A Shout Out To Many Who Have Stood By Us Through Thick And Thin: Vision Is Always Within Your Grasp

Written By: Lance Piatt

Most people, at the end of each year, stand back and reflect on what was, what is and what should have been. An epoch season and epic events both apply to myself, our company and those around us. To date, we have produced somewhere between 600 and 700 technical rigging and rescue videos and has spanned from 2005 through 2018.  That is a long time

As many of you know, Rescue Response Gear (the gear side of Red Ibex Solutions) has been around for a long time… Yes!  It actually predates the general use of websites for most in our industry.  This year especially has been a wild ride, as we have had some very interesting people come through our doors and in looking back on the people and companies we have be honored to work with… I am taken back by the unique functionality they all bring to the table and what really helped us build our sister company… Rigging Lab Academy.

It takes a lot of guts, attitude, persuasiveness, internal spark and shear determination to challenge people and create an atmosphere (in them) where paradigms move in an order that doesn’t always make sense during process, but in the end… does.  Does it happen over night?  No!  Does it happen every time? No!  Some of these folks are crazy!  Some, sublime.  Some are simply artists that still hold on to the glory of being childlike and refusing to accept a status quo as being ok and when these people or companies are highlighted… I pay attention to them.

The process of building Rigging Lab Academy, has actually spanned over 12 years, and here is a short list out of hundreds of incredible people and companies I have had the honor of working with and being part of their success.

Let me set a stage and surrounding (environment).  Everyone on this list has been part of our filming adventures.  Not everyone benefited exactly as we had hoped, but we all took risks to do something that hadn’t been done before.  I will list these folks in the order of a nondescript though close.. timeline…. “Epoch” is describe as a season of importance and an “epic” is a more a single event that has far reaching and astounding outcomes.  Over the years, we have had both.

CMC… These folks have so impressed me over the years.  Since 1995, I have watched this company ebb and flow to what is arguably the largest rescue gear company in North America.  To me, their commitment to excellence and vision is amazing.  Their commitment to The One Thing remains the catalyst they add to everything they do.  I remember having conversations John McKently, Jim Frank and others… trying to explain a dream I had.  To build a video vault of gear being used in real time, with real people, doing real things.  I wanted to build a “reel” with them.  While they didn’t “jump” at the chance… I mean let’s get honest here… I am a pretty scary person to follow sometimes.  The results were (to me) amazing.  Now bear in mind… we talking many years ago and scripting this stuff, capturing the engagement of people and showing gear as being sexy was pretty tough. Then Joe Flachman comes on board and the ante for vision and results got raised (note… Joe and I met at the beach.  I snapped my paddle while surfing and Joe gladly allowed me to borrow his… and this before he was actually with CMC).  Thank you guys for your investment in me. Here are just a few of the projects we have been able to pull together with CMC’s help.  The general body of work included twin tension rope systems, dedicated main and belay systems, artificial high directionals and mechanical advantage systems.

 

Sterling… This relationship actually spans before Sterling (Rope) actually was Sterling. CB (Carolyn Brodski)… thanks for taking a chance on this strange brand of dealer.  We tried many things and Sam Morton went to bat for me more times that I can count.  Building training videos and creating an engagement around them is hard.  People are fickle and it is almost impossible to know how things will pan out.  And yes… I have a back story with surfing here as well.  On a trip to Maine (taking part of a Ropes That Rescue seminar on Granite Island) I was able to get a couple of days of amazing surf.  The downside is that in my excitement, I actually dropped in and on Mike Carey and to this day… I am still blown away by his grace (see he needed to head to the dentist for emergency dental work because a few teeth were now missing). The upside was a full day of head high perfect waves and two separate spots and each individual from Sterling, was given the day off to show me around.  The main body of work included static and dynamic rope considerations, highline and off-sets.

 

Ropes That Rescue…I have never been more impressed by a single vision of “breaking the box” more than Reed Thorne.  I still remember the first day I met him, I was both honored and scared.  Having never been in the halls of some many people who understood rigging they way they did… I just felt really small.  Over the years, folks like Charlie Rankin took me aside because they literally saw the fear of not having any clue as to what I was doing and although I was part of a technical SAR team and owned a pretty successful gear company, I realized then that I wasn’t cut out to be a great rigger and it was only later that what I really wanted to do was tell stories that showed these folks and many others… how the beauty of “the complex being made simple” is done and created and it was during this period of time that three of us Reed Thorne, Rick Johnson (you have seen his work in hundreds of hollywood movies) and myself formed Highline Productions and created the very successful Tower Rescue series.  This relationship would eventually come to an end and sadly (in some ways), still has some lasting effects. Body of work includes tower rescue for both emergency responders for tower rescue and tower workers, mechanical advantage systems, vector forces, offsets and pick offs.

 

Tom Wood … Now here is a guy that has more human kindness in his big toe than most people do in their whole body.  Am I exaggerating?  Maybe, once you meet this guy, you’ll never the same. Tom took a chance on me with a crazy idea… filming a tower climbing  training project using a critically acclaimed tower kit that was impart, designed and built by Tom and heightec. Over the years, his goodness and kindness not lead to many other great relationships within PMI and the industry, but more importantly… his love and zest for life and family filled a huge void in my own life with my son Torrey.  See that this time, Torrey was in his late teens and looking for meaning (like we all do) and Tom was literally took Torrey and simply shared life with him.  Tom… you’ll never know how incredibly grateful I am for your life and involvement with my family.  Tom believed in my wacky projects and Louie gave the stamp of approval on all of them… Louie, thank you! Body of work includes tower rescue, mountain rescues using highlines, offsets, artificial high directionals and scene evaluations.

 

Pat Rhodes… Having met Pat through Ropes That Rescue, I knew his skill was incredible, however, as a human being… Pat is one of kind.  His comments to my long list of challenges was “the solutions will present themselves”.  An indelible blessing on my life for sure.  On my way to California for trade show, Pat called out of the blue and encouraged some conversations about a business proposal he was thinking about and it was here that Rigging Lab (now The Rigging Lab Academy) was created. Over the next few years, and resulting from Pat’s leadership qualities… we not only produced many of our currently best loved and respected rigging and rescue projects, but through the process found niches within our own models to branch into. Body of work includes highlines, offsets, mechanical advantage systems, and vector force analysis.

 

Darren Jeffrey (ATS Team)… Darren is the poster boy for “renaissance”.  This guy goes from vision to vision to vision and never really knows where one thing starts and stops and the others begin and end.  I have a very odd sense of reality and this guy confuses even me.  I not even sure how I met Darren… likely he does though.  His first venture with ATS (Alpine Training Services) started in the late 1990s (99 I think) and I remember having phone conversations with him that just blew me out of the water… his ability and talent to pool people, events and designs together are far reaching and while we were never able to actually pull anything together, his impact on life is forever ingrained with me.  He gave me the idea of The Rigging Lab (literally), and he helped Pat and I with out very first project together.  We have sat in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park at midnight dreaming up ideas and tossing them on the wall just to see what stuck.  You seen Darren when you see Ninja Warrior, The Big Loser, The Amazing Race… Just mind boggling.  Anyway, I remember a call from him a few years ago.  I was heading down to Southern California for something (I don’t remember why) and he opens up with “hey Lance… I have an idea for you… I can’t do it, but I think you can” and I recall being literally afraid of saying no.  Not because I didn’t want to be because it was so “out there” that I knew he was right. Body of work includes offsets and rigging for the future.

 

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Peak Rescue Institute and the San Diego Lifeguard… These guys as a group are AAA human beings.  Giving and loving. Their Director, Glenn Pinson, is well… just amazing.  Likely one of the top 5 people I have in my life and he has no idea how much impact he has had on me (even though I have told him before).  Peaksters have become an extended part of my family.  They have watched Torrey grow up from young teen to young father.  They have adapted portions of their course curriculum just to allow us to get better video for a project.  I remember one time when Glenn shifted a portion of the training to build a highline in order to film what was actually being done for the class.  The highline was built as part of a learning experience from other attendees.  Over the years, this relationship has extended into the San Diego Lifeguards as well as San Diego Fire Department and between the two, we have been able to pull over projects that cover land and water… including dry land cliff rescue along San Diego’s Blacks Beach to filming swiftwater training on the Deschutes River near Maupin.  Note… this wasn’t your normal swiftwater group.  These guys were highly specialized and dialed and often held POV cameras for me… at any given point I had 5 cameras in action at one time.  Body of work includes dedicated main and belay work, two or twin tension systems, offsets, pickoff, anchors and mechanical advantage systems.

 

 

Richard Delaney… Everyone has a “big moment” and a “start” and honestly I am not sure where either of these are with Rich.  It seems like his work simply steps upon the previous work and just keeps going.  Rich (along with Bill Proctor) attended one of Rigging Lab’s first seminars with Pat Rhodes.  Undeniably a wild experience for me.  Their minds and hearts all sync’d together and I knew then… something special was happening. I saw the future before me and over the next number of years… these guys (and their friends) confirmed what I knew to be true.  A few years later, Richard agreed to help us build the first ever Rope Rigging Physics course specifically built for “ropers… riggers and rescuers” and the industry is better for it.  Since then, I have enjoyed watching the international rigging and rescue community’s consumption of Richard’s passion and mindset. Body of work includes rigging physicals and vector force analysis.

 

Petzl… So while Petzl doesn’t really need an introduction, I must confess I probably know them a bit different than most.  That isn’t to say better, just different.  During my “career”, I first knew Petzl America’s first president Roody Rasmussen when he owned Alta Group… an important and upwardly mobile rep agency… Petzl was a large client.  So when I had this strange idea of filming a first ever “rope access project” (which is what we eventually called it), Roody had a working knowledge of me.  Nazz Kurth, who later became Petzl America’s President was the sales and marketing guy.  Nazz asked me questions I never thought of.  Professional and pointed questions amounting to “what are we getting out of this and why should we believe you can make this work for us”?  It occurred to me then that I was in the big leagues and way over my head.  In the end, they gave me the nod, facility and crew for an entire 5 days. Since then, I am been blessed to be allowed the continuance even to this day as Petzl is our branding partner with the upcoming 5 Day Advance Workshop and the soon to begin production of 6 Weeks To Excellence Bootcamp.  Fun note… I actually went through what I think was SPRAT’s second certification with Michel Goulet… then proud owner of Multi Trek and future Professional Division Manager for Petzl America. Small world for sure. Body of work includes technical gear use within the tower rescue, rope access solutions, mountain rescue and search and rescue fields.

Here is one of hundreds of video Petzl has helped us with.

 

 

Hawk Rope Access… As I mentioned earlier, the Rope Access Project would never have come to completion with out Hawk Rope Access (TEAM/QualSpec).  Gary Hein, Steve McGuire and Mark Howe pulled out all the stops and made this project happen. Dan Ghiringhelli and his team pushed through long hot days; back then Petzl’s “arena” was an un-air conditioned warehouse where the inside temperatures closely matched the outside… Salt Lake City in the summer can easily stay in the 100s for much of the day. This project with both Hawk and Petzl represented to me, a first.  I work with what I call MVPs (minimal viable project or product).  As mentioned before both Roody and Nazz pressed me for an MVP… we had the Tower Rescue Series and that was it.  That was my MVP.  Nothing like what we were attempting to do.  Hawk (Steve and Gary) believed in what I was attempting to do and got the go ahead.  My first “big” production project combining two enormous companies together.  Once vision with two deliverables. Body of work includes rope access to SPRAT levels 1, 2, and 3.

 

Rich Hattier/ISC… A few years ago Rich and I had an interesting conversation during a SPRAT conference in Phoenix where we both agreed that dual “mirrored” systems being modeled in the arb industry could gain a strong foothold in the rope access arena if done right.  I saw his demo and watched the faces of those attending and knew straight away… this will work.  We flew out to Louisville and built a great product in an amazing cemetery filled with dignitaries and famous people.  Rich is one of those people who can, because of his incredibly diverse background, morph depending on the crowd, be they rope rescue, industrial rigging and access or his passion-play technical arbor work. Body of work includes arborist climbing and descending using two tension or twin primary system with both trees and industrial settings.

 

Harken/Elevated Safety… Wow!  Where do I start with these folks.  From Colin Moon, to Nate Paulsburg to Ross Chapman… these guys are the real deal.  They eat, sleep and play their passions.  After a number of years of volleying ideas back and forth, Colin, Nate and Ross all agreed to give a tower rescue project a try.  It is what they love and pretty easy to film.  What I was really blown away with was their family atmosphere and total transparency of who they are.  Through this relationship, I got to know another member of the team… Sean Cogan is one of those guys that is simply “present”.  His conversation and eye contact lets you know… I am here and if you are not… let’s just stop now.  So for a person like me who can be confused with a butterfly, Sean gives me a lot of grace and it is through this grace I got know his side “of the family”… Harken.  A story for another time, but we scheduled two projects back to back.  First with Elevated Safety (in Chicago) then up to Pewaukee Wisconsin to work with Harken and then back to Chicago to complete the circuit with Elevated Safety. I have never seen a more passion/vision based company than Harken and Sean walked Torrey and I through as if we were royalty and we felt that as well.  Boats that looked like fighter jets from Star Wars lined the walls and next to those images of the Harken family in action… sailing through all kinds of conditions; whether they be recreational or racing, these guys live their lives through what they do and what they do matches who they are.  I have said it before and I saw many years ago… Harken is the company of the future in industrial rigging and rescue. Body of work includes tower rescue and general high angle rescue.

Here is a sample of one of the units within their course.

 

 

Mark Pfeifer/Ronin Rescue… How does someone describe Mark Pfeifer and Ronin Rescue?  You can go through their website, hang with them at beertime30 and you can build media courses over a period of 2 years and still not even really get a solid bead on the expansive energy these guys bring to the table.  After releasing a few projects to the world and testing the waters, Mark pulled me aside (during a SPRAT conference or ITRS or something… it is a bit foggy) and began the first of many conversations; essentially, What are you doing? How does it work? and How can I be a part of this?  He and I had no idea of where to begin or where it will take us.  Our upcoming release of Confined Space Rescue 1-3, while THE expression of what confined space rescue is and where it is going… to say this remotely or collectively describes Mark and Ronin is not even an understatement.  These guys are military, fire service, climbers, backcountry bombers and access aficionados.  Their backgrounds are as diverse as the cities and countries they travel to.  Working with Mark is pretty intense in a very low key way.  I always have the freedom to make mistakes but am alway held accountable for the fix and with a schedule that seems to match the President of the United States… getting him on the phone or generally a quick email or text is always important.  I am a better businessman because of this relationship and looking forward to the next ground breaker! Body of work includes confined space rescue awareness, operations and technician levels… inclusive of NFPA 1006 and 1670.

 

Jason Ilowite… OK… you don’t meet many people like Jason.  Guys like this in a group can change tides rather quickly and he (Jason) to me is a primer for what can be done with people “who get it and love to share it”.  Jason has taught for RLA twice and recently completed the first of the two halves for our upcoming release 5 Day Advance Workshop.  Having never met Jason, but spent many hours on the phone with him… met him at our first workshop with Volcano Rescue Team.  What an amazing time.  We then flew to St. John to work with their rescue team and while we had a few curve balls thrown at us, I took what my wife always reminds me… “blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape”.  Never more true than here.  This learning curve set the stage for our inaugural filming for ” 5 Day”.  Seeing Jason’s vision for what is possible is breathtaking. At only 26, Jason is breathing new life into the challenging world of teach fire guys new tricks and guys!… You know what I am talking about. Body of work includes artificial high directionals and team building.

 

Craig McClure/The Crackerjack Group…  OK… I am going to end this list with one of my favorite people and yet one who I likely know the least of everyone here… why?  Time and seasons take people in some very interesting places and when the two intersect… the two are different people with different views and while often complex in presentations, the wise find ways to simplify… the simplification is what Craig is about. A “Crackerjack is an exceptionally fine or excellent thing or person” while this is a name for his company… it is also a brand that reaches into Craig’s very being.  To see Craig is to see a Crackerjack and know Craig, you need to be a Crackerjack (at least in the making).  A few years ago, Craig and I created an MVP project and that was titled Edge Safety in Search and Rescue.  It was to be the first of many, but life happened and well… the curve ball still in play, gave us another opportunity to raise the level of rigging prowess and transparency.  You’ll be seeing a lot of Craig in the coming months and years. Body of work includes personal skills, team building, twin or two tension rope systems.

 

Thanks for joining in on one of the longer blog posts we have done.  I hope to be “gathering back” these amazing content partners with a more indepth look at their incredible dedication to the rigging community and lives as well as Rigging Lab Academy, so stay tuned.

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Peace on your Days…

Lance

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