Using your "Guide" Belay Device as an Ascender when Rappelling

Tip/Trick/Gimmick: Using your "Guide" Belay Device as an Ascender (if needed) when Rappelling

Source: (give credit where credit is due): American Alpine Institute

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Contributed by: John Huber (

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Description: Many climbers do not know that a guide mode rappel device (i.e. Petzl Reverso, BD Guide) can be used as an ascender if the need arises for you to go back up the rope(s) while in


Basically, you set up the device as usual for rappelling, but you do not put the device on your belay loop, but rather on a sling to form an extended rappel set up. When the need arises to ascend back up the rope (for whatever reason), it is possible to re-arrange the belay device into the Guide Mode to serve as an ascender.  Depending on the terrain/angle of the descent, etc. there are several different steps/techniques to transition the device into an ascender:

  •    Get “safe” (on a ledge, lock off rappel device with friction hitch, etc.)
  •    Tie off rope below device to harness
  •    Put locking biner through large “hole” on rappel device
  •    Unweight rap device either by standing on a ledge or attaching foot prussic loop above      device and stepping up onto it
  •   Attach “new” biner to belay loop and weight device
  •   Device is now in auto-block belay mode and rope can be pulled through device as you ascend

On relatively benign slabs (think Buzzard’s Rocks), you might get away with just walking back up the slab taking in slack on your locked off rappel device.  On steeper terrain, you would need to add a friction hitch above the device to serve as a foot prussic loop to allow you to ascend the rope.

A more complete description (and photos) can be found on American Alpine Institute’s and Climbing magazine’s websites (shown below).

This technique can allow you to easily transition back and forth between rappelling and ascending as needed. This is an emergency technique; it is not something you would use/do on a regular basis. It is just another tool in you “tool box” – what if you find yourself in a jam and you lack sufficient sling/prussic material to set up a “normal” ascent up a fixed line?

Climb safe.

(Marty – I’ve used this technique; it works. However, I am not sure I would use it to ascend a long rappel rope. Depending on how much rope is hanging below you (weight and the diameter of the rope, i.e. friction) it can be a real grunt fest to have to pull the rope(s) through the device for a long ascent. For a long ascent, I would probably use the conventional two loop prussic system, one harness loop and one foot loop).

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