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Aids for descending overhung ledges...?


Today I took the family hiking to a nearby nature preserve, and we setup a rappel near a waterfall just for fun.

There was a "severe" overhang at the ledge - let's just call it 8 feet/ 2meters - long enough that one's legs could not touch the rock face under the overhang...

Is there a decent method, aid device, or technique to help descend over a severely overhung ledge? Ascending up past the ledge, I know one could use an etrier, an extra ascender above the ledge with a foot-loop tethered to it, etc...

But what about descending past this overhung ledge? Is an etrier practical here? Or does it simply complicate matters?

Thanks in advance...


The ledge in question for reference. Notice how there's no chance of my feet reaching anything under the ledge...




Well-known member
I concur with Wayland Smith - but I doubt the SRT purists would go along with this!
(I can imagine Fulk's eyes rolling skywards. :rolleyes: )

However, it is an interesting question so I'll watch this topic to see if anything useful emerges.
I always have in mind the day we got "Chester" (the late, one legged former Clapham resident) up Pillar Rock above Ennerdale, followed by his abseiling off and turning upside down.


Well-known member
Descending down past a ledge is usually OK, if very thrutchy (basically get right down against the rock and slither down ungracefully). There are still significant hazards from loose rock disturbed by the rope and rope-cutting swings across the edge.

I would be extremely hesitant to prusik back up such a rope without decent edge protection (e.g. rope protectors).

Not practical outside (this is a climbing abseil really rather than a caving one), but in a UK cave the answer to passing such an edge is generally to a) not do it and/or b) rebelay.


Descending down past a ledge is usually OK, if very thrutchy (basically get right down against the rock and slither down ungracefully). There are still significant hazards from loose rock disturbed by the rope and rope-cutting swings across the edge.

Also relating to the other thread on Karabiner choice, years ago I was abseiling off Froggatt Edge where there was a slight undercut and tried the slither ungracefully approach. I was using an early "Twistlock" karabiner (which was a one action twist the gate to unlock) to connect my figure of eight descender to my harness and the karabiner was opened by the gate being opened by rubbing on the edge and I was left hanging by the karabiner nose catching on the rock edge with eth gate being held open....


Well-known member
It would be common to rebelay over the edge, but that thing looks horrible and possibly not overly attached?

I have often rebelayed on to a strop over the edge (either tape or wire), which does require a certain level of user awareness. It deals with the abrasion risk at least and you don’t need bolts just there. Otherwise it just going to have to be a rope protector of some sort. Or go pro with a gantry setup that sticks out over the edge (this makes it a doddle).

That 500’ drop I showed you before was rigged off a pair of strops, the vertical rock was unboltable just there (solution pockets).


I just place my feet on the lip of the overhang, keep abseiling without moving my feet until at least my hips are below the lip of the overhang. Then bend your knees, place one hand against the rock and move your legs beneath the overhang.

If you're feeling dynamic you can keep abseiling (with your feet still on the lip of the overhang) until you're face is below the lip. Kick out with your feet and let some rope out so you don't swing back in and headbutt the rock.

Further complications arise if you need to abseil onto a ledge beneath the overhang. You need to keep a pendulum going to be able to swing back in. Then keep hold of the end of the rope so you can pull the next person in if necessary.


Just go somewhere else? It's for family fun after all.
That's certainly an option.

For reference as other's mentioned, I did have a rope pad down to protect the rope over the edge. There would have been other places more friendly to start off (less ledge to deal with) but this place had the best landing zone, and with the best trees to tie off to.

The ledge itself was several feet thick and quite solid. Was just a LONG overhang.

For going over, I chose the method of keeping one's legs straight & wide, and just rappelling down & down & down until practically feeling upside down, and the rope was against the ledge. By that point, my feet were able to catch up, and it was a smooth rappell down.

Coming back over the ledge took some extra effort, but was far less uncomfortable feeling. An etrier would have made this a snap, so eventually we'll add that to the rigging kit. I like the idea of a piece of cable ladder as well. Hard to offer more assistance than that!

Steve Clark

Well-known member
That looks pretty horrible and loose.

abseiling for climbing, I’ve tried turning sideways and just let my left hip rub against the rock. That’s for sharp clean overhangs through, with the rope more vertical. In those circumstances you can just bounce/jump past it if you’re confident.

Rescue teams use a bi-pod (Kong Grizzly) to get loads past awkward edges like this.


Well-known member
Just need to be careful not to put your leg through the etrier when descending, but makes things a whole lot easier going up.