DesertAdventurer.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an affiliate, this website earns from qualifying purchases.

The FiddleStick is a great way to rig a retrievable rope. Rather than having to pull the rappel rope up through the rappel ring, you simply pull the FiddleStick out of the knot to release the knot.

The rope falls down.

This is a how-to article that will explain what is fiddlestick canyoneering.

We will address questions, like when to use fiddlestick canyoneering, how to use it, and valuable safety precautions to consider.

What is Fiddlestick Canyoneering?

The FiddleStick is both a concept and a product, therefore, you can make your own at home if you wish.

That being said, it is not a good idea to improvise with the materials around you, if you find yourself in a situation where employing the use of the fiddlestick would come in handy.

The FiddleStick is a wonderful tool for those who are adamant about not leaving anything behind. If this sounds like you, let’s dive right in.

The fiddlestick is an advanced anchoring tool, and should be respected as such.

Safe use requires skill, practice, and understanding, as even experts can fail to anchor themselves properly.

Such a mistake or slip can be fatal.

You tie a Stone (Stein) knot, with a short tail. The other end of the line is used for rappelling.

Attached to your fiddlestick is a pull cord, which you use to release the fiddlestick and pull the knot apart.

This video will show you how using a Fiddlestick works.

The Upward Overhand Stone is the recommended knot for use with the fiddlestick.

This is because of its reliable disintegration upon pulling the fiddlestick out.

What to use as a fiddlestick anchor

There are several things to consider when choosing your fiddlestick anchor.

Take a look at:

  • how solid the anchor is
  • the snag risk
  • the pinch factor
  • the angle to knot
  • rig the fiddlestick in plain sight
  • rig the fiddletsick in “free space”

The anchor is the most important part.

You want your anchor to be solid. Test your anchor by looping your rappel rope around it and yanking back on it.

Look to see if the anchor moves or wiggles at all.

Your anchor also needs to be free of any potential snags, so that the rappel rope can remove itself easily.

Look one step further at the fall.

Will the fiddlestick have a clear drop?

Look for branches or stones that could snag any equipment on the way down.

The pinch factor is an evaluation of whether or not any grooves will pinch your rappel rope, especially with increased tension.

It is always better to be safe than sorry, and employ the use of webbing.

You need to consider the size of the anchor when determining whether or not the angle to the knot will be too wide.

If it is too wide, the rappel rope will converge on the stone knot.

It is best to use webbing in this instance, or better yet, tie the stone knot further away from the anchor.

It is always a good idea to rig the fiddlestick where it will remain in plain sight throughout the entire descent.

This is not always possible, but it makes life less stressful.

The fiddlestick needs to be rigged in free space. This means that the fiddlestick will not be at risk of brushing up against something that could knock the fiddlestick out.

If the fiddlestick does have to rub against the ground, make sure it is resting in a way that the ground or other objects will not push the fiddlestick in or out.

This must be taken very seriously, as the fiddlestick is the only way the stone knot is still intact during your descent.

When and where is the technique used?

The first step is to choose a good anchor.

Once you have found and tested your anchor, the next step is to fashion your stone knot and insert the fiddlestick.

You do this very carefully:

Step 1. Make a loop by twisting the rope onto itself.
Step 2: Fold the loop so that it rests on top of the two lines that lead to the anchor.
Step 3: “Weave” the fiddlestick through the loop by going on top of the first, under the anchor lines, then on top of the loop again.
Step 4: Cinch down the stone knot on the fiddlestick.

The last person down, having reached the bottom of the descent, will deploy the pull cord for the fiddlestick.

The official fiddlestick does not have holes at each end. If yours does, however, you can attach safety carabiners at each end and to the rope above.

This makes it so that the fiddlestick cannot be pulled out from the knot in either direction.

If using the fiddlestick, simply place a carabiner with the fiddlestick inside the stone knot, and then clip the carabiner to the rope.

The last person down will remove all the carabiners.

He/she will not fashion carabiners around their own knot, and everybody should be paying close attention to his/her descent.

Where would you use the fiddlestick technique?

You might want to use it on traderoute canyons where you will not be contributing to deeper rope groves, however, this environment is not the fiddlestick’s element.

Fiddlestick canyoneering is great for first descents.

Take it on rarely-travelled backcountry canyons, or places where you really do not want to leave any trace of yourself behind.

When is fiddlestick canyoneering not appropriate to use?

You do not want to use the fiddlestick technique in places where the fiddlestick will be at increased risk of popping out.

This is especially the case if the rappel rope must bend over a boulder.

Any bumping or chafing of the rappel rope against the boulder could knock the fiddlestick out of the knot, thus releasing you from your anchor.

You should also not use the fiddlestick technique if you do not have a proper fiddlestick tool to use.

Fiddlesticks must be sturdy pieces of material, not just a random stick that you found along your path.

It is possible to create a fiddlestick yourself, but not impulsively or in dire straits.

The fiddlestick technique should NOT be used in flowing water canyons, and especially not on a rescue rope.

The water can easily disrupt the fiddlestick, as can excessive jostling that might occur in a rescue.

Safety considerations and precautions for fiddlesticks

As with any tool or technique, there are valuable safety precautions to consider.

It is very important that you tie an Upward Overhand Stone knot.

It is very easy for knots to get tangled, which would result in a stranded canyoneer.

The tail should also be of a safe length: not too long so as to get caught on another object, but not too short to where it might slip through the knot.

It is an advanced tool and technique, and should be carried out with caution, attentiveness, awareness, good judgement, knowledge, and understanding of the risks involved.

Examine your fiddlestick for cracks or other signs of excessive wear and tear.

Watch for the fiddlestick falling once you have released it, so that you do not get knocked in the head when it lands.

Always carry around an extra rope in case you get “Fiddle Stuck.”

Be aware of the nature of the descent, of any branches that could snag your rappel rope, of any stones or surfaces that your fiddlestick could hit on your way down.

Your pull cord should not weigh more than eight pounds, and pick a good cord diameter depending on the nature of your drop (6mm is good for most, but long drops might fair best with 1/8″).

Wet and sandy ropes add weight.

You should always consult an industry professional before using the fiddlestick or any other canyoneering technique to ensure the safety and appropriateness of its use. This article is for informational purposes only.

Featured image credit: Shutterstock.com Image ID: 1546739228