rope access

All posts tagged rope access

While there is great debate about whether the mirrored Two Tensioned Rope System (TTRS) using CMC Rescue Multi-Purpose Devices (MPDs) should or shouldn’t be the way to go, one argument seems to be more popular than others regarding it: If one of the lines should fail and the person operating the second MPD fails to let go, the load will have a catastrophic fall. This is a simplified statement that I feel sums up the majority of what the argument seem to be about.


Mirrored system run off the head of an Appalachian Doortex:


What I find most interesting with this argument is that we now want to account for a SECOND point of failure i our system. What if: one rope is cut, one anchor blows out, etc… AND what if the belayer doesn’t let go, doesn’t realize the first line is compromised, etc…

No other system rope rescue system is viewed in this perspective despite the fact that any belay system can be overridden by an inattentive belay operator. So if we want to assume a second point of failure, do we need a third rope? Of course not; we need a fourth in case the third one goes. I’m kidding, of course.

The arguments seem to hinge on whether or not failure one causes failure two and if the nebulous “human factors” can be accounted for. It’s an acceptable thought, but again, we don’t apply this anywhere else in our rigging process. Otherwise we would have tertiary anchors and ropes for every main anchor and change of direction. While human factors that can affect performance and safety are certainly worth looking at, I find it difficult to see how they can be applied equally to ALL systems.

What I think this segues into is a topic of the BCCTR BCDT (or more correctly ASTM F2436-05) criteria and whether or not it needs to be changed. The MPD meets the BCDT criteria. So does a T3WP and a 540. Both of these can be overridden when in use, but meet the BCDT criteria. How do we apply an equal rule about not letting go (human factor) of a device during a belay event? I don’t think there is one. By simply doing what ever you can to make a device fail while operating it during a belay test will only lead to a witch hunt against whatever device you don’t like.


The pessimist in me wants to do a presentation at ITRS entitled “They all Suck. A look at modern belay Devices” Now of course I don’t believe that, but I think this is the area that you will get to if you try and account for human factors in a test. As a fireman, I’ve seen lots of ways people have gotten themselves in trouble and I am positive that the rope world is not ready to account for human ignorance as part of a test method. I think the line has to be drawn somewhere. To quote the great author Douglas Adams: “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” A better idea, and one already in NFPA 1006 (make of that what you will), is to have people pass a competency test to operate a belay system.

But do we really need another test? We’ve got the BCDT to determine if the device is capable. We’ve got the “whistle test” to test our rigging if everybody were to let go. These two tests can be equally applied to a traditional main and belay system as well as a TTRS. Is there a way to devise a test that can be equally applied to every system? If there isn’t, then maybe now is the time to figure it out. If not then I think the arguments, while not pointless, will probably not be solved. I can stand on one side of the argument and talk until I am blue in the face that the the TTRS with MPDs meets all of our current criteria and somebody else can stand on the other side and talk about what will happen when somebody doesn’t let go of the handle.

Here is a suggestion for one (expensive) way to solve this problem:


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While the Petzl ASAP and L57 Absorbica are rated for two person loads for what Petzl calls “Accompanied Descent”, it is not shown in the instruction manual that you can attach it to the anchor to be used in the way shown in the picture above. I am extrapolating that it can be used that way. I have not tested this method yet, so I am only guessing as to its effectiveness. It is merely a possible solution to a problem that people have with an MPD based TTRS.

We get all off the benefits the TTRS has to offer as well as being protected from a runaway belay in the event of an inattentive operator.


Is an MPD based TTRS the be all, end all of rope rescue? Maybe, maybe not. But I do think it solves more problems than it causes. It also allows people who are required to perform rope rescue but don’t like it a safe way to operate, while at the same time allowing some unique options for the geek that a traditional slack belay system doesn’t allow.

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



No matter how cool your wife is with rope stuff and your mastery of fear while working at height,  I’m sure you will find that it is always cooler to you than it is to her. While you may be dying to impress her with your ability to tie an Alpine Butterfly with one hand or some other type of awesomeness, I think you’ll find it leads to more trouble than it is worth.

Take for instance the fellow who wanted to be flown in by crane to impress the girl he was proposing to. It does not end well. Take note of a few things here: The first is that we have one crane supporting the boom of another in order to lift a one person load ! I’m not a crane guy, but I can’t imagine that this is advocated for in any safe rigging manual. The other issue is the sling itself. A simple choker wasn’t cutting it. That thing needed to be wrapped a few times in order to keep it from slipping up the boom. Just keep that in the back of your mind next time you sling an anchor that has the potential for a lateral load. It’s hard to tell, but it also looks like it might have been short jacked in the back.



Below are some examples of woman humoring their mans desire to strut his peacock feathers on rope

One of them looks like they are having fun:

wedding rope swing


Below is another example of 50% of the participants thinking “This is the coolest thing ever!” Although there actually is  a pretty cool backstory to it HERE

wedding rappel 2


Cool only because they managed to get an artificial high directional in the mix:

wedding rappel 3


I wonder if the chicks in the pictures are bride-zillas about the rigging. You know like compromising rigging angles in order to get the best pictures, “does this harness make me look fat” etc…  Just thinking out loud.  Stay Safe!





Check out this article from Las Vegas. It’s about the new 550′ Ferris wheel that can hold over 1100 people and the article highlights some of the planning that went in to possible rescue situations.

Kudos to the Las Vegas FD tech rescue team for being proactive in the situation. It looks like, should something ever happen, that it will be a complex mix of lead climbing, aid climbing, and some team based lowering. The fact that the fire dept. was consulted at all during construction is pretty neat too. Anchors were placed inside each pod so that a system could be hooked up and 3 victims at a time can be lowered.

Neat stuff!

ferris wheel

Thanks to my sister, Caity, for pointing this one out to us. It’s not rescue stuff, but be sure to check out her awesome website Lots of great sculptures there!

Enrollment is now open for our Modern Technologies in Rope Rescue. The class will be held March 30 and 31 at the Lancaster County Public Service Training Center in Lancaster County, PA at a cost of $280 per student.

This class covers multiple versions of the bowline along with some pretty god reasons to consider them, several uses of the AZTEK kit, a thorough introduction to the Two Tension Rope System concept with the MPD, and the use of the Arizona Vortex Artificial High Directional in some pretty typical urban setup configurations as well as some Rescue 2 Training exclusive uses of it in a few of the Appalachian Doortex configurations.

Below are some pictures from the last MTRR class in Lancaster. It was during this class that the Appalachian Flagpole was developed. The AF is designed to create a high point for grain silo rescue while not having to rely on the lightweight roof for support. A couple of the pictures show its first inception. The picture of the AF with the an MPD attached to the A frame head (next to the conex boxes) is where it is currently at. It is another high directional/anchor combo.

If you’re interested in seeing what’s on the cutting edge of rope rescue equipment and techniques, contact Kelly to reserve a spot in this popular class. Call 240-462-6610 or send an email to

open enrollment March 2013

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While I am not one usually prone to checking something out because of an ad on television, I have to admit that I went straight to the website of Krazy Glue after seeing a window washer stunt where a guy was suspended by two shackle couplers glued together with Krazy Glue.

I was interested to see the rigging involved, so went to their behind the scenes section. It looks like they used a two rope system with the belay hooked to the dorsal D ring and the main attached to the front. There looked to be a sewn loop jumper between the shackles should the glue have failed. You can see the behind the scene shots on their Facebook page here:


Take notice that, while the footage is sped up, there are no breaks in the camera editing, it’s one shot from start to finish. I’ve never had that kind of luck with any glue I’ve used, but I guess it’s hard to deny what they did here.

Monday morning QB alert!!!   Just nit picking, but I thought the belay could have been kept a little bit tighter.

The rope rescue team from Bonneville, WA gets it’s practice by helping out during the shutdown of the Bonneville Dam. The members are sent down the side to take care of trees growing out of the walls as well as being on standby while biologists are on rope to do their own bit of inspection.

It seems like a good way for the team get some really great on rope training experience in the place where they are most likely to get a call.


Article Here


And the elevator shaft wins! A Lexus SUV was driven in to an elevator shaft designed for vehicles in a parking garage. The problem was, there was no elevator car there. According to the articles, the parking garage has 4 citations against it for elevator problems in the past two years. The driver of the vehicle also has 11 drivers license suspensions against him. It’s like the perfect storm of where you don’t want your vehicle to be parked.


Anyhow, they had to go down the shaft and extricate one of the workers, then stand by while the vehicle was recovered.

Here are two links to the story, the first has a video, the second has pictures.


So… not being there it is hard to know, but from looking at the pictures and the videos from around the web it seems that maybe these window washers stuck waaaay up on the 42nd floor (but only a floor below an outside terrace) could have been rescued a bit quicker and with a much higher degree of safety than what you see here. I’m sure the guy on the scaffolding who has had this happen to him two times before this, has seen all the ways to do this rescue. Time for a new job for that guy.

I am aware of the friction between the FDNY the NYPD ESU team, but 4o minutes using a “diamond blade angle grinder” to cut the window and haul these guys in through a window doesn’t seem like the best way to do business. Why add the potential for falling glass to this operation if you don’t need to? I think there is a time and a place for cutting a window, but this just doesn’t seem like it.

If you have any comments, feel free to leave them below.

Here is a short video of the operation:

A couple of pics: