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Canyoneering is an adventurous sport that involves squeezing your body through the deep earth as you navigate through challenging terrains.

The main aim is to move from one point to another using several techniques like hiking, sliding, rappelling, scrambling, or stemming.

The game helps boost your mental and physical strength and improves your problem solving and teamwork skills.

In the game, you need anchors with different strengths to tie your rope unto as you dropdown.

This article covers fiddlestick vs. smooth operator, similar tools with slight differences to help you make an informed selection.

Canyoneering anchoring systems

The smooth operator is a metal anchoring system that contains two elongated indentures on both sides.

It allows you to attach other equipment to secure the knots at the end of a rope anchor to drop safely.

You can, therefore, pull everything down, leaving nothing at the rappel.

It’s a retrievable system where you tie a knot around the anchor, held together with the smooth operator tool.

After every participant gets down, you pull the operator from the knot, and both the rope and pull cord fall separately.

On the other hand, a fiddlestick is a plastic tool that holds a hitch in place in your repel rope while descending.

To retrieve the cord, you pull it free from the bottom. It has a permanently attached rope and has no holes at the end of the stick.

How to use the anchoring systems

The smooth operator allows you to use various anchors ranging from trees, arches, and other prebuilt options.

It’s not a standalone tool, and you may need to attach it to other equipment to form a complete anchoring system.

The tools required include:

• A safety carabiner
• Repelling rope
• Pull line

While using the smooth operator tool, the initial step is to ensure that you anchor safely.

Wind the rope tightly around a firm object like a pole or tree, then tie the stone knot and insert the smooth operator. It prevents the rope from unwinding when exerted on more weight.

Remember that your cord will need to pull smoothly and efficiently around the anchor even after releasing the knot.

You can try out the rope’s movement with some short test pulls if you are unsure if the cord will flow around the anchor.

At times, you can use webbing.

If you find it challenging for the rappel rope to pull around the anchor, leave a piece of webbing around the anchor, and insert the smooth operator.

Further, the safety carabiner helps to withstand extreme pressure to ensure that your smooth operator doesn’t slide out in case of high stress on the anchor.

It excellently interlocks with the tool and attaches to the rappel rope to create a completely secure knot.

Next, you now connect the pull line running parallel to your cord, which helps disengage the rope when every participant descends.

When you get to the final landing space, pull the retrieval rope the smooth operator slip out, and you can now pull the cord down.

It’s worth taking note that heavy vegetation and other obstructions may tangle the pull line or rope.

The smooth operator can also get stuck in cracks or choke stones, and you should always check the area thoroughly to avoid this.

While using the fiddlestick, you pass the end of your rope around the anchor using a sling, and then you tie the two strands in an upwards stone knot.

You then insert the fiddlestick through the hitch to hold it in place.

Once tightened, you now lower the rope, and the group can begin to descend.

When the team gets to the bottom, you can use a static and robust pull cord to retrieve the fiddlestick.

After pulling it out, the short end of the rope comes close to the anchor, and the rope’s weight will pull it down to the ground.

One main contrast between fiddlestick and smooth operator is that instead of having to rappel rope through the rappel ring, in fiddlestick, you pull it out of the knot, and the cord falls.

When to use the tools

If you are looking for a further anchor distance, you may want to consider the smooth operator tool.

You can set it up to 20 to 30 feet away from the top of the rappel.

It makes it easy to pull an anchor set far from the rappel, significantly adding the possible choices of anchors you can have.

The smooth operator also comes in handy in long drops when you use two ropes tied together.

Still, you will retrieve the cords easily.

Besides, it’s a great option to reduce your workload with a quicker setup.

The simple knot around a massive object eliminates the hassle of establishing a fixed anchor so you can start your adventures within minutes.

Another significant benefit of using the smooth operator is that it will save you money by using less equipment.

The tool reduces the number of warps required since you retrieve all the equipment used to make the anchor system once you get lowered.

On the other hand, the fiddlestick works best in more remote adventurous trips.

Besides, you can still use it in more traffic canyons.

It’s rigged from the end, and you only require to let out the exact length of the rope you intend to use.

It will therefore help avoid any tangles and speed up coiling.

Additionally, you don’t need to join ropes together for more extended drops.

Just wrap half the cord to the anchor and pull the other half down at the other end.

Furthermore, it’s an ideal choice to combine several drops, since you can retrieve the rope without having to pull through the anchor.

Also, it reduces rope wear. You only tie at the ends and not the middle, so you can easily cut off an old rope’s worn-out edges.

Safety considerations

It’s worth noting that fiddlestick requires skills, practice, and understanding, and any incorrect rigging can result in fatal accidents.

Therefore, this system works best for experienced individuals who have undertaken the necessary instructions under a controlled environment.

However, the tool is strong enough to withstand the imparted forces.

Ensure that you check the device for any signs of defects or cracks.

Also, check the pull cord since if it fails while you try to retrieve, you might be unable to remove the fiddlestick.

It would best if you carry two fiddlesticks and twice as long as the required rope so that you don’t remain trapped in canyons if your tool gets damaged or when you have a stuck rope.

A significant disparity in fiddlestick vs. smooth operator is that the latter offers additional safety for the participants, except the last one.

It contains holes where you insert a carabiner clipped on the rope above the knot that prevents the smooth operator from accidentally getting pulled.

Therefore, you have the opportunity to observe any and fix any potential problems in the knot before the last person descends.

With this tool, the last participant is still at risk, and you may want to ensure that they are experienced enough with the system and environment.

They must watch out for points where they can unweight the rope and chock the system.

Featured image credit: Image ID: 1030554352