One of the worst things to experience when rappelling is to drop or lose a rappel device. This could include a Reverso, ATC, etc… Arriving at the rappel destination only to notice the lack of a very important piece of gear can ruin any day. For this reason I will always recommend a plan ‘B.’ In this case Plan ‘B’ is the Carabiner Munter Hitch.
To rappel with a carabiner munter hitch you will need a locking carabiner and your rappel rope. That’s it. After the hitch is tied, grab the rope with the break hand. Pull the rope down and back to break. You can also pull the rope straight up with the Carabiner Munter Hitch to create further friction but I will explain why you wouldn’t do this later on. To rappel down, slightly lift the rappel rope with the break hand to release tension and begin descent.
How to Tie the Carabiner Munter Hitch
This hitch only requires a rappel rope, a locking carabiner (preferably pear shaped), and 3 steps to follow to tie the Carabiner Munter Hitch. Though simple to do, each step must be followed to a ‘T.’ If not it can place whomever is rappelling in grave danger.
Example: The rope running through the carabiner is tied in such a way that the free flowing rope is rubbing against the locking carabiner. This could eventually loosen the lock, open the carabiner, and result in a fall.
Don’t let this happen. Learn the right techniques, receive training from a professional, practice, and then implement the knot. So here are the basic steps:
- Take both strands of rope running through the anchor and hold with both hands. Hands about 1 -2ft apart. Now make a loop. Flip the loop 180 degrees so the rope strands are crossing at the bottom of the loop.
- Hold the crossing strands at the bottom of the loop with your left hand. Take the now free right hand and grab the two strands hanging loosely down. With those strands in your right hand bring them up partially through the loop being held in place by the left hand.
- With the right hand holding the loose strands, grab the left side of the loop. There should now be four strands in hand. Pull the strands down and face the palm open towards your body. Bring the strands towards the locking carabiner connected to your harness.
- With the left hand let go of the strands. Grab the locking carabiner with the left hand, open it and run the four strands in it. The break strands should be running through the spine of the carabiner and not against the gate of the carabiner. If the break strands are next to the gate, remove the carabiner and run it through the other side of the strands. The idea is to not have the break strands rubbing against the gate during the rappel because it could loosen the locked carabiner and open it.
- Pull the break strands so the hitch tightens. At this point you should have tied the Carabiner Munter Hitch.
If you tied it right, it should look like this.
With the hitch tied correctly, friction will be created as the rope rubs against itself and the spine of the pear-shaped carabiner. This friction will allow the rappel to brake, slow down, or speed up based on the needs of the rappel.
How to Use the Carabiner Munter Hitch
With the Munter Hitch tied the rappel is ready to begin. The form and descent will be treated similarly to any other rappel. Just follow these simple steps:
- With the right hand grasp the two loose strands hanging below the hitch. Your right hand will be the brake hand and must remain holding the rope until the descent is completed. The left hand may hold the top rope lightly and act as the guide hand throughout the descent.
- With the brake hand in place, you will pull the rope straight down to stop. To feed rope through the Carabiner Munter Hitch just slightly raise the rope with you right hand. This will loosen the tension and allow the rope to run smoothly. The higher you raise the rope the quicker the feed will run.
- Always maintain control during the descent. Do not take risks or move quicker than you are able to control. For added caution and protect with this hitch a fireman rappel or Prusick Knot’ can give you that extra safety buffer in the event that control is lost or some other incident occurs.
Easy enough right? Just play it safe while in use and always take an experienced partner on your rappels.
Best Uses of the Carabiner Munter Hitch
My personal recommendation with this hitch is to really use it if there are few other options. It is easy to put together but should be a last result. Mainly if a rappel device is lost, dropped, or damaged. Always, ALWAYS back this rappel up. Again, a fireman belay would be great here if you heed my advice to take an experienced partner.
Because the friction is minimal the rappel will run smoother through the device and the hitch. That means a quicker descent. Still, try to maintain a speed that you are comfortable with when descending. Use your break hand to slow down or speed up based off your skill level.
Here is a bonus piece of information. By using the brake hand to pull the rope out will cause greater friction on the Munter Hitch which will break the rappel. This is said to be the best method to brake the Munter Hitch for friction purposes; however, the angle to perform this brake and then go into the descent can feel abnormal or uncomfortable. Due to the rarity that this hitch may be used I would recommend to break by pulling the rope down. As long as you have a proper backup.
A word of caution with using this hitch. It is known to twist the rope which can be dangerous. Do not let this distract you though from learning to tie and use this hitch for those rare occasions. It is a very important hitch to learn and use when you lack the right gear to descend or are in a state of emergency. It is simple to tie, requires little equipment, and is even used by emergency response teams to lower gear or wounded.
The you have it, the Carabiner Munter Hitch. Be sure to practice the technique and seek expert advice in your training. By taking the right steps you will be prepared if or when the need arises and most importantly confident in your safe use of the knot.
This instructional article, the associated tutorials, and videos found on RappellingRocks.com are to be used as a supplement in your learning. It is your responsibility to practice the techniques, receive adequate coaching from experienced professionals, and to follow all safety procedures prior to rappelling.