Version 0.1; last reviewed 26-10-2023
In order to safely attend a canyon event and abseil within the UQ Mountain Club (UQMC), you must obtain your “Pink Tape”. The first of three receivable tapes associated with canyoning at UQMC.
First and foremost, UQMC promotes a “safety first culture that guides all our activities”. That means that whatever you are doing, you must make sure that your and others safety is the number one priority at any given time.
This document will guide you towards a successful completion of the assessment of your “Pink Tape”. In order to get your “Pink Tape” approved, there are three main steps:
Read and remember the knowledge displayed in this document.
Put all this knowledge into practise correctly.
Get yourself assessed by a member of the executive team who will ask you theoretical questions and will assess your practical skills during a UQMC events.
After a successful assessment, you will obtain your “Pink Tape” on your UQMC card, which you can display on your harness.
Please read the following instructions carefully.
After a successful assessment, you will obtain your “Pink Tape” on your UQMC card, which you will display on your harness.
Please read the following instructions carefully.
NOTE: We do not endorse all the information by the content creators given below. However, we have checked the specific links and believe that they are great learning resources. These links do not replace learning practically from club members, but will be helpful to aid your learning.
"Pink tape" indicates that a member has obtained the first possible skill competency level required for canyoning: the ability to rappel and belay using a top or self-managed belay system and safely navigate a canyon.
Out of our possible competencies, this is the one which is absolutely necessary if you would like to go canyoning with the club. It is the basic skill set, which the other competencies build upon. Additionally, the attainment of this level relieves a bit of pressure off the supervisors early in the year.
When abseiling, members without this competency (an “unskilled” member) must be supervised by a member who has already obtained their “Purple Tape”. Members without pink tape will not be able to participate in a canyon trip until they have obtained their “Pink Tape”. It is the role of the supervisor to:
Check any knot tied by the “unskilled” member, and;
Back-up belay the “unskilled” member whilst they belay.
You must be a member of UQMC to be tested for the “Pink Tape” competency.
The material testable to obtain the “Pink Tape” competency can be broken down into the following categories:
The member being tested must be able to:
Correctly wear both a harness and helmet;
Correctly connect both a figure-8 and ATC in descending mode to their harness with a french prusik backup
Load a belay device in the correct orientation on top belay
Correctly use a redundant abseil anchor system using the club’s identified procedure
Recite and complete an ABCDE check
Identify the need for an ABCDE check
Correctly belay an abseiler using both a top and bottom belay system
Display correct technique while ascending a rope using prusiks.
Demonstrate adequate abseil technique
Employ correct communication throughout an abseil as both abseiler and belayer
The member being tested must have a comprehensive understanding to explain the theory behind:
Correctly fitting of the harness, and
How to use it
The importance of wearing a helmet and correctly fitting it.
Anchor checks (ABCDE)
Common terms used; and
The importance and purpose of having clear and precise communication between abseiler and belayer (if applicable).
The better you understand all the following material, the safer you will be as a canyoner and the more likely you are to avoid a canyoning accident. Having a “safety first” culture within UQMC is the highest priority when attending any of our activities.
Importance: Simply enough, when abseiling, the harness is used to secure the canyoner to a rope, which in turn is anchored to the top of the cliff. There are many different types of harnesses out there in the market, ranging from those aimed at indoor gym climbers to those wishing to impart on a big wall adventure to canyoning-specific equipment.
How to use it: When you are abseiling, it is important to highlight four main elements of the climbing harness and how to use them:
The waist belt: As per the name, the waist belt of the harness must sit on your waist ie above your hips. Use the buckle to tighten the waist belt until it sits snugly above your hips and cannot pass over the bone of your hip.
The leg loops: Ensure that the leg loops are not twisted before putting a leg through each loop. These loops are not required to be tight against your legs, however it’s important to reach a happy medium between being too loose or too tight. Ultimately it is on you to decide what you find comfortable when walking and hanging.
Belay loop: The belay loop is where you attach a device that you intend to use as a safety point, ie when connecting to a belay line or using a descending device without a french prusik
Tie-in loops: The tie-in loops are the points through which you can attach ‘soft’ gear like a personal anchor system or sling. The club harnesses only have a single tie-in loop, which doubles as your belay loop. If a member has a harness of their own, they will more than likely have two tie-in loops and a separate belay loop as in the figure pictured right.
Gear Loops: The gear loops are ONLY for storing equipment (ATC, prusik cord etc.). Gear loops are not rated. Ie they are not an attachment point that should be weighted.
Pink Tape: photo number 1
Importance: The helmet is used to protect the wearer’s head from injury, for example falling rocks, hitting their head against the rock and more. As good as a photo without a helmet might look, your safety is far more important! Always wear your helmet in a canyon, even when just hanging around the top or bottom of the cliff or rock-hopping. You never know if someone might knock off a rock accidentally or if some kids above you are throwing rocks down for fun. These things happen, stay safe.
How to use it: Like any helmet, it is important that it sits snug on your head. Most climbing helmets will have a buckle or rachet at the back to change the tightness. Additionally, ensure the chin strap is done up so your helmet doesn’t fall off when abseiling or belaying (or even walking around).
Connecting to the Abseil Line
There are many suitable devices a canyoner can use to descend a rope. In the club, you will most likely use a figure-8 device which can be connected as explained below. There are two ways of connecting to the abseil line depending on the type of descent being performed. Don’t worry, your activity leader will let you know which type you’ll need to use before you start.
Basic (No third hand)
We use this type of connection in conjunction with a top and/or bottom belay depending on visibility between the abseiler and belayer in a canyon.
First, ensure your figure-8 is connected via a locking carabiner to your belay loop and ensure the carabiner goes through the big loop of the figure 8. Starting this way reduces the chance that you drop the figure-8, a good habit to have if you’re at the top of a cliff. Next, pass a bight of rope through the large loop of the figure 8 and loop it over the smaller loop. Finally, take the figure-8 off the carabiner and reconnect it through the small loop of the figure 8.
Once connected and tight, the rope should come from the anchor, through the device, and be directed towards your dominant hand. You should also be able to see a “smiley-face” of rope around the neck of the figure-8 as shown below. This ensures that, if your device drags over a ledge, it can’t capsize into a hitch, locking off and leaving you stranded on the wall!
With a Third Hand
The second type of abseil connection is used when the abseiler can’t be seen by the belayer for the entirety of their descent. This is similar to the basic version above. Before attaching the descending device, connect a carabiner to your belay loop and tie a french prusik to the abseiling rope as in the photo below.
Notice that the french prusik requires 4 full wraps to sufficiently work as a third hand on a single rope.
The descending device should then be connected to the rope as normal however the device must be extended using a sling, PAS loop or locking quickdraw. All of these methods are suitable and accepted by the club so pick your poison! (So to speak).
You can abseil using this setup without an independent belayer. Simply ‘bump’ the prusik along the rope with your non-dominant hand. If you let go, the prusik will catch you and act as a “third hand”.
Using a top belay
When belaying in a canyon, the club uses a tubular device, commonly known as an ATC. ou will more than likely come across three main types of ATCs, as pictured below:
From left to right: tubular ATC, ATC XP (extra power) and ATC guide. All of these are acceptable to use as a top belay device in the club.
To correctly load these devices:
Create a bight in the system (essentially a big U). One side of the bight will lead to the abseiler and the other side will act as the brake rope.
Thread the bight into one side of the belay device.
When using the tubular device, the orientation of the device does not matter. However you should thread the bight through one of the rope slots, so that the brake rope sits on the edge of the device furtherest from the edge
When using a device with a high friction side, a side with little ‘teeth’ to bite down on the rope; as in the ATC XP and ATC guide, the bight should be threaded through one of the rope slots, so that the brake rope sits on the high friction orientated edge.The brake strand should be pointing away from the ground towards your hand.
Clip a large carabiner through both the rope threaded through the ATC, and the metal U cable at the device's base.
Clip this carabiner through your belay loop and ensure the gate is locked.
What is cross loading and what is the correct orientation of the carabiner?
Cross loading is where the carabiner is loaded across its gate. This is bad, as the carabiner is less strong in this position (usually rated about 8KN). When the load is distributed up/down the stem of the carabiner, the carabiner is much stronger (usually rated above 20KN). Therefore, you must pay attention to the orientation of your carabiner to avoid cross loading when belaying. Do not panic if your carabiner is cross loaded, and do not let go of the brake rope to fix it. If you notice your carabiner has cross loaded, just be more careful next time you belay.
The ABCDEF Method is a check used by canyoners before they begin an abseil to ensure that everything is set-up correctly. ABCDEF stands for:
A - Anchors checked by abseiler and belayer or experienced member. Look up to the anchor and ensure that the rope is not twisted. Ensure at least two anchor points are used and that any gear in in anchor is in good condition.
B - Belts and Buckles, ensure your harness is fitted correctly and your helmet is done up. Ensure any long hair is secured away from the belay device and can’t get caught. Ensure any other equipment you brought is with you and secure eg, a backpack.
C - Connectors, Ensure ALL carabiners are locked and any mallions are tight.
D - Devices, ensure ALL devices in the system are correctly connected, oriented properly and are being loaded. This usually includes your descending device, the belay device and your prusik.
E - Ends and edges, Check that you know where both ends of the rope are. If you cannot see that the rope reaches the bottom of the abseil, the first person should ensure there is a knot in the end of the rope. Check that there are no sharp edges at the top that could cut the rope as you descend.
F - Friend, Communicate with your belayer or, if using a third hand, check that it is attached correctly.
(G - GO!)
Basic Abseil Technique
Abseiling from the top of a cliff can be very different from rappelling at the end of a climb. Once connected and having completed their checks, an abseiler can come off safety and assume the standard abseiling position. The dominant hand should hold the abseil line on their hip or behind their back and, if a third hand is used, the non-dominant hand should be ready to ‘bump’ the prusik along the rope.
Walking backwards towards the edge, the abseiler will then stop with their heels hanging out over the edge of the cliff and lower themselves until their heels touch the vertical wall. They can then start walking down the wall, lowering themselves and keeping their heels pressed into the wall. During descent, the abseiler should try and keep their chest upright and their legs wide and perpendicular to the wall, in a L position. This prevents swinging from side to side or slipping.
How to communicate whilst canyoning: Before leaving the top of an abseil make sure the abseiler and belayer know each other's name. This is highly important, so you can safely communicate, and also make a friend in the process if you have never met.
No manners are needed whilst on a cliff. Communication needs to be clear and concise to avoid confusion. Canyons tend to be very loud so make sure to shout calls between the top and bottom as loud as you can.
The following commands cover the typical communication used when canyoning:
Safe: Used by the Abseiler, this call should be repeated by someone at the top of the cliff to confirm. The abseiler has reached the ground and no longer requires active belaying/the next person can begin to connect to the rope if bottom belay is being employed.
Off Belay: Used by the abseiler in a top belay, This call should be repeated by the belayer to confirm they have heard. Indicates that the abseiler has reached the ground and is no-longer attached to the belay line. The belayer can begin pulling up the line for the next person.
Common mistakes: Some mistakes that abseilers commonly make:
Lowering too fast
Lowering faster than your legs generally means you end up upside down! Not a danger is you’ve got your harness on correctly, just make sure you lower at a speed your feet can keep up with. If you don’t have enough friction, you can often add some by moving your hand further around your back and pressing the rope along your hip. If that isn’t enough, take note and make sure to add a bit more next time (your activity leader can help with that).
Feet too low
This usually happens because of our instinct to stand up. Having your feet low generally means you slip more easily and end up face-planting the rock (ouch). Keep that L-shaped position and and trust your harness and you’ll do just fine
During the practical assessment for this level, your assessor will ask you a minimum of two questions from the following to test your understanding of the theoretical material:
Why is it important that the belayer wears a helmet?
Why is it important that the top-rope climber wears a helmet?
Which part of your harness do you tie your figure-8 knot into?
What is a “well-dressed” knot and why do we like them?
How should the belay carabiner be orientated? Why must it sit in this orientation?
Why should you know your climbers name when belaying?
What step in the five step belay method should you spend the least time in? Why?
When supervising an unlevelled member, what can you do to ensure that the climber’s fall will be caught in the event that the belayer you are supervising makes a mistake?
V0.1 Ruby Daly & Lachlan Knowles 26-10-2023 Created Document