Abseiling is the use of a rope for a controlled descent of a rock face or climbing wall. Rock climbers and rappellers use climbing rope, climbing harnesses, and belay devices to abseil.\n\nAbseiling techniques come in handy for [rock climbing](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/types-of-climbing-guide), mountaineering, caving, and canyoning. Rock climbers and mountaineers may abseil to work their way down a challenging cliff. Guides and park rangers may use abseiling as a rescue technique. \nThere is no difference between abseiling and rappelling. Both words describe outdoor activities where a rope and a friction device (usually a [belay](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-belay) device) are used to carefully descend a cliff face or vertical wall.\n\nThe distinction between the term rappelling and the term abseiling comes down to cultural differences. Abseiling is the term of choice in many European nations, while rappelling is preferred in the United States. Some nations, like New Zealand and Canada, use the words "rappel" and "abseil" almost interchangeably.\nThe Chamonix guide Jean Charlet-Straton is often credited as the first abseiler (or rappeler). Charlet-Straton used a rope-based abseiling technique on an 1876 ascent of Petit Dru in the French Alps. Although the attempt failed, the abseiling technique took off within the mountain climbing community. Charlet-Straton reached the summit of Petit Dru in 1879, using abseiling along the way.\n\nContemporary abseiling uses modern climbing equipment including state-of-the-art climbing harnesses, rope, belay devices, and friction hitches called prusiks. Nonetheless, the core definition of abseiling remains the same as in the days of Jean Charlet-Straton.\nThe term abseiling comes from the German word “abseilen,” which means "to rope down." Meanwhile the term rappelling comes from the French word “rappeler,” which means "to pull through."\nClimbing is a high-impact activity with an elevated risk of serious injury. Practice, proper guidance, and extensive safety precautions are essential when attempting a climbing pursuit. This article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional instruction or guidance.\nTake your climbing mastery to new heights with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com) and exclusive video lessons from Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell, two of the world’s most accomplished climbers. Together they’ll help you get a grasp on climbing holds, balance, footwork, and more, plus teach you the ins and outs of ethical outdoor exploration. \nAbseiling is a rock climbing technique for descending in a controlled manner.