(High)Directionally Challenged

Written By: Jason Ilowite

A good example of AHD versatility. The Arizona Vortex served as both a high directional, and main system anchor, where no other anchors existed with the established fall-line.
A good example of AHD versatility. The Arizona Vortex served as both a high directional, and main system anchor, where no other anchors existed with the established fall-line.

It is no secret in the world of technical rope rescue that high directionals can vastly improve the efficiency of an operation. High directionals provide ample room to clear a litter from an edge, can improve the angle of ropes running over the edge creating less force on a system, and perhaps the most notable benefit of decreased pressure felt at the rescue package during edge transitions. It has become a best practice to impart some form of a high directional prior to operating a rescue system. The purpose of this article is to create awareness of different types of high directionals, and provide a means of adapting to the rescue team’s equipment and environment as it pertains to establishing a high directional. Not every team has the resources to acquire several thousand dollar high directional systems, however this should not be a reason for excluding the benefits of a HD from your rescue operation.

Now that we’ve identified the need for high directionals, we are faced with an array of options for imparting one in our system. There are three widely known types of high directionals most often referred to in rope rescue.

Artificial High Directional This was listed first for a reason. AHDs offer the rescue team the most versatility and allow significant adaptability to just about any situation. The ever popular Arizona Vortex, or TerrAdaptor system have been proven time and again to have a solution to just about any high directional need. This method of establishing a high directional has almost no limitations that might be found when seeking out other HDs discussed later. All you need is a little creativity and there are endless possibilities at your disposable. Be aware though, operating any artificial high directional requires a good deal of very specific training to fully understand all the rigging physics that render it safe.

This picture serves as a good example of a structural high directional. Structural steel was used as an elevated change of direction for a mirrored skate block offset. This again, was incredibly easy to impart in the system.
This picture serves as a good example of a structural high directional. Structural steel was used as an elevated change of direction for a mirrored skate block offset.

It is abundantly clear amongst many technical rescue teams that AHDs serve as such a benefit, many of them consider it a necessity. In my technical rescue profession

which is fire service based, those who make the money spending decisions are not always as passionate about technical rescue, and have a difficult time spending several thousand dollars on an AHD from their often already limited budget. As stated earlier, there’s no reason to forfeit the benefits of a high directions, we are just required to seek them in other forms. So as the title reads, those who are high-directionally challenged will find the next few examples useful.

A large tree served very well as a natural high directional for a tracking line offset.
A large tree served very well as a natural high directional for a tracking line offset.

Natural High Directional– When operating in a wilderness environment, the use of a natural high directional should never be overlooked. This can include trees, large overhanging limbs, or even rocks. This might be a go-to solution for the team that has to “pack in” over rough unforgiving terrain in the area they respond to. Rather than carrying relatively heavy components of an artificial high directional, nature often provides what we need. When using this method it is important to be very cognizant of what you choose as a high directional. If there is a question whether or not a tree for example is capable of receiving the forces generated by the directional pulley; use some rigging ingenuity to create tensioned tie backs to In this picture, a large tree served very well as a natural high directional for a tracking line offset. It uses the surface of the tree, and the friction created from being loaded to remain in place. In a matter of minutes a high directional was established rather than being the most time consuming part of rigging which it often is utilizing other methods.
In this picture, a large tree served very well as a natural high directional for a tracking line offset. It uses the surface of the tree, and the friction created from being loaded to remain in place. In a matter of minutes a high directional was established rather than being the most time consuming part of rigging which it often is utilizing other methods.

Improvised High Directional One of the main messages of this article is to provide the rescue team that might not have the AHDs discussed previously, suggestions to construct and utilize a HD by other means. For those in fire service based technical rescue, many if not all of us carry some form of rescue struts for stabilization. By using this equipment combined with a basic complement of rigging gear, an improvised high directional can be constructed providing the same benefits as any manufactured AHD.

When loaded, the struts compressed and the system was rock solid. Just by using common rescue equipment, we created a functional high directional.
When loaded, the struts compressed and the system was rock solid. Just by using common rescue equipment, we created a functional high directional.

High directionals are unquestionably a crucial part of any efficient rope rescue operation. There are many types, brands, and ways to construct them. Whichever you choose, if you have ever found yourself high-directionally challenged, hopefully this has helped provide a few ideas..happy rigging!

 

“Jason Ilowite is a Firefighter with the Loudoun County, VA Fire Rescue department  where he serves on the county’s Heavy Rescue Squad, and Technical Rescue team. Jason specializes in technical rope rescue.” jasonilowite@yahoo.com

 

 

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94 thoughts on “(High)Directionally Challenged”

  1. Can’t have a system w/o anchors. Rig Masters need to be technically knowledgable who account for edge transitions, sprinkle some imagination and creativity and the resources on these individuals and you have an Effective Rig Master. Looking forward to add the Arizona Vortex to our Rope Rescue/Confined Space Cache!

    Thanks for the awesome article!

  2. Pingback: Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast: A Common Sense Approach to Your Next Rope Rescue | Rigging Lab Academy

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