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Survival

Survival: Deal with a Snagged Rope

Rope caught up in a bad way. Here's what to do.

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Some cracks devour ropes the way marmots munch on radiator lines. If your lifeline gets hung up in a crack while you’re pulling it between rappels, first try flicking it sharply from different angles. No luck? If there’s enough free cord, your partner can belay you while you climb to the snag. Otherwise, be ready with a belay knife—no, you’re not touching the void, but you might have to cut that irretrievable rope and make a series of mini rappels with the remaining cord (melt the ends to prevent fraying). This is what alpinist Kelly Cordes had to do when bailing off Mt. Hunter, in Alaska—rapping about 3,000 feet with only half a length of rope. “Not fun,” he says, “but it worked.”