There’s a ton of different ways to attach your travel restriction to your anchor; some right, some wrong. One of the easiest ways to make it happen is also one of the worst. Simply wrapping you  carabiner and rope around the anchor and clipping it back to itself is not an entirely uncommon sight.

Take a look at the videos below that were taken by Richard Delaney of Rope Lab and  Rope Test Lab on Facebook. They show what can happen if you actually took a fall on this type of tie off. This type of demonstration should be enough proof for the doubters that you should actually pay attention to how you tie off. It’s obviously an issue of training to make sure it always gets done correctly. Sometimes it can be the littlest attention to details that can have the biggest effect.



The wrong way:


Better ways to tie off are to use either a clove hitch or Italian (Munter) hitch:IMG_1654IMG_1652



There was a rescue from the Paulinskill Viaduct in New Jersey earlier this week. A young female injured her ankle while apparently climbing around under the viaduct, a popular place to do some urban exploring. The viaduct is listed a seeing 125′ above the creek below.


Reading the article linked below and looking at some of the pictures, a few things jumped out at me. The first was that just because you can access somebody on foot, in this case climbing down the manhole, doesn’t mean it’s the easiest way to remove them. It looks like the rescuers entered down the manhole on foot and came up the side of the viaduct as an attendant on the side of the stokes basket.

viaduct entrance viaduct edge transition


A couple of things I noticed: Great use of the tools at hand to construct a high directional. I do think, however, that it was leaned out a bit too far. If you watch the video in the link, you can see the difficulty in trying to bring the basket up and over the rail while the attendant is still attached. Not a huge difficulty, but probably frustrating.


Four quick thoughts on fixing that, from guy who wasn’t there and is Monday morning quarterbacking it.  First, don’t have an attendant. There didn’t look to be many obstructions on the way up.  Attendants are popular because it looks cool and we often times do it in training, but they are not needed as often as we put them on.

Second, have the attendant get on terra firma as soon as possible. This will cause  the edge crew to only have to haul a single person load out of plumb and up over the rail. This means that the attendant needs to EASILY be able to move up and down the rope; either be great at ascending and descending quickly or use something like an AZTEK kit for the attendant’s line.

Third, don’t lean the bipod over so far. It’s nice to not have any rope touching the edge anywhere, but it makes it a tremendous pain in the butt to try and get back up over the edge because you are trying to pull a load a couple of feet in on a short rope. Difficult, to say the least.viaduct distance

Fourth, make gravity work for you. I’m not sure if it was possible or not, but why not just lower all the way to the ground? Have the Gator at the train the bottom and move them up to the ambulance on that, perhaps? Again, I wasn’t there, but options like this one should always be considered during the size up.


The title of a “The Greatest Highline Ever” is being given to a group of people who probably knew very little about rope rescue as we know it and also probably wish they never had to set up this highline.


On May 11, 1945 an aircraft carrier called the USS Bunker Hill was near Okinawa, Japan supporting the invasion of Okinawa when it was struck by two kamikaze planes in quick succession. The ship was heavily damaged and the crew suffered massive casualties. 346 sailors and airmen were killed, 43 were lost at sea and never found, and 264 were wounded.


A light cruiser named the USS Wilkes Barre was one of several ships that came to the rescue. The Wilkes Barre was brought alongside Bunker Hill, with the Wilkes-Barre‍ ’​s bow placed hard against the Bunker Hill’s starboard quarter. The cruiser played 10 streams of water on the persistent fires, while 40 men, trapped astern in Bunker Hill scrambled to safety. Additionally, the injured were ferried to safety from one ship to another utilizing a highline. The title of “Greatest Highline Ever” goes to the “Greatest Generation”. Take a look at the pictures below and see if you agree.  Additionally, take 3 minutes to watch the Youtube video below. There is some really compelling footage of the actual attack as well as some pretty gruesome pictures of the aftermath. Let’s not forget the sacrifice these guys made.

bunker hill highline


Bunker Hill 2


Wounded Yorktown Crewman Transferred Via Breeches Buoy


We’ve had a huge demand to run this class again this spring, so we’ve finally added this open enrollment class to our calendar. Here is your chance to keep up on the latest equipment and trends in the rope rescue world.

Join us in Pennsylvania Dutch country for our latest presentation of Modern Technologies in Rope Rescue at the  Lancaster County Public Service Training Center on April 25 and 26 2015. Using the newest techniques on the newest equipment in an urban setting, come learn ideas that have been proven and tested in the real world in both urban and wilderness settings.

Topics included this time around include:

Use of the AZTEK kit to pass knots, perform a pickoff, basket attending, and a whole lot more.

In depth discussion and use of the Two Tension Rope System utilizing the MPD.

Use of  the Arizona Vortex  high directional in the urban environment.

The Rescue 2 Training original: The Appalachian Doortex! For urban anchoring and elevator rescue. High Directional? Anchor? Both!?… Come find out!

3 dimensional anchoring with the UFO.

The Skyhook capstan winch.

…And much more.

The cost of this two day, 16 hour class is $295 per person. Just bring a harness, helmet, and any ideas or equipment you would like to see used.

Please contact Kelly Byrne at 240-462-6610 or for registration information or questions.


azorp gin poleIMG_0221IMG_0211



Take a look at the first video in the link below. It’s a news story out of Fort Wayne, IN that I assume was supposed to be a simple feel good piece highlighting the local rope rescue team. If you want to jump right to the good stuff, go to the 2:10 mark in the video. What you will see is a really big, really expensive mousetrap.


I do feel a little bit bad about Monday morning quarterbacking this video… but not enough to cause me not to do it.


First, the critical point at the Kootenay Carriage. It would appear that there are two track lines, and two upper control lines (although no lower control lines) with tails going down to the rescuer and victim. The Kootenay, however, remains a critical point. Do I think it will fail?  No. But we rig for failure caused by human factors, not equipment factors. Should that Kootenay fail though, the basket could take a major and possibly fatal swing fall.


Second, there is difficulty with attempting to get the basket back up over the edge after they took a ride down and back up the track lines. The reason given in the report is that the “ropes stretched”. While I don’t doubt they stretched, take a look at the link the news story below the youtube video. The second video is extra footage they got while doing the shoot. It is obvious from watching it that they were going to have this problem. While initially loading the basket over the edge you can see how far it drops down when it is initially loaded. It’s about the same distance that they are below the edge when they come back up.


Rope stretch? Maybe.  Foreseeable problem? More likely.  I’m curious if the attendant could have stood on the end of the basket in order to raise the head up and over the edge. Also a factor is the excessively tall bridle they use. Judging by the video, I’m guessing from the bottom of the basket to the top of the carriage to be six feet in height.


Third, you can see from this picture just how close the resultant is to being outside of the footprint of the tripod. When the track lines were tensioned to raise the load, I’m curious if the friction in the pulleys caused them to temporarily move the resultant until they found their center again.

Inside look at high angle rescue training_00000


Fourth, two statements made during this gave me a bit of heartburn. The first is that the “white rope didn’t work the way it was supposed to.” Ropes work exactly as they are rigged. Unless it broke under tension due to unseeable chemical degradation, it was rigging failure.  It’s hard to tell what the white lines were rigged to, but I’m guessing they got pulled up off of whatever they were on. The second statement is that “nobody was dropped…they were lowered”.  If it was unexpected and uncontrolled, it was a drop. Maybe I would have been inclined to say the same thing out of embarrassment while on camera, but lets call it what it is.

Last, neither the reporter in the basket, nor the one on the roof seen just before the tripod topples, have a helmet on. If I were running this show, it probably would have been an afterthought for me too. Having seen this video, I’d be willing to bet it would be a fatal blow if a tripod toppling like that hits you in the head, helmet or not.

I do applaud Ft. Wayne TRT for allowing this to air (if in fact they had a choice). It’s sometimes hard to admit a goof up. It’s even harder to have it on tape for guys to critique from a distance without knowing the full circumstances (me). The least we can do is try to learn from it.



More footage in the second video here: 

We have just added an Open Enrollment Class for our Modern Technologies in Rope Rescue workshop on May 17 and 18 in Lancaster, PA.This class covers a lot of ground in two days. We will discuss and use the AZTEK in many of its essential uses. We’ll also be using the Two Tension Rope System concept with the CMC MPD. Additionally, we’ll be using the Arizona Vortex in some of its traditional configurations as well as the Rescue 2 Training original: the “Appalachian Doortex” configuration for urban anchoring and elevator rescue.

Come out and try the newest equipment and techniques in rope rescue. Cost of the class is $295.

Email Kelly M Byrne at or call 240-462-6610 for more information.

open enrollment lancaster may 2014.001ufo 2ufo 1
mpd 1

The recent rescue by the South Walton Fire District’s Technical Rescue team in Florida is a great example of rescue where it is easy to access the victim by something as simple as a ladder, but where a rope based system might still be the best alternative for getting them down to the ground safely.

You can see in the pictures that the guys on the ground are able to guide the basket most of the way to the ground while it is supported on  the ladder and being lowered with rope.

Two quick points: If possible, I would have tried to line up my ladder with my anchors so that it was all in plumb. Maybe there is a good reason they didn’t. It’s hard to tell from just a picture.  Secondly, you can see how easily they overcame this by just having a rescuer on the roof do a very minor deflection by just pulling on the rope. It’s a good example of knowing how to easily overcome a problem by knowing a few physics tricks.

Not all rope calls are high pucker factor incidents of life and death. Sometimes it’s just the simplest way of getting  the patient to the ground. Good job, guys.


swfd easy access

We were messing around the other day with some variations on how to better perform the best way to get a vertically oriented basket up over a 90 degree edge, which is know alternately as the “Pike and Pivot” or “V Strap” technique.

The issue of effective, efficient edge protection for our ropes and webbing was given us a bit of a challenge until our resident old man (and connoisseur of Miller Lite on his days off) , Mike S, suggested that we try and use a Sked as edge protection. It’s smooth, tough, has plenty of places to tie it off, and is much wider than standard edge protection. We’ve dubbed it Skedge Protection.

It can only be described as having worked perfectly for this situation.

I have no idea what the long term durability would be if used as edge pro all of the time, but for what we were using it for, I’ll definitely grab it without a second thought next time.

2014-03-06 11.31.20


Something not quite right about this picture… I just can’t put my finger on it, though.


Seriously though, if you’ve never thought about the forces generated from a rope system, even something as simple as a Munter hitch… this should be all the warning you’ll ever need. I suspect that the climber was falling and got his finger caught in the hitch while it was slack , only to have it still there when the rope tightened again.


Eric Ulner from Ropes that Rescue provided this response via Facebook:

“I use Munter and super Munter all the time in tree work for catching branches/logs to lower away from structures. While rigging the Munter, and BEFORE firing up the chainsaw, I will take up as much slack as possible while leaving the Munter in its “jumped” position. That involves pulling that strand coming out of the standing end’s first turn on the carabiner with one hand while the other pulls the opposite direction on the standing end. I developed a habit for doing this a long time ago, where I use a pinch grip on the 2nd strand with my thumb pressing the rope against the side of my curled forefinger (much like a fist). The thought of this very situation crossed my mind when I was tying off a brittle/dead branch…

So, the position of the finger and the palm down position of the hand says to me that this poor chap was trying to keep the Munter jumped while he took up slack while belaying, but with the mistake of wrapping the finger around the 2nd strand.”


I think he correct and in looking closer at the picture, we can see that the carabiner looks like it attached to a belay anchor. The owner of this finger was probably belaying a climber who fell while his finger was in the Munter. Thanks for the insight, Eric!


Thanks to Brian Kazmierzakof Firefighter Close Calls for send this in to us. We’re unable to find the origin of this picture and have no idea of the circumstances surrounding it. If you have any info, we’d love to know the particulars.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to move somebody over water. Being a rope geek, I think it should always be done with rope. There might be some debate about whether it always the right answer, but I would argue that almost anything would be better than what transpired in the pictures below.

A sick passenger on a cruise liner was being transferred to a smaller boat to be taken to shore for medical treatment. She was placed on stretcher and transferred to the smaller boat while both boats were under way ! 

Things are going along just fine (but just look at the snow and ice on top of the smaller boat):

boat transfer 1

Moments later, rescuer Bob “Butterfingers” Johnson knows that he will never, ever get rid of his nickname. This is the victim taking her unintentional swim test in 27 degree water:

boat transfer 2

Read the lurid details of the incident here:

For another option of getting people off of a boat, check out the rope operation called a “Breeches Buoy”. It’s the older brother of the high line and was used  for getting sailors to shore off of ships that had wrecked near the shore. It is basically a high line with all controls for lowering and retrieving the victim based on the shore.