of rope that goes from butt to left shoulder), and across the belly in the right belay hand. (Change right to left for left handed folks.)  Keep the left feeling hand high and the right holding hand well forward, look down to the right and rappel down somewhat sideways. Go too fast and your pants will burn!  Only use this technique over Gore-Tex if you can go very slowly. 

Always self belay with a swami runner or a swami/diaper runner combination, a locking biner and your self-belay prussic (or short sewn klemheist runner). Have your second prussic girth hitched to your 36" runner in your pocket to climb back up the rappel rope or to loosen a jammed self belay.  The total weight of this gear is about 6 oz. vs. 1 pound 10 oz for your seat harness, rappel device and other stuff.

In the Leader qualification tests I took in Southern California 35 years ago, we had to dulphersitz rappel, jamb the prussic and then show that we could climb up, re-establish the rappel and release the prussic. If we were given an overhanging rappel, you had to take a second longer prussic, girthed to a 48" sewn runner, attach it above the jammed self belay prussic, step up into the loop, take the weight off the jammed prussic knot, loosen the prussic knot and tighten up the rappel slack around your thigh, remove the step prussic and return it to your pocket and continue to the predetermined end of your rappel. Try this at the crags, protected by a secure upper belay and an interested, trusted belayer.

This light and fast technique may enable you to take just a rope, a few slings, biners and your prussics as we did in the 1970s and leave the heavy stuff in the rig. The dulfersitz can be used for vertical rappels as well as steep rock, snow or ice.

Traditional mountaineering is about the mitigation of inherent risk by training, great gear and knowledge which can be gained from the experiences of others. Read the section Rappelling on pages 163-164 of Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills, 8th edition. 
On Belay! --Robert Speik

The dulfersitz rappel
Illustration by Mike Clelland
From Climbing Ice, Duane Raleigh, 1995




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can in part, be mitigated


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  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader 
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities
  The Ten Essentials
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