Choosing the Best Rigging System Is About Limiting Yourself

Written By: Lance Piatt

I know, this is comment or title appears at first glance to be hyper constraining and even seems to fly in the face of what we want to hear and read.  Being the best is about limiting distractions and concentrating on strengths and the best way to do this is keep short accounts.  Here are 3 areas to consider first.

Short and Simple Accounts

  1. What do we want?
  2. What can “what we want” make our lives better?
  3. How to we get what we want?

What is it we are really trying to do?

So lets talk about rigging systems and use the above 3 accounts to get what we need done.

In the below video, what are watching?  What are you observing?  Yes, this is an actual evolution of a Two Rope Offset during Peak Rescue Institute’s Specialist Course 2017.

I love this clip because it reveals so much.  Do you hear the students and instructors dialogue with each other, commands given,  gear clicks, the quietness of desert, gear dragging along the abrasive granite rock, and how about wind?  What you might not realize is that some of the conversations you are hearing are part of the “train the trainer” component that Peak Rescue so highly values and nurtures.  There is a lot going on and yet, there is a whole other side… the B side, that we can only see.  Yet, fully active in there drama as well.

We would we ever want to limit ourselves?

Kirk Mauthner wrote a great article around Two Tension Rope Systems and in this article, Kirk mentions an interesting yet often overlooked aspect of purposeful rigging… Force Limiting Principles and to paraphrase some of this… ” the system must remain functional if ever subjected to the relative worst-case event”.  So Kirk really never discusses what the “relative” event is.  So I will add my thoughts here…  I believe that Kirk is referring to actual kN force reduction (which I will leave to linked article), while I am referring to the thought process that leads to the game-changer of Force Limiting Principles.

Where do we enforce force reduction methods?….  Here are at least 7 places.

  1. What is the goal?
  2. What are the objectives (how is the goal accomplished)?
  3. Know your gear and the design features.
  4. Know your level of competence.
  5. Limit the system to your knowledge and experience.
  6. Evaluate how the system is function during the evolution… active feedback.
  7. Performance evaluation at the end or completion of the scenario.

Divide and Conquer 

  • The goal for this video you just watched is not nor should it be the same goal as if this was an actual emergency.  We don’t use active emergencies for learning opportunities.  We all want to be trusted, competent and purposeful in our lives and duties, but when a life is on the line, life as we know it is different.  Yes, we rise to another level or… we may fall to something less than adequate.  The goal needs to be spelled out like this… “successfully complete a two rope off offset using a twin tension system on both the A and B side of the evolution.  This might be different than say… ” evaluate the leadership characteristics of two individuals during a highly complex rigging scenario”.  The goals are very very different.  The objectives used to accomplish these goals may be similar, but the purposes are unique.
  • Our objectives, need to match our goal. If the goal is to evaluate leadership characteristics, then the manner by which the primary systems and anchors are built are less important that the actual system itself.  Or, if the goal is to successfully complete a two rope offset, then an objective could be to instill a higher level of leadership because the “staffing” of the systems is questionable.  Objectives define the goal in steps.

In both of these scenarios, we will want to install “force limitations” and constraints in order to maximize the opportunity to successfully complete the goal and this sets us up for success.  At every point, Trust, Competency and Purposefulness are on high alert.

Problems we need to fix.

Every person, whether training or tossed into an emergency has a  problem or two to contend with.  Here are a few honest examples…

  • “I don’t have what it takes to lead this group.  I have never done this before and I actually don’t understand everything that is happening”
  • “This seems so worthless.  No one is serious about this training and I am feeling frustrated, embittered and if yesterday holds true for today… defeated”
  • “Geez!, I look around this sea of gear and the field of people who really don’t understand or know what is happening and think  “this stuff should be so difficult”

Personally, I get all of these (and there are hundreds more).  I have been in this industry for a long time.  More often that not, I stand back and ask “why am I not further along this process than I am”?  I get the frustration of people training to get more out of training or more out of the people they are working with and we all know that planning and execution are two different sides of the same coin.  So what do we do?  Refer back to an earlier article we published talking about Metacognition.  This is a fancy word for “think about what you are thinking about and why”.

So for example, if understanding and knowing your gear designs (functional strengths and weaknesses), then it is highly likely you know more about where this gear fits and doesn’t. Create a rule of thumb for carabiners, pulleys, and knots.  This might offend the pure at heart, but if you are leading people and you know they don’t carry the mindset to know the WLL (working load limit) of a given rope and a given knot, then drop the 11mm rope you are using by 20% and hack the strength capacity of a knot at 50%.  You know what?… You remove obstacles to learning, heighten the level of fun and increase retention.  Why… only commit to memory what needs to be understood and let the rest go for another time in the development stage.  But plan those stages well and keep a account record of every stage of learning.

Limit your angles and confusion.

  • Stay with 90° angles.
  • Understand 120° is edge of death and anything past this imposes destruction on your anchors.
  • Assume a bombproof anchor will hold a standard size car.  A standard size car will hold 4 people.  Will the anchor hold the car?… Then it will hold 4 people.
  • Sharing loads is always good.

Primary systems are just that… they are the workhorse.  Consider the farmer who has to plow is how field with two horses.  He comes up with the bright idea that he’ll use one horse for plowing the field and keep the other horse slacked just incase of a catastrophic event.  Any farmer will tell you this plan will kill both horses… So don’t it!  Use both horses and the jump and horses will do just fine.  Two Tension Systems Only.  So what type of systems?  Well, it goes back to your goals and objectives.

Type of Systems to use within a given anchor system set-up.

  1. Same Rope Systems
  2. In-Line Ganged Systems

So yes, there are a ton of systems that we can use to accomplish things.  However, there are only a few systems that will work on just about everything.  When your goal is leadership, don’t confuse things.  If horse power is critical and the goal is to show just how simple system must be in case two people show up, then again… keep things simple.

So with RLA, we have a 3 Step Plan to increase retention and efficiency.  In fact, our goal is to have every student functional working within an 80% retention rate with our membership.  Did you know that most people have less than a 10% retention rate one week after leaving most courses?  Why?  Because of the way the course is setup and the lack of preparedness on the part of the student and instructor as well as the follow up.

How things are typically done.

  1. Talk
  2. Demonstrate
  3. Let them do it

So this is all well a good and should be done, but the relevancy and predictive measures are not normally in place.  Setting the stage is the key.  Here is the great “reveal”!  What is “a reveal”?  It is the key or revelation to unlocking the secret.  What is it?  You!  You need to be in the moment. You need to be in the picture.  If visually you can not see, taste and breath yourself in the midst of the “solution”…  you are a stand in and will not make the cut.  Terrible news for some and great news for others.

The image at the top of this article is a trainer doing something many don’t… create a photographic memory journal for themselves. Good news folks!  We have that for you.  Our mind and body work together to form patterns and those patterns when applied to purpose are powerful.  Our company is the business of building powerful people.

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Peace on your days




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