Floating the Litter Using an A-Frame and Gin Pole Trackline

Written By: Lance Piatt

In a concerted effort to advance their technical rescue capabilities, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit (EDSAR) sought the expertise of Rigging Lab Academy. This collaboration was aimed at hosting a comprehensive workshop tailored to refine and elevate the team’s operational efficiency and proficiency in critical areas. The workshop was designed to not only enhance technical skills but also to foster team cohesion and adaptability in challenging rescue scenarios.

Workshop Focus Areas:

  • Two Tension or Dual Capacity Rope Systems: Emphasizing the importance and implementation of robust rope systems that provide an added layer of safety and efficiency during rescue operations.
  • Team Building Styles and Execution: Crafting and nurturing effective team dynamics through various team-building exercises, aimed at improving communication, trust, and collaboration among team members.
  • Expanded Use of Artificial High Directionals (AHD): Broadening the scope and application of AHDs in rescue missions, including the Arizona Vortex and TerrAdaptor, to navigate complex terrains and enhance operational versatility.


Managing steep-angle litter operations presents a unique set of challenges, rivaling the complexity of high-angle rescues. The intricacies lie in the litter attendants’ ability to navigate unpredictable terrain while ensuring constant patient care and visibility, a feat not always achievable with limited personnel. The selection of an effective system is paramount.

Our approach involves a sophisticated setup utilizing the full capabilities of the Arizona Vortex, configured in two distinct segments. The upper section forms an A-Frame, while the lower adopts a monopod or gin pole arrangement. This choice is driven by the necessity for immediate elevation of the litter from the ground and the need to traverse challenging terrain smoothly, allowing the system to seamlessly “float” the patient and litter to safety and into awaiting transport vehicles through the Artificial High Directional (AHD).

The complexity of operations escalates as terrain angles near 40°, where dual tension rope systems (TTRS) become indispensable. While opinions vary on the optimal number of attendants, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) ultimately decides, balancing between the risk of overburdening the system and the peril of insufficient support.

The configuration of the litter, particularly the bridle system, is tailored to the demands of the terrain and the selected operational system. Regardless of the setup, attendants play a supportive role, focusing on facilitating progress and providing patient care as necessary.

For our litter yoke, we opted for the time-tested Long Tail Bowline, directly tied to the bridle system, exemplifying our commitment to both tradition and efficiency.

This video explores critical facets of steep-angle litter operations, including:

  • Anchor establishment for maximum safety.
  • Strategic AHD configurations to enhance operational flexibility.
  • Optimizing trackline height and functionality for smoother transitions.
  • Meticulous patient packaging to ensure security and comfort.
  • Tailoring the litter bridle setup for specific rescue scenarios.
  • Comprehensive overview of hauling and lowering systems for efficient patient transport.

Through this detailed exploration, viewers will gain insights into advanced techniques and considerations for steep terrain litter operations, emphasizing safety, efficiency, and patient care in challenging rescue situations.


The partnership between EDSAR and Rigging Lab Academy culminated in a specialized workshop that not only met but exceeded the expectations set forth at the outset. Through a detailed exploration of two tension rope systems, innovative team-building strategies, and a deeper dive into the practical applications of Artificial High Directionals, the team has significantly bolstered its technical rescue repertoire. This initiative has set a new standard for excellence within the team, ensuring that they are better prepared, more cohesive, and technologically adept in facing the multifaceted challenges of search and rescue missions in El Dorado County’s diverse landscapes.


Peace on your Days



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