Why the Australian Rappel is as cool as it looks

Ruddy Cano
Nov 11, 2022 4:26 AM PST
3 minute read

(U.S. Army photo)


Leaping off a height of over 10 floors is no easy feat, but overcoming your fear of heights will leave…

Leaping off a height of over 10 floors is no easy feat, but overcoming your fear of heights will leave you feeling strangely comfortable. This dangerous yet intriguing expedition is an advanced freestyle rope work from the Australian army in the 1960s.

The majority of climbing accidents occur during the rappel, and it’s imperative to exercise extreme caution when performing it. As something that seemingly appears to have come straight out of a movie, the rappeler runs toward the ground at neck-breaking speed and stops just before touching the ground.

The Australian Rappel theoretically encapsulates troops shooting using one hand and self-belaying with the other. There are different types of rappels ranging from hanging, standard, simul-rappels, firemen and military rappels. Still, the Australian model is intriguingly associated with descending with your back turned toward the anchor and face pointing to the ground.

While the need to use modified equipment increases the risk for damage or injury, the Australian Rappel harnesses heights to intrigue enthusiasts.

(U.S. Army photo)

How to do the Australian Rappel

It’s not every day you have a simulated experience of SWAT Teams jumping right out of a helicopter or sliding down the wall of buildings firing rounds of ammunition. But, you can still wholly “simulate” this experience in an occasional Australian Rappel.

For the easiest option, rappel as you would typically run but facing a downhill slope this time. The most popular option requires wearing a harness backward while tying it like you usually would but using the opposite hand as brakes.  

Australian-style Rappelling is somewhat hated by some climbers, mainly because of their outright focus on safety. It is, however, expected that an industry marred with reckless maneuvers would not like to add additional risks. 

Onlookers will certainly disapprove of any attempts to try the Australian Rappel, but it doesn’t deserve the elemental stigma it has, given that it is a breathtaking experience. To guarantee safety, beware of loose clothing, triple-check your rigging then use a belay to offset the chances of tripping. Moving at such high speed can twist ropes and you might need a friend’s help to set up everything. More importantly, double-check the ropes, riggings and test the flow before running off the edge.

Indian Army Soldiers from 7th Battalion, The Madras Regiment, “Shandaar Saath,” demonstrate unique rappel techniques Oct 20 as a part of Yudh Abhyas 21 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. (Photos provided by Sgt. Christopher B. Dennis/USARAK Public Affairs NCO)

What makes it Intriguing?

Clinging a rock with your feet moving your body at neck-breaking speed toward the bottom of a cliff is without a doubt breathtaking. The sun beating down your back and hearing fragmented voices of people looking at you along with your heartbeat will probably be the only things you can feel close to. Honestly, when I trained in South Korea many moons ago, the experience was over before you knew it. It's also psychologically intimidating because these crazy MFs just ran down a cliff face and are coming to kick down your door.

When climbing down the cliff, you’ll use your arms, shoulders and entire body to balance weight and resistance. In addition to getting a good session of interesting climbing, you’ll have a high-intensity cardio workout that burns as high as 500 calories an hour.

The Australian Rappel puts you in all sorts of poses as you stretch, cling to the tope, and get to the correct position for the next move. As people say that adventure teaches you life skills of stamina, the Rappel is a prime example of endurance. There’s pretty much nothing like a breathtaking challenge to get you fired up in the thrill of conquering a rock face as you climb downwards.

Being out on the cliff using your body in a highly satisfying experience is good for your mind too. Focusing your energy on something else gives you a different perspective that sharpens your thinking of insurmountable problems with colossal risks.  Aside from relieving fears and building confidence, the Australian Rappel teaches you to trust your gear like never before.


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