When getting off the ground for multi-pitch climbing, do you climb with a dedicated Prusik on your harness? If not, here are a few good reasons why you should:
1. As a backup for rappelling
Perhaps the most obvious reason to carry a Prusik is to use it as a “third hand” or backup while rappelling. While I don’t believe in setting hard and fast rules such as you must always rappel with a Prusik, I do think giving yourself the option is an excellent idea.
Adding a Prusik backup while rappelling makes dealing with stuck ropes, traversing, cleaning gear, and really any shenanigans you might encounter, much safer and easier.
How to tie a Prusik knot (ascender, auto-block, rappel backup)
2. When tandem rappelling in the event of an accident
In the event of an accident where you must tandem rappel with your partner, having a Prusik backup is invaluable. Most rappel devices are designed to safely control the descent of a one person load and the extra weight of a second person on that device can be difficult, if not extremely dangerous to control, without some form of backup.
Using a Prusik made of cord for this use is important. Many people opt out of carrying a Prusik made of cordage because they figure they can just improvise one out of a sling they are already carrying. The problem with using slings, especially slings made of dyneema, is that they have a much lower melting point and the heat generated by rappelling could melt them, especially with the additional weight of a second person.
3. For assistance in ascending a rope
Carrying a Prusik gives one the ability to easily ascend a rope should they need to. Rappelling past an anchor in the dark and floundering on the end of the rope until a rescue arrives is an embarrassing/dangerous situation that nobody needs to experience.
4. For use in self-rescue scenarios
Prusiks are the foundation of almost all self-rescue techniques. Whether you are simply adding some mechanical advantage to help your partner get through a crux-y sequence or fully escaping the belay to start a more involved partner rescue, having a dedicated Prusik will ease the process.
I don’t carry a lot of extra stuff while climbing, but a Prusik cord is something I never leave the ground without. It’s small enough and versatile enough that there is no significant reason to not carry one on your harness.
Buck Yedor has been trad climbing for almost a decade and is a member of Yosemite Search and Rescue. Having completed courses like Rigging for Rescue and other numerous in-house trainings with YOSAR, he is competent in safely moving over large pieces of stone. Buck’s technical training combined with years of personal climbing experience have given him the chance to see and make plenty of mistakes which he hopes will help you avoid making the same ones.
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